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MLB

Independent Atlantic League adding baseball team in Frederick in 2023; Bowie Baysox agree to 10-year lease

Although Frederick is still waiting for the return of affiliated minor league baseball, the city will spend 2023 as one of few in the country with multiple professional baseball teams.

The Atlantic League, a 10-team independent circuit with ties to Major League Baseball that will celebrate its 25th season, announced Wednesday it’s adding a team in Frederick beginning next year. The club will play its home games at Harry Grove Stadium, the ballpark of the Frederick Keys, the longtime Orioles affiliate that became an inaugural member of the MLB Draft League after losing its affiliated status in 2020. Attain Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Keys and the Bowie Baysox, Baltimore’s Double-A affiliate, will also own the Atlantic League club.

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“We’re excited to join professional baseball’s premier MLB Partner League,” Attain Sports and Entertainment CEO Greg Baroni said in a statement provided by the Atlantic League. “With two teams based in Frederick, there will be a tremendous amount of entertainment provided at Harry Grove Stadium in 2023 and we can’t wait to get started. And, as we look to the future, we’re continuing to work on providing all constituent stakeholders with a new and improved stadium.”

The Atlantic League, a 10-team independent circuit with ties to Major League Baseball that will celebrate its 25th season, announced Wednesday it’s adding a team in Frederick beginning next year. The club will play its home games at Harry Grove Stadium, the ballpark of the Frederick Keys.

A bill passed this year approved the Maryland Stadium Authority to issue up to $200 million “to fund the development and/or renovations of sports entertainment facilities across the state including minor league ballparks where renovations will be necessary in order to maintain affiliations with major league teams and continue to play in our state.” Frederick’s current ballpark opened in 1990, one year after its first season as an Orioles affiliate, and was part of why the Keys were among the more than 40 minor league teams that lost their ties to major league clubs as MLB sought to contract and streamline the minors.

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The Keys landed relatively softly as one of six teams in the MLB Draft League, which in 2022 used a split schedule featuring amateur college players in the first half before deploying players with exhausted eligibility seeking professional opportunities. They will play an 80-game schedule in the Draft League, and Frederick’s Atlantic League team will play 48 home games.

“The City of Frederick is excited by the move from Attain Sports and Entertainment to acquire Atlantic League membership and bring another baseball club to Frederick,” Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor said in a statement. “Attain Sports and Entertainment has exhibited a commitment to bring the highest quality baseball back to Frederick and we’re looking forward to continuing this partnership.”

The Atlantic League’s partnership with MLB has led to it being used to experiment with many possible rule changes, including increased base sizes, bans on infield shifts and use of the Automated Ball-Strike system, known more casually as “robo umps.” The league also features a team in Waldorf, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, and was expected to add a team in Hagerstown, which also lost its affiliated minor league team, this upcoming season, but the city’s new ballpark won’t be ready until at least 2024. The Frederick team replaces the Wild Health Genomes, a second club added in Lexington, Kentucky, to give the league an even number of teams in 2022.

The league’s schedule was created using Minor League Baseball Scheduling Group from Johns Hopkins University, which features students and professors in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics in the Whiting School of Engineering and the Information Security Institute.

“The Atlantic League is very pleased to welcome our new partners in Frederick, Maryland,” league president Rick White said in a statement. “They are fine operators with excellent reputations and will make outstanding members of the ALPB.”

Baysox renew lease through 2032

Wednesday was a busy day for Attain Sports and Entertainment, as the Baysox renewed their lease at Prince George’s Stadium through 2032.

The ballpark has hosted the Baysox since 1994, with the club being an Orioles affiliate since 1989 after two years of being tied to Cleveland. The 10-year agreement is in partnership with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s Department of Parks and Recreation in Prince George’s County.

“We are thrilled to enter this agreement with the Baysox to continue providing the beloved sport of baseball to the residents of Prince George’s County,” Peter Shapiro, Chair of the Prince George’s County Planning Board, said in a statement. “The ten-year lease will continue to generate support for local businesses and provide a significant impact on the County’s economic growth. We look forward to hosting residents and visitors as we root for our home team and enjoy America’s favorite pastime for years to come.”

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Added Baroni in a statement: “We are honored to have a new decade-long lease with the M-NCPPC at Prince George’s Stadium and look forward to continuing to provide great baseball, affordable family entertainment, and expanding partnerships with Prince George’s County and the surrounding communities. As a Maryland resident of more than 35 years, I have deep roots in the region and am committed to expanding community engagement, focusing on outstanding customer service, driving innovation, investing in the professional development of our employees, and improving the game-day experience for our fans.”


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