Fall minor-league play on tap 3 Md. teams, Wilmington set for 42-game schedule


Professional baseball is coming to Maryland and Delaware this autumn.

A four-team league composed of Double-A and Single-A players from all 30 major-league organizations is scheduled to launch play Sept. 22 and engage in a 42-game schedule through Nov. 1.

The sites will be the home parks of the Bowie Baysox, Frederick Keys, Delmarva Shorebirds and Wilmington (Del.) Blue Rocks.

The plan has been approved by the major-league farm directors and baseball's Executive Council and awaits only the formation of written contracts.

"You never know what can happen until the t's are crossed and the i's dotted," said Roy Krasic, director of operations in the commissioner's office. "But we're moving forward. It should be interesting because the weather is great that time of year there."

"We're in total agreement, in principle," said Peter Kirk, chief executive officer of Maryland Baseball Limited Partnership, which owns the Baysox, Keys and Shorebirds. "Nobody anticipates any problem getting this done."

The idea was spawned several years ago by Kirk and Orioles director of player development Syd Thrift. Now, with the demise of the Hawaiian League, which succumbed to prohibitive expenses after last year, the timing is perfect.

"This is a terrific way to take young players and get them a notch ahead," said Kirk. "We have a one-year agreement, but this could continue and expand if it's successful," adding Hagerstown and Prince William (Va.) as sites.

With the parks all within 3 1/2 hours driving distance, travel costs will be far less than in Hawaii, where games were played on different islands and required air travel.

Seven games will be played weekly, with doubleheaders on Sundays. Mondays will be days off.

The players will wear the uniforms of their respective major-league organizations, lending an All-Star effect. Each major-league team will contribute four to six of its leading young prospects.

Kirk expects minimal problems with the local jurisdictions when scheduling conflicts arise at the parks. He said the league will be flexible, playing day games or doubleheaders when necessary.

"It's safe to say this is going to happen," he said. "We're now working on special programs to make this very affordable to everybody, including fans."

Meanwhile, the future might hold a different twist.

With the disbanding of the Silver Bullets because of an inability to land sponsorship, Kirk abandoned plans for a women's pro league this summer.

"But if the fall league goes, we could combine women's teams with the men and play them at the same sites," he said. "That may be an interesting way to go."

Pub Date: 6/19/98

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