As Frederick prepares to welcome the next iteration of the Frederick Keys, city officials remain intent on attracting a club with a connection to a major league franchise — a challenge that’s made more difficult by the condition of some of the facilities at Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium.
The city’s mayor and aldermen will vote in early May on a new lease at the stadium for the Keys, as the team gets ready to begin its first season since losing its affiliation with the Baltimore Orioles and after missing all of last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new one-year lease would cut the team’s rent at the stadium in half, from $100,000 a year to $50,000, and determine options for the city or team to renew for three, one-year terms, among other details.
The 2021 Keys will play as a Major League Baseball Draft League franchise, with college juniors and seniors looking to show scouts what they can do ahead of the major league draft.
The Keys appeared on a list of 42 minor-league teams that could be contracted, as MLB looked to cut costs and improve pay and working conditions for players in a new Professional Baseball Agreement with its minor-league affiliates.
The league is similar to New England’s Cape Cod League and others, Keys’ out-going general manager Dave Ziedelis told the mayor and aldermen at a workshop Wednesday.
“It’s a very verifiable product,” he said.
Ziedelis is leaving to take over as the executive director of Visit Frederick.
The initial proposal for the new lease included an option for the Keys to renew the agreement for three, one-year terms, but Alderman Ben MacShane and several others said they would be more comfortable if the contract allowed either the city or the team the option to renew.
Alderman Roger Wilson and others said they would like to see another team affiliated with a major league club.
One obstacle could be the condition of some of the facilities at Nymeo Field, the “back of the house” areas for staff, vendors and others.
“We just lack a lot of the things here,” Ziedelis said.
MacShane said he doesn’t want the city’s long-term answer to be constantly looking for new leagues for the team to play in with a declining facility.
“I don’t want that to be the future that we settle for,” he said.
Alderman Derek Shackelford said having baseball in Frederick puts the city in a better position to attract an affiliated club.
Mayor Michael O’Connor said he considers the draft league as a stop-gap measure while the city figures out a plan to attract the next version of minor league baseball in Frederick.