All-Star Game at Frederick is fun time for all, even the governor


FREDERICK -- Tony Beasley may play in the big leagues someday, but then again, probably not.

Beasley plays hard and almost every day for the Class A Frederick Keys. But his .217 batting average hasn't exactly put him on the fast track to the Baltimore Orioles.

If he doesn't make it to the big time, at least Beasley will have last night to remember. They held the Carolina League All-Star Game at Harry Grove Stadium, and the Southern Division edged the Northern Division, 6-5. Beasley was there, first as a utility infielder for the Northern Division team and after that as a 24-year-old guy who appreciated the gesture. A lot.

"This makes me feel like a privileged player. It's just an honor," said Beasley, who has played three years of pro ball and, after last night, in one All-Star Game. "It is something you can point to the rest of your life."

This was a nice sentiment, and followed closely the speech Cal Ripken makes each July when the All-Star lineup is announced -- and he's in it.

Still, there are differences worth noting between the major-league All-Star Game and the one played before 5,612 appreciative fans last night at Grove Stadium.

For one, there are the perks, of which there are few in the Carolina League. For playing in the game, the Class A All Stars are paid nothing. They stay in a local hotel. Hint: It is not a four-star resort. They go to a banquet and receive an All-Star plaque. It is a nice plaque.

"This is not a lucrative night," said John Hopkins, the Carolina League's president.

It is a fun night, though. Hanging around the concourse at Grove Stadium before the game, you got the distinct impression it was an important one, too.

Bunting hung from the grandstand. A circus-like tent was pitched beyond the third-base grandstand. Underneath, an assortment of baseball dignitaries mixed with celebrities local and otherwise. An hour before the game, Gov. William Donald Schaefer arrived. In no particular order, the governor declined a hot dog, autographed a baseball cap and developed a sudden hearing problem when he was asked if there is a name in sight for the new baseball ballpark at Camden Yards.

"Every once in a while, I go deaf," Schaefer said.

The governor was full of praise for the Keys owners and for local elected officials who helped to build 2-year-old Grove Stadium. Playing in the modern ballpark, the Keys last year attracted more fans than all but one of the 26 Class A minor-league teams and all 26 Class AA teams.

"The politicians out here had a really rough time. Some people rose in opposition. But now everyone is jumping on the bandwagon," the governor said. "I understand that. Whatever you do, people criticize. Then once it's all done, they say, 'Oh, I was for it.' "

Schaefer did not bat, but spent more time on the field than some players. He threw out the ceremonial first ball. And Keys owner Peter Kirk presented the governor with a 1990 Keys championship ring, which the governor promptly slipped on his finger and displayed for photographers.

Most of the fun was had by the players, though. In this league, they are not selected by fans who punch holes in computer cards, the major-league method. Instead, votes are given to the general manager, manager and one vote to the media in each city. The starting lineups and three pitchers for each team are picked this way. Managers choose the rest of the roster.

The Keys, last in their division in the first half of the season, were not forgotten on the Northern Division roster. Seven Keys players made the roster and six were able to suit up. First baseman Mel Wearing, the missing Key, had a reasonable excuse. Last week, he was promoted to the Class AA Hagerstown Suns.

Keys shortstop Manny Alexander took this all in stride, an important game but in some ways just another one. That made sense. Alexander has played in all 100 Keys game this year. Does this sound vaguely familiar?

"I don't like to rest. Why should I rest?" Alexander said, also like another shortstop of note.

Beasley had his own reason to be excited. His parents, James and Arlene, had made the trip from Bowling Green, Va., to see the game. The senior Beasley is a self-employed logger. During the off-season, his son is at his side, chopping down trees.

In the seventh inning, Beasley made the trip worthwhile. In the seventh inning, he rapped an RBI double to left.

South .. .. 020 .. .. 004 .. .. 000 -- 6 .. .. 7.. .. 1

North .. .. 002 .. .. 000 .. .. 300 -- 5 .. .. 11 .. .. 4

Hawblitzel, Allen (2), Taylor (4), Neill (6), Perkins (7) Willis (7) Lopez, Perez (7); Militello, Smith (2) Plantenburg (5) Yaughn (6) Hodges (8) Hoffman (9). Wilson, Edge (7). W--Taylor. L--Plantenburg. S--Willis. T--2:28.

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