First the good news: The Frederick Keys will continue to play ball during the summer at Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium. Now the less good news, the team will no longer be affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles organization, and the quality of play will probably be a bit lower.

The very existence of the team has been in doubt since it was revealed in 2019 that Major League Baseball wanted to eliminate 42 minor league teams in a major restructuring of the sport. The Keys were one of the teams on the chopping block.

Major League Baseball said at the time it wanted to reduce the number of minor league teams to make the development of players more efficient and also improve the pay and working conditions for players.

After the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season because of the coronavirus pandemic, the future was really looking bleak.

Major league teams like the Orioles provide the players and coaches for the minor leagues under affiliation agreements, and the Keys had been a farm team for the Orioles since 1989.

It looked as though the decision to sever the connection to the major league club would have effectively put our minor league team out of business. The economics of minor league baseball only work because the major league teams pay the players and coaches directly.

The economic impact of minor league baseball to a city like Frederick is huge. More than 270,000 people attended Keys games at Nymeo Field at the stadium in 2019, according to the city.

At that time, the team estimated its annual impact on the local economy at more than $15 million. It employed 25 full-time staff and 250 part-time workers.

The decision to include the Keys in the list of endangered teams in the first place remains puzzling and infuriating. This has been a thriving franchise, near enough to the parent club that fans could go to the major league stadium to follow the players that they cheered for in Frederick.

Some players and coaches have apparently been critical of the 30-year-old stadium, saying it does not provide all of the amenities of newer ballparks. But the Keys’ owners and the city, which owns the stadium, had offered to upgrade the structure.

So, the decision to end the Oriole affiliation and place the Keys in a lower, developmental league is disappointing. But not as disappointing as closing the franchise would have been.

Warm evenings at the ballpark will be filled with the sights and sounds of summer, and that is a relief. After a year of wondering what would become of our team, or even if a team would continue to play here, we now know that baseball will be back.

The Keys are one of six minor league teams that will join the new Draft League, which will feature players eligible to be drafted by a big-league team in July.

A 68-game regular season will run exclusively during warm-weather months, from late May to the middle of August. The players will include some highly touted prospects who will get the chance to showcase their skills for all 30 Major League teams.

Dedicated Keys’ fans like Jim and Amanda Addington, who have run a host-family program for minor league baseball players in Frederick, were disheartened by the news.

“My opinion is it was a bad day [for the Keys],” Jim Addington told News-Post reporter Greg Swatek. That is an understandable reaction from a superfan who attended almost every game. The Keys’ players in the past had already been drafted to play and were trying to get to the big leagues. Now, the players will be younger and many will be less talented, and will never be drafted.

But for many casual fans who just enjoy spending a few hours on a summer evening at the park eating a hot dog and sipping a beer, the news that baseball even in its diminished form will continue here was more welcome.

(15) comments

HappySeller2014

On a good night, the top local Frederick County high school baseball team will be able to beat any team this MLB Draft League is trying to field in Frederick.

You watch. Unless the team gives away 75% of its tickets for free, it will be lucky to put 900 fans in the seats for any given game. Just ask anyone who worked for the Hagerstown SUNS, who fielded a team in the Low-A Ball South Atlantic League. On most nights, you could hear the crickets under the bleachers at Hagerstown Municipal Stadium.

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

HappySeller2014

FNP, you are drinking bad NYMEO Field Kool-Aid, or stale beer, or overcooked hot dogs.

While you are trying to turn this lemon into lemonade, enjoy watching five errors an inning, rows and rows of empty seats, and weeds. You may have a potential rising star here and there, but a whole lot of fillers thrown together just weeks before the season starts. And since MLB draft is in July, most of the season kids will be dancing on needles to ensure they are not injured. MLB teams already know their propspects well before May.

This situation is a travesty. No amount of lipstick gonna help this pig. FNP should be advocating razing the stadium and expanding the cemetery, or repurposing it.

Second largest city in MD and we are in this situation???

gabrielshorn2013

Gotta agree Happy. Until this year, my family and I usually attended a Keys game per week, plus a few O's games per year. Both organizations have lost our business. Well, not that they care anyway. However, all the local school and civic organizations that volunteered their time for a percentage of the proceeds will inevitably pay the price for the O's poor decision.

HappySeller2014

So true gabriel. My MLB and MiLB fandom has come to a halt. NFL lost me a decade ago and I never got into the NBA.

At least I still have NHL hockey and NCAA college football. And my own golf game. Will just be pouring more $s into golf greens fees in the local area than this charade of professional baseball.

lewisantq

HappySeller2014. I don't think you understand young baseball players or the MLB scouting process. Most of these young men will have been scouted by numerous MLB teams. Teams will be in the process of constructing preliminary draft boards before May but the final draft list will not be finalized until just before the draft. The performance of every player on this team will be evaluated by interested teams and will affect their draft status. "Dancing on needles to ensure they are not injured"? I doubt it. These young men will be playing as hard as they can for the love of the game. Injury will not be as big a concern as going 0-for-4 will be. I think true fans should give this team a chance. Bob Lewis

HappySeller2014

Well, you enjoy Bob. We clearly disagree.

mikec

Agree. Let's hear how excited FNP sportswriters are at the prospect of covering what's essentially a high school all-star team vs. a Baltimore Orioles affiliate. With an affiliate, you got to see upcoming Oriole stars- Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, Brian Roberts, Ben McDonald. The lack of connection to a MLB team, particularly the Orioles is the death of the Keys IMHO. I have no interest in this new team.

MD1756

Maybe they could build a hotel there.

Blueline

Or a hockey rink. You could probably get an ECHL team to move there

MD1756

My comment was meant to be a joke given the downtown hotel/conference center fiasco.

Blueline

I hope they have more Bark in the Park games.

franklin3

The worst aspect of this travesty is that even if a player or two look impressive they will be available to be signed by any MLB team.So what would be the point of rooting or paying any attention to any of them. People who devised this silliness have no idea how real baseball fans think and watch the game. I certainly do not feel thankful to have this option. To make it worse, if you want to retain some allegiance to the Orioles, their remaining from teams are 90 minutes, 3 hours and 6 hours away. Screw that!

HappySeller2014

These kids not even going to play at 100%. They will know before the season starts in May who wants them, and will not want to get injured. And the really good kids will probably sit out and just train...why risk getting hit by a ball, spiked or tripped by dozens of other no name kids being used as fillers?

franklin3

From the Orioles Hangout Website:

The city of Frederick's inability or unwillingness to improve the player development facilities at the park doomed them as an affiliate.

gabrielshorn2013

Why should Frederick be saddled with the costs of such a facility that the O's could just walk away from (see the Nymeo field at Harry Grove Stadium naming BS)? If that's their excuse, then good riddance.

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