Monday, July 11, 2011

Keyed Up: Game 55 in Frederick

A key to the city and a key to the fans' hearts.
 When I first contacted the Frederick Keys a year ago, I had not realized that that their name refers to the author of the stanzas of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  In his response to my query, Keys’ general manager Dave Ziedelis let me know that Francis Scott Key’s burial place was across the street from the ballpark.  Then I understood.  Keys: A plural noun to identify the team of Frederick players with the poet.  The name enjoys a musical ring since it often matters in which key to sing the anthem so that its wide range can be scaled.  And the puns extend to the ballpark art.  Greeting fans inside the main gate is a model of the key to the City and/or baseball's key to their hearts!

At the Will Call window where I picked up my tickets, Cheryl McClain was delighted to learn about my singing the anthem.  She related that in the 1980s, she had sung the anthem for the Keys when they had played at the old ballpark.  A special memory of that occasion was that her grandfather, “a war veteran and an avid baseball fan,” had been there to celebrate the occasion with her.  He had introduced her to baseball, which she has enjoyed ever since.  Now working for the Keys, she is pleased that her daughter Melissa is scheduled to sing the anthem for the Keys later this season, as she had done last year, as well as for the Delmarva Shorebirds, the team near her home.  When I asked Cheryl if she had been more nervous when she had sung or when her daughter had performed, she replied quickly, “That’s easy.  Hers!”
Joining Bonnie and me at the ballpark were Alan and Sandy Yamamoto, friends from Alexandria, Virginia who had been hosting Bonnie for a couple of days while I had traveled across Pennsylvania and into New York to sing in several ballparks. Bonnie has known Alan since her high school years in Watsonville, California, and our friendship has spanned the continent.  When he had been in law school in the Cleveland area, Alan had driven down to Louisville to attend our wedding, and during our visits to Washington, DC during the past two decades, we have frequently stayed with Alan and Sandy and their lovable labs.  (I miss my dogs!) 
On one of our trips to the area a dozen years ago, the four of us celebrated one of Bonnie’s teaching awards with an extravagant culinary event—having dinner at the Inn at Little Washington, then rated as the favorite restaurant in the nation by award-winning chefs.   And when I first had sung for the Orioles in Camden Yards several earlier, Alan and Sandy had driven up to Baltimore to link up with us for the game.  It was a delight to share another evening of baseball with them.  Among the varied topics of our conversation throughout the game, Alan and I dissected the placement and possible effectiveness of the 80 billboard ads—often triple-decked—on the outfield fences.
A new friend also found us at the ballpark.  Paul Lasky, who had sat in the row in front of Bonnie and me a week earlier in Hagerstown, came to the Frederick game to enjoy another night of minor league baseball.  His nephew Bret Lasky is the radio announcer for the Delmarva Shorebirds, Hagerstown’s opponent for our initial encounter.  For several innings we shared stories about baseball players and broadcast personalities, and before the evening was over Paul initiated a chance for me to talk with Bret during our visit to the Shorebirds ballpark scheduled several days later.

The pre-game Boy Scouts parade led by Keyote, the Keys' Mascot. 
In the background the outfield fence rises high with its display of advertisements.

The forlorn, fallen hot dog.
At Frederick, like my game the night before in Bowie, troops of Scouts paraded around the field before the game and then planned to spend the night camping out on the outfield.  One result of the promotion at Frederick was the team enjoyed its largest crowd in four years with more than 9000 attending the game.  The density of the crowd was so great that the lines at the concession stands seemed to stretch farther than those at Disneyland.  They were so long and slow that we actually missed almost three innings of play while waiting to buy a crab pretzel.  "Is it standard pretzel dough twisted into the shape of a crab claw, or is it somehow filled with crab meat?"  I wondered aloud to Alan.  Alas, it was simply a long, stick pretzel with a reasonably good crab dip.  But it certainly wouldn’t rival any of the hors d’oeuvres at the Inn at Little Washington.
One effect of the long food lines was that they apparently voided the ten-second rule for at least one parent.  When Alan and I saw a child drop a hot dog near the condiment counter, we sympathized with his plight of losing dinner.    He tapped his mother on the shoulder and pointed dispappointedly to his spill. We were dumbfounded by what we saw next.  The mother finished putting ketchup and relish on a couple of hot dogs, then bent down to retrieve the fallen wiener and tuck it back into the bun--an act of hunger desperation and line-wait exasperation.


A mother "rescuing" the dropped hot dog.

While Alan and I waited for service and food, Frederick catcher Adam Donachie homered for a second time in the game even though before tonight he had not hit a homerun all season.   His RBI’s lead the Keys to a dashing 6-2 win while their highly touted prospect Manny Machado, who had been promoted to the Keys three days earlier, had an unremarkable game, hitting two ground ball outs, walking twice, and muffing a grounder that was generously ruled a hit.

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