O, say, can you see Keys?

FREDERICK — FREDERICK -- When the wind is right, the national anthem drifts from Harry Grove Stadium to a crypt in Mount Olivet Cemetery, where Francis Scott Key is buried.

Key, who died in 1843, certainly never envisioned that his poem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," would be set to music and played at the beginning of baseball games everywhere.


And he really wouldn't understand the song played in the third inning of every Frederick Keys game and accompanied by a percussion section of adults and kids jangling fistfuls of car and house keys:

We're the Frederick Keys


Come on out support your team

Baseball is back in town

You can hear the shaking sound

Bring the family

Dylan Johnson, just 5 years old and at his first Keys game, didn't have any keys to shake. But before the song was halfway through the first stanza, his grandparents, John and Peggy Myers of Westminster, dug up a set of car keys that Dylan rattled and squeezed with gusto.

"I think he's probably opened the car doors and the trunk and has the horn honking by now," his grandmother says, laughing.

Song saved

"Shake Your Keys" is easier to sing than the national anthem and more fan friendly. Still, there was a move several years ago to can the tune, a staple of the seventh-inning stretch.


"People asked, 'What's a Key?' They thought it was corny," says Adam Pohl, team spokesman.

But, hey, what's a Baysox? What's a Rock Cat? What's a Muckdog?

(The players who call Bowie, New Britain, Conn., and Batavia, N.Y., home, if anyone asks.)

Fans missed the distinctive participatory tune, so in a compromise, it was inserted earlier in the lineup.

But no matter when it is played, the song has a mistake in it. If they noticed, few made mention of it until Keys pitcher Brandon Erbe, 19, a standout at McDonogh School, tried to do a promotional radio spot for the team this season.

Erbe kept urging fans to come out to "Harry Grove Memorial Stadium."


Several takes into the effort, Pohl asked him why he added "memorial" to the stadium name.

"It's in the song," Erbe told Pohl. Sure enough.

Harry Grove Memorial Stadium means baseball in this town

It's the Frederick celebration you can hear from miles around ...

Grinning as he tells the story, Pohl concludes with a shrug, "If we changed it, people would get upset."

That's not to say Frederick is a status-quo kind of place.


The $7.25 Angus burger platter is great, and the $5 root beer float is a refreshing oasis on a steamy night. A ride on the carousel - an obligatory accessory in all three Orioles Maryland minor league ballparks - cools sticky skin.

Stadium upgrades

This year, the backless bleachers behind the box seats were ripped out and replaced with deep-blue stadium-style seats.

The field, installed before the first pitch in 1990, was an embarrassment. The grass was pock-marked with dead and bare patches. After a storm, it drained like a bathtub in a cheap hotel. The infield had a moon-like texture.

Starting from scratch, head groundskeeper Kyle Slaton has coaxed a thick carpet of Kentucky bluegrass to life, a field some fans believe helped the Keys win the first half of the season in June and a September playoff spot.

A three-hour rain delay would have made the old field unplayable for a doubleheader with the Wilmington Blue Rocks. But the Keys swept the series and won the Carolina League's Northern Division by a game and a half.


Frederick, part of the Orioles' minor league system since 1989, is considered an "Advanced-A" affiliate, although that designation is no longer used. That puts the Keys at the halfway point up the instructional ladder. A player moving up goes east to Double-A Bowie or south to Triple-A Norfolk.

The average age of a player here is 23, and most have made a couple of moves through the farm system. Nearly 100 players have passed through Frederick on their way to the majors.

"People don't realize how close we are to the major leagues," Pohl says. "[Orioles outfielder] Nick Markakis was here just two years ago."

Besides Erbe, the team has three Marylanders on the 25-man roster: pitcher Chorye Spoone of Pasadena, and outfielders Paul Winterling of Glenelg (another McDonogh alumnus) and Kennard Jones of Beltsville.

But few fans here care who the players are or where they come from.

"We love the Keys," says Natalie Ripple, 6, of Frederick. "You don't have to be rude and say, 'No, I don't like your team.' If we had a favorite player, it wouldn't be as much fun."


"We would argue about who was best," continues her friend, Katie Jacobsen, 8. "That wouldn't be fun."

"So," concludes sister Cameron Ripple, 8, "we like everyone."


Name: Keys


Class: Single-A

Stadium: Harry Grove Stadium: (1990)

Adult/youth general admission: $8/$5

Jumbo hot dog: $3.75

Mascot: Keyote

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