Enjoy the show, and the game, too,
at Maryland’s minor-league baseball parks
BALTIMORE (July 25) – “A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz,” Humphrey Bogart once said.
For families who come to minor-league baseball games, hot dogs are just the start of what can be an entertaining experience – at family-friendly prices. The mascots, amusements, fireworks shows, food and drink specials, and proximity to the players are standard fare at minor-league games. And, so are the seemingly endless array of giveaways and special events.
“We have an impressive number of baseball destinations – especially when you consider how many minor-league teams play in the state,” says Margot Amelia, executive director of the Maryland Office of Tourism. “Add in our other baseball attractions and museums, and the Baltimore Orioles, and you can see why Maryland is a great place to enjoy what has traditionally been our national pastime.”
The Orioles have a Birdland Passport program that allows fans to get a “Did Somebody Say Roadtrip?” T-shirt after collecting stamps from Oriole-affiliated destinations: the Orioles' home park at Camden Yards and the minor-league stadiums in its farm system.
Here are Maryland’s minor-league teams and some of their special events, along with a few other baseball attractions:
- Aberdeen IronBirds (Harford County)
Owned by Baltimore Orioles hero and Aberdeen native Cal Ripken Jr., the IronBirds are a Single-A affiliate of the Orioles. They play in the New York-Penn League. Ripken Stadium, which seats 6,300, is just off exit 85 on I-95. Individual-game tickets range from $9.50 to $30. Ferrous and Ripcord – both 6 and a half-feet tall – are the two mascots of the Ironbirds.
August promotions at the stadium include: Party Like a Pet Star, Aug. 9; Hot Rods and Home Runs, Aug. 23; Back to School Night, Aug. 27; and a Bucket Boys concert, Aug. 30. Banners along the stadium concourse show past IronBirds who have made it to the big leagues.
The annual Cal Ripken World Series runs Aug. 10-19 at Cal Sr.’s Yard, the jewel of the Ripken Baseball Academy – across the street from Ripken Stadium. Entry is open and free to the public; a free ticket is required for championship games on Aug. 18-19. Special events featuring water attractions, international dance and a Reba McEntire concert occur during the week.
- Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, Baltimore
Located at 216 Emory St., “a long fly ball from Camden Yards,” the museum exhibits artifacts and photographs related to the life and times of George Herman “Babe” Ruth. It’s open daily, 10 to 5. On Saturday, Aug. 11, a baseball historian will discuss post-season play in baseball during the 1800s. The program is free with museum admission. And, on Wednesday, Aug. 15, broadcaster and author Joe Castiglione talks about his long career as a play-by-play announcer for the Boston Red Sox.
- Bowie Baysox (Prince George’s County)
This Double-A affiliate of the Orioles – in the Western Division of the Eastern League – plays at Prince George’s Stadium, just off Route 50 on Route 301. With a seating capacity of 10,000, the stadium is the largest minor-league baseball park in Maryland. Tickets go from $7 to $17. Louie, the 6-foot, 6-inch mascot, is green and furry with pink hair.
Down the right-field line is Louie’s Kids Park, where kids will find a carousel and moon bounce, a place to test their pitching speed, and an inflatable Wiffle ball batting cage. Kids can also run the bases after each game.
A fireworks show follows the Aug. 3 game. Then, it’s the annual family camp-out. Registered families set up camping gear for an overnight on the stadium field with a family movie on the stadium video board.
Aug. 23 is Baysox for a Buck Night. General admission tickets are $1 and box seats are $6. (Tickets must be ordered by Aug. 21.) After the game on Aug. 24, the Baysox present a Fireworks & Flames Show, “a fireworks and flame wheel extravaganza” that pays tribute to the War of 1812 battles that occurred in Maryland. And, on Sept. 1, wrestling superstars present TNA Impact Wrestling’s Basebrawl.
- Delmarva Shorebirds, Salisbury (Wicomico County)
One of the Single-A affiliates of the Orioles, the Shorebirds play in the South Atlantic League at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium. Tickets start at $5 for kids, seniors and military with advance purchases. They top out at $12. Game-day tickets run $1 more across the board.
