Keys eye another fan-tastic year

FREDERICK — FREDERICK -- The changes surrounding the Frederick Keys are mostly cosmetic. More concession areas. A picnic pavilion. A batting cage.

The old saw "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is what applies here.


The Orioles have a highly successful franchise in the Single-A Carolina League, one that plays in comfortable Grove Stadium and draws fans from a wide area with emphasis on suburban counties outside Washington and Baltimore.

Each summer the Keys seem to set an attendance record. Last season, they drew a team- and league-record 351,146 customers, and there is no reason to believe they can't break that.


"Tickets have been going well," said general manager Larry Martin. "We expect to have a lot of sellouts."

The Keys were the best team in the league the second half of last season before flopping in the playoffs. But their starting staff, the core of that club, has graduated to Double-A Bowie and the Keys will open tonight at Salem, Va., with a number of question marks.

Foremost is in the bullpen, where new manager Mike O'Berry (71-71 at Albany, Ga., last year) will depend on the committee approach unless holdover Chris Lemp steps forward.

"We don't have any Armando Benitez [the highly regarded relief prospect], who I had for two years. I'm going to miss that guy," said O'Berry. "And there is no left-hander."

But O'Berry, a former major-league catcher, is approaching the challenge with optimism after his team showed some offensive might during the last week of spring training.

"We were swinging the bats and scoring a lot of runs," he said. "Luckily, we have a group that gets along real well, too."

The pitching staff will be built around Garrett Stephenson, the Maryland native who shared the Palmer Prize with Benitez as the Orioles' leading minor-league pitcher after going 16-7 for O'Berry in the South Atlantic League.

If the Orioles' first pick in the 1993 draft, Jay Powell (sore elbow) joins Frederick out of extended spring training as expected, the makings are there for another dominating rotation.


"It's not going to hurt us at all if he joins us," O'Berry said of Powell. "I'm excited about the big picture."

Powell will be the only top-round draftee on a team that will feature some power in Billy Owens, Eric Chavez, Bryan Link and B. J. Waszgis and some speed in Kim Bartee and Lincoln Martin.

O'Berry has a mixture of 10 players who were with him at Albany, several who spent time at Frederick, Australia native Clayton Byrne and some who were promoted from rookie ball.

"But my top three hitters all played at Bluefield [rookie]. It may take a while because some of them didn't expect to be this high," said the manager. "But by the end of the year, we could have a lot of prospects on this team."

O'Berry, who played on a Carolina League championship team in 1976, had never been to Frederick before this week.

But he has heard of the exceptional fan support.


"That's good for the kids," he said. "It makes them want to go out and play hard. In July and August when they think they're getting a little tired, the fans can help keep them going."


Manager: Mike O'Berry

Record last year: 78-62. Won Northern Division second half. Lost in first round of playoffs to Wilmington.

League: Carolina (Single-A)

Affiliation: Orioles


Home field: Grove Stadium

Directions: Take I-70 West to Market Street (exit 54) at Frederick, then left at traffic light and the next left into stadium drive.

Ticket prices: Box seats, $7; Adult general admission, $5; Seniors 60 and over, military personnel and children 5-14, $3; children under 5, free.

Top players: P Garrett Stephenson (16-7, 2.84 ERA at Albany); P Calvin Maduro (9-4, 3.96 at Bluefield); P Matt Jarvis (11-13, 3.06 ERA at Albany, Ga.); P Scott Emerson (10-9, 3.54 at Albany, Ga.); P Chris Lemp (4-1, 8 saves at Frederick); C B. J. Waszgis (.307, 52 RBIs at Albany, Ga.); 1B Billy Owens (.297, 66 RBIs at Albany, Ga.); 3B Eric Chavez (18 HRs, 74 RBIs at Albany, Ga.); OF-1B Bryan Link (.338, 60 RBIs at Gulf Coast); OF Clayton Byrne (.276, 55 RBIs at Albany, Ga.).




8-12, at Salem; 12-14, at Winston-Salem; 15-17, Salem; 18-21, Winston-Salem-a; 22-24, at Prince William; 25-28, at Lynchburg; 29-30, Kinston-b.


1, Kinston; 2-5, Lynchburg; 6-8, at Wilmington; 10-12, Prince William; 13-15, at Durham; 16-19, at Kinston; 20-22, Durham-b; 23-26, Wilmington-a; 27-29, at Salem; 30-31, at Winston-Salem.


1, at Winston-Salem; 2-5, Salem; 7-9, Winston-Salem; 10-12, at Prince William; 14-16, at Lynchburg; 17-19, Kinston; 21-23, Lynchburg; 24-27, at Wilmington; 28-30, Prince William-b.



1, Prince William; 2-5, at Durham; 6-8, at Kinston; 9-11, Durham; 13-15, Wilmington; 16-18, at Salem; 19-21, All-Star break; 22-25, at Winston-Salem; 26-28, Salem-b; 29-31, Winston-Salem.


1-4, at Prince William; 5-7, at Lynchburg; 8-11, Kinston; 12-14, Lynchburg; 16-18, at Wilmington; 19-21, Prince William; 23-25, at Durham; 26-28, at Kinston; 29-31, Durham.


1, Durham; 2-4, Wilmington-b (6:30 p.m.). Home starting times unless otherwise noted: Monday-Saturday, 7:05 p.m.; Sunday, April-June, 2 p.m.; July-September, 4 p.m.

a-4/21, 5/26 at 4 p.m.


b-4/30, 5/21, 6/30, 7/27, 9/2 at 6:30 p.m.