FREDERICK -- On the day major-league baseball disappeared from America's daily routine, Magical Weekend began at Frederick's Grove Stadium.
Jugglers, face painters and clowns, trappings of the promotion-mad minor leagues, circulated among the crowd of 5,989 while the Single-A Keys' Carolina League season continued as scheduled last night with a 3-1 victory over the Lynchburg Red Sox.
Baseball went on even as the thrill of the majors was gone.
The Keys are in a must-win situation. To qualify for the playoffs, they have to capture the second-half title in the league's Northern Division after Wilmington took the first half.
So, the strike up top is not foremost in the minds of the Frederick players.
"I don't see the strike affecting us at all," said Keys center fielder Kim Bartee. "Our attendance is always good. For some teams that don't draw well, it might be a shot in the arm. That's good in the 50th year of the Carolina League."
For Frederick catcher B. J. Waszgis, improving his game is the primary focus -- even before making postseason play.
"I'm not worried about the strike or the playoffs," he said. "My concern is to get better every day, learn my weaknesses and correct them. That's the point of the minors."
He said the Keys "may pick up a few fans who normally would go to Baltimore, but not many. Hey, there's plenty of baseball around with Bowie, us, Hagerstown and Wilmington."
Left-hander Scott Emerson went 6 1/3 innings, allowing four hits and one unearned run to earn his seventh win for Frederick before Chris Lemp finished with his league-leading 19th save.
Emerson said he noticed a little more electricity in the air.
"Frederick is always a fan-friendly place, but tonight it was a little louder," said Emerson, a 40th-round draft choice who was the first pro pitcher to face Michael Jordan (in spring training).
"I was jacked up, excited when I heard more noise than usual. The crowd seemed to be into it, maybe because they're grateful to still have baseball."
General manager Larry Martin said last night's attendance was "about normal for a Friday in August. It's difficult to judge whether the strike has helped us."
Eric Chavez's 18th home run with a man on in the fourth inningclinched the outcome for the Keys (32-15), who have won nine of their past 11. Frederick led the division by three games pending the outcome of second-place Wilmington's game last night.
NOTES: Pitcher Garrett Stephenson returned to Frederick from Bowie yesterday to make room for Armando Benitez on the Baysox roster. Stephenson, 5-5 with a 5.04 ERA at Frederick, will start tomorrow. . . . Veteran Tommy Taylor was released.