On Aug. 16, the Shorebirds host the Hagerstown Suns and give Shorebird caps to the first 500 fans at the game. Aug. 17 is NFL Night. Shorebirds players and coaches wear NFL-style uniforms that will be auctioned off after the game. Fans get a ticket discount by wearing an NFL jersey. Every Thursday is a Thirsty Thursday, when both draft beers and Pepsi drinks are $1.50. And, every Friday is Big Beer Friday, when 32-ounce drafts are $6.
The Shorebirds Walk of Fame, which pays tribute to Shorebirds alumni who had success in the major leagues, is on the stadium concourse. Orlando Cabrera, Javier Vazquez and Jayson Werth, along with two prominent Orioles – Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis – are among the honored players.
Concession stands have “healthy food options” that include gluten-free and vegetarian items. The stadium has a picnic deck, Sherman’s Birthday Party Zone and amusement rides. Sherman the Shorebird is the mascot.
- Frederick Keys (Frederick County)
The name, of course, refers to Frederick native Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words for the national anthem. Playing in the Northern Division of the Carolina League, the Keys are the High Single-A affiliate of the Orioles. Home is Harry Grove Stadium, a 5,500-seat facility off I-70 near I-270. Tickets go from $8 to $14.
A right-field Fun Zone has a carousel and moon bounce. Beyond left field, there’s a picnic pavilion. Following Friday and Saturday night games, the Keys present a fireworks show. And, after every game, kids, 12 and under, can run the bases. Members of that age group, who come to the stadium in uniform Sunday through Thursday, also get free admission with the purchase of regular-price adult ticket.
If the Keys lose on Guaranteed Win Nights, Aug. 7 and 21, all fans get free admission to another game. On Aug. 20, all kids 12 and under get a voucher for a free hot dog, chips and soda. Aug. 22 is Tribute to the Moustache Night. Keyote, the coyote, is the Keys’ mascot.
- Hagerstown Suns (Washington County)
Playing the South Atlantic League, the Suns are a Single-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. They play at 4,600-seat Municipal Stadium, a stadium that opened in 1930 and has undergone periodic renovations. Tickets are $9 to $12. Bryce Harper, the 19-year-old Nationals phenom, played here last year.
Speaking of Harper, on Aug. 4, the Suns will give a Bryce Harper garden gnome to the first 1,000 fans at the stadium. On Aug. 25, the first 1,000 fans get a Bryce Harper replica jersey. Fireworks Fridays are Aug. 3, 24 and 31. The Suns entertain the Delmarva Shorebirds (the Orioles affiliate team in the South Atlantic League) for a four-game weekend series, Aug. 23-26.
Every Thursday is a Thirsty Thursday, which means post-game concerts and drink specials. A beer garden and a picnic area are along the left-field line. Woolie is the 7-foot, 9-inch mascot of the Suns.
- Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, Waldorf (Charles County)
Now in their fifth season, the Blue Crabs play at Regency Furniture Stadium, which has 4,200 reserved seats. The team is in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, an independent league not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Brooks Robinson, legendary Oriole third-baseman, has an ownership interest in the Blue Crabs. Tickets are $5 to $13. Kids, 5 and under, get in free.
The stadium offers these family-oriented touches: Crabby Cove, beyond left-center field has bumper boats and a waterfall; the Kid Zone along the right-field foul line includes a rock-climbing wall; a picnic pavilion is down the left-field line; and an area for lawn seating is beyond right field.
Aug. 2 is Papa Pinch Garden Gnome Giveaway (Pinch is the 6-foot, 6-inch blue, furry Blue Crab mascot) and all military get $5 off field –box tickets. Like other Thursdays, Aug. 2 is a Wings & Beer Thursday and Payday Thursday. For the latter, the first 100 fans at the game get an envelope stuffed with cash. One envelope contains $100. On Aug. 14, the Washington Nationals “Racing Presidents” come to the stadium. Sept. 8 is Bark in the Park: dogs have access to the Lawn Area Puppy Party for $6 each, and their owners get in free.
In addition to these baseball destinations, baseball fans may also wish to attend The National Sports Collectors Convention, Aug. 1-5 at the Baltimore Convention Center. The exhibition includes more than 600 dealers and an Autograph Pavilion featuring former professional athletes.
About Maryland tourism
The Maryland Office of Tourism is an agency of the Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts within the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. Recently reported visitor data shows that the state welcomed more than 32.2 million visitors in 2010. Those visitors spent nearly $13.1 billion on travel-related expenses – generating close to $1.9 billion in state and local taxes and providing 130,000 jobs to Maryland residents.