The city of Frederick remains committed to making sure the Frederick Keys stay in the city and playing at Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium, and has had no discussions on how the stadium could be used if not for minor league baseball, said Mayor Michael O’Connor.
The Keys were included on a preliminary list released last year of teams that could be eliminated under a proposal between major and minor league baseball to eliminate more than three dozen minor league affiliates.
While the Keys’ departure would leave the city with a vacant stadium, O’Connor said the city remains fully committed to making the argument that the team deserves to remain, and he is “not satisfied to think about the ‘what if’ on this.”
The Keys did not respond to a request for comment.
With its Professional Baseball Agreement expiring after the 2020 season, Major League Baseball is looking to improve its business relationship with minor league clubs.
Late last year, MLB announced it was looking at eliminating 42 clubs, including the Keys.
Minor League Baseball strongly opposed the proposal, as did O’Connor and other mayors from cities and towns whose teams would be contracted.
But recently, with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing the start of the season and casting uncertainty on if or when baseball will be played this year, the New York Times reported last week that Minor League Baseball has been increasingly open to MLB’s proposal.
Losing the Keys would be a financial hit for the city as well as losing a valuable community asset.
The ball club accounts for the bulk of the city’s admissions and amusement tax, which accounted for $376,614 in fiscal 2019, according to the city’s most recent budget.
A Class A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, the Keys drew the second-highest attendance of the franchise’s five minor league clubs in 2019, trailing only Triple-A Norfolk.
While he was reluctant to speculate on how things would work out and reiterated that there have been no discussions of contingencies, O’Connor said the city would have to look at its options if the Keys were to be retracted.
Opened in 1990, the stadium is one of the city’s 73 parks, and the terms under which it was donated to the city require that the property be used for youth-related activities, O’Connor said.
The city would have to assess what its parks and recreation needs are, and there would likely be interest in a request for proposals on the best uses for the site, he said.
Even if the Keys were to leave, college, minor league, amateur, Babe Ruth and other types of baseball would still exist, O’Connor said.
He said he hasn’t heard where things stand lately on the possible elimination of teams, adding that both mayors and Major League Baseball have “a lot of irons in the fire” in dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.