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In Bowie, All-Star Game is major-league fun


BOWIE - In Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday night, the Tulsa Drillers and Arkansas Travelers battled through 15 innings of a Texas League game that ended at 12:30 a.m. CDT.

Bedtime was going to brief for those two teams' representatives for the Double-A All-Star Game the next evening at Prince George's Stadium. But nobody begged out.

"It was a five-hour game and we had a 6 o'clock [a.m.] flight that stopped in Cincinnati," said Arkansas pitcher Bud Smith, who threw seven innings in the marathon and could not pitch in last night's game. "I didn't get too much sleep. But I never considered not coming. This is special. It's overwhelming to be here."

Spike Lundberg of the Drillers awoke at 4:30 a.m. for a 6:45 flight that stopped in St. Louis. He made the pre-game luncheon in Annapolis, getting his first decent meal after eating "gas station food" following the Texas League game.

"I went to sleep for about an hour and a half," Lundberg said. "And we've got a game back in Tulsa tomorrow. But I'm awfully glad to be here with all the guys. ... This is the easy part."

Lundberg, a Texas Rangers farmhand, pitched a perfect inning for the American League and wound up with a 5-2 victory when Jacksonville's Stoney Briggs lined a three-run homer to left in the bottom of the sixth inning. The blast - off Reading's Brandon Duckworth - erased a 2-1 National League lead and followed a single by Bobby Kielty of New Britain and a walk to Mike Young of Tennessee.

Briggs is a 28-year-old veteran of nine minor-league seasons and one in Korea. He was born in Seaford, Del., but lives in Randallstown.

Tony DeRosso of Trenton added another American run with a bases-empty shot over the center-field fence off Shreveport's Brian Knoll. Bowie's Ivanon Coffie - a late replacement for promoted Rick Short - set up the first American run with a single and scored on a fielder's choice.

A crowd of 14,077, fourth highest in the stadium's six-year history, attended the event.

The atmosphere and pageantry of Bowie's first nationally televised event compensated for the inconveniences. Baysox management tried to provide a microcosm of a season-long promotions schedule on one gigantic program that led into a game matching National and American League-affiliated stars from the Eastern, Southern and Texas leagues.

Four hours before the first pitch, the stadium parking lots resembled a carnival midway and the scents of barbecuing meats wafted through the air outside the facility. Tailgating gave the event a football-like atmosphere.

With the weather cooperating handsomely, the mammoth crowd filing in throught the front entrance was greeted by a collage of exhibits and temporary tents.

Fans lined up to try their hands at the fastest slap shot at the Washington Capitals' booth, or opted to have a baseball glove made on the premises by Mizuno, which was conducting trivia contests. The Ravens were there offering ticket plans and opportunities to become fan club members.

A long line waited to have posters autographed by All-Star players, who filtered out front in between their on-field assignments.

Inside the stadium, the "Boys of Baseball," wandering troubadours, entertained on the concourse, the carousel spun merrily as usual and the players engaged in such minor-league staples as hippity hop races and a cow-milking contest.

Inside the National League dressing room, manager Gary Varsho (Reading) addressed his players after they arrived on the team bus.

"Signs. There won't be any," Varsho said. "If you want to swing on 3 and 0, go right ahead. If you want to try to steal, take off. We're going to play it loose."

Varsho's approach obviously has worked for the Phillies, who are 10-0 against Bowie at Prince George's Stadium this season.

The Baysox also unveiled a new statue at the entrance to the park that depicts a father, son and daughter walking into a game together.

Fun was the name of the game. There was no home-run hitting contest, although the presidents of the three leagues agreed that if the game went beyond 10 innings, it would be decided by a slugout between one player from each team.

The Marine silent drill team performed. Krazy George and Myron Noodleman entertained during the game. Parachutists landed perfectly behind second base beforehand.

It was all culminated by the favorite staple of the minors - the post-game fireworks that traditionally draw as many fans as the baseball itself. Like the pyrotechnics, the Baysox lit up the night.

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