Prince George's Stadium in Bowie hits the big time after six years tonight when the Double-A All-Star Game becomes the first event at the facility to be televised nationally.
ESPN2 will carry the assemblage of the leading players from the three Double-A leagues on a tape-delayed basis tonight. WNAV (1340 AM), the regular outlet for Baysox games, will broadcast live.
Two years of preparations by the Bowie staff will culminate at 7:05 p.m. when the stars from the American League affiliates in the Eastern, Southern and Texas leagues clash with their counterparts from National League organizations.
"There has been an enormous amount of hard work involved in this," said Baysox general manager John Danos. "We've gotten over the hump with the sale of tickets. All but a handful of standing room only are gone. We'll flirt with the biggest crowd we've ever had here [14,109 for a fireworks night in 1998]."
More parking spaces have been secured at nearby Rip's Restaurant to accommodate the crowd, some of which will be literally sitting in "field seats" along the warning track from the dugouts to the foul poles.
Peter Kirk, chief executive officer of Maryland Baseball LLC, won the bidding to be host to the event in 1998, the second time his organization (Delmarva had the South Atlantic League All-Star Game last year) has done so.
"We know where the pitfalls are from attending a lot of all-star games," said Danos. "We have to make sure everybody is well taken care of with regard to accommodations and transportation and everybody is in the right place at the right time. We have to minimize their waiting time."
Players will be headquartered in two nearby Annapolis hotels. A foreseeable problem is with the Texas League representatives who were involved in regularly scheduled league games yesterday and will be pouring in by air today. The Eastern and Southern leagues were off yesterday.
Bowie's stars are first baseman David Gibralter, one of the Eastern League's leading sluggers, and infielder Ivanon Coffie, who was named as a replacement for Rick Short after Short was promoted to Triple-A last week.
"The two guys who deserved it made it," said Baysox manager Andy Etchebarren, an American League coach under Birmingham's Nick Capra. Etchebarren's staff, pitching coach Dave Schmidt, coach Butch Davis and trainer Dave Walker, are also involved in the game.
"This is a nice festivity for the people of Bowie and the players because they made an all-star team composed of three leagues," continued Etchebarren. "It's almost like a big-league feeling."
The National League squad will be managed by a familiar name, Gary Varsho of Reading, which has the best overall record in Double-A baseball. His staff will include Altoona manager Marty Brown, Reading coaches Carlos Arroyo and Steve Scarsone and Harrisburg trainer Dave Cohen.
Earlier, the Baysox announced the appearances of Orioles legends Earl Weaver and Mike Flanagan as celebrity guest managers.
The day's schedule officially starts in the stadium parking lots at 3:30 p.m. with an All-Star Extravaganza that features autograph sessions and exhibits from the Babe Ruth and Ripken museums, the Ravens and the Washington Capitals. On-field events include some of the staples of minor-league baseball promotion, a cow-milking contest and mechanical calf roping.
The U.S. Marine Silent Drill Platoon will bring its precision to the pre-game schedule, and country music recording artist Shane Minor will perform the national anthem.
Pitchers: Bob File, Tennessee; Travis Phelps, Orlando; Mark Buehrle, Birmingham; Greg Wooten, New Haven; Shane Hearns, Jacksonville; Chris George, Wichita; Jesus Colome, Midland; Eddy Reyes, Orlando; Spike Lundberg, Tulsa; Jason Beverlin, Norwich.
Catchers: Armando Romero, Akron; Cody McKay, Midland.
Infielders: Jason Hart, Midland; Carlos Pena, Tulsa, David Gibralter, Bowie; Mike Young, Tennessee; Jermaine Clark, New Haven; Joe Crede, Birmingham, Tony DeRosso, Trenton; Nick Ortiz, Wichita; Ivanon Coffie, Bowie.
Outfielders: Stoney Briggs, Jacksonville; Bobby Kielty, New Britain; Darren Blakely, Erie.
Designated hitter: Juan Thomas, New Haven.
Pitchers: Robert Averette, Chattanooga; Bud Smith, Arkansas; Luke Prokopec, San Antonio; Brian Knoll, Shreveport; Sam McConnell, Altoona; Troy Mattes, Harrisburg; Derek Lee, Huntsville; Tom Shearn, Round Rock; Brandon Duckworth, Reading; Brandon Leese, Portland.
Catchers: Mike Kinkade, Binghamton; Johnny Estrada, Reading.
Infielders: Dan Held, Binghamton; Marcus Giles, Greenville; Keith Ginter, Round Rock; Brandon Larson, Chattanooga; Todd Betts, Portland; Sean Burroughs, Mobile Bay; Jason Smith, West Tenn; Elvis Pena, Carolina.
Utility: Rusty McNamara, Reading.
Designated hitter: Josh Klimek, Huntsville.