The Frederick Keys return to town today, opening their 2021 home season, and the sounds of baseball will once again ring out on Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium. Those are glad tidings.

But you can think of the Keys’ return as a metaphor for our new life post-pandemic. The new normal will be somewhat recognizable from the old days, but it will be significantly different in a number of ways. Get ready to adjust your attitude once again.

Baseball returns to Harry Grove Stadium for the first time since the last game of the Keys’ 2019 season was played on Sept. 2 of that year. The entire 2020 season was wiped out by the coronavirus restrictions.

The players will be wearing the familiar Keys uniforms. But this will be a much different kind of team. The Keys have lost their affiliation of 31 years with the Baltimore Orioles as a farm team at the High-A level.

Fans for all of those years could go to the local ballpark and watch the future stars of the Orioles hone their skills and try to demonstrate that they were ready to move up on their way to The Show.

These new Keys are part of a six-team Major League Baseball Draft League, which opened its inaugural season Monday. The players are trying to demonstrate that they deserve a chance to play in the minor leagues in the hope that someday they might develop into a major leaguer. But they are much farther away from that dream than even the players Keys fans are used to seeing here.

To the serious fan who knows the game pretty well and has always prided him or herself on spotting big league talent, it is likely to be a disappointing brand of baseball. Longtime season ticket holders for the Keys have been grumbling since the plan was unveiled, and not without some justification.

But to the casual fan just looking to spend a pleasant evening under the stars at the local ballpark, watching the game, drinking a beer, eating a hot dog and maybe staying for fireworks, the new Keys will probably be good enough. The casual fan is less likely to be invested in the success of the team, and any baseball is better than no baseball.

The players will be college juniors and seniors getting a chance to showcase their skills in front of major league scouts in advance of the Major League draft. The draft has been moved back from early June to coincide with the All-Star Game July 13, allowing college players more time to demonstrate their potential talent.

These young guys generally will not be the top college players from the best teams, most of whom are already slated for the first rounds of the draft. The players in this league will be more marginal prospects.

The Draft League season will be considerably shorter than the old Keys’ seasons, with just 68 games, of which 34 will be at home in Frederick. Of those, 14 nights will feature postgame fireworks. The season will end in mid-August.

Harry Grove Stadium was a state-of-the-art park when it opened in 1990, but minor upgrades made over the years were not enough to keep its Orioles affiliation when baseball decided to reduce the number of teams in its minor league system.

Keys owner Ken Young says an affiliation agreement remains his long-range goal, but that will require a major financial commitment from the city of Frederick and possibly the state to bring the stadium up to modern standards.

That is a discussion for another day and another place. For tonight, we can celebrate the return of baseball to the ballpark on the south side and revel in the sights and sounds of the beloved old game.

What is that sound? Do we hear the first chords of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”?

(10) comments

Piedmontgardener

Something is better than nothing. A ball has about 3 players per team, give, take, that will be heading somewhere. Be a bit smaller in this league, but it's baseball. Time to start booking concerts, it's a natural venue and the one thing we don't have in Frederick.

francesca_easa

The players are doing it for the love of baseball. If you only go to one or two games this year, it would do so much for their morale.

MrSniper

I’ll catch a game to see if it’s worth it. I’m super disappointed with the downgrade of professionalism.

Reader1954

happyseller then take your bunch to the movies at the same price and sit in the dark.

HappySeller2014

Nah, not a movie fan, Reader1954. Why pay $20 for one large Coke and one large bucket of popcorn? I do not even think the KEYS charge that much for concessions, but they sure squeeze you at the ticket gate.

At least the Hagerstown SUNS got it right. They completely shut down and are in the process of working with the MD Stadium Authority and new ownership to look into building a new stadium.

And the Frederick KEYS? Just dibber and dabble in this hilariousness.

May head to Bowie or Aberdeen over the next week. Not to excited about the Orioles and Camden Yards for the fifth year in a row, but at least I can get tickets on the secondary markets for peanuts.

If you visit Nymeo Field this week Reader1954, let us know how it goes. At least the use of the bathrooms remains free, hopefully.

HappySeller2014

"...Any baseball is better than no baseball."

Are you kidding me FNP???

KEYS are 0-2. On Monday, KEYS combined with Treton for 31 total strikeouts in opening game. On Tuesday, KEYS held to three hits and Trenton players struck out another 16 or so times.

Team cohesion and strategy will be nonexistant. Every kid for himself to impress scouts and kids from many colleges I have never heard from.

Bunt the batter over? Forgettaboutit, I am swinging for fences. Intentionally walk batter to set up double play with weaker next hitter? Forgettaboutit, I am throwing heat because I need to pad my strikeouts.

Flat, warm beer better than no beer, eh? Next time popcorn burnt, sodas have no carbonation, and cotton candy a gooey mess there better be no complainimg...at least we have them, eh?

I guess for some, paying $13 a ticket to see a team coached by a MLB journeyman and probably strikeout over a dozen times is better than nothing, but I hold myself to much higher personal standards to ensure my family is enjoying itself. It is gonna cost over $50 at the gate for a family of four with teenagers to attend tonight's game in field seats...I can spend $50 in a lot of other venues locally where I do not need to settle.

Dwasserba

“These young guys generally will not be the top college players from the best teams...”

HappySeller2014

Yep. Sounds like a rec league. Or a glorified American Legion or Babe Ruth summer league. If you go 0-4 with four strikeouts in this league, where you gonna get demoted to? PlayStation?

duffy5x

I have seen them play this season. Have you? Yeah...you just run your mouth. Not impressive.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Happy!

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