Hosting a series of future Baltimore Orioles stars — like Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy — while providing a series of memorable events for fans, Prince George’s Stadium is a comfortable place to take in a game, writes Jesse Goldberg-Strassler.
Opened: June 16, 1994
Dimensions: 309L, 405C, 309R
Owner: Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
Phone: 301/805-6000 (box office: 301/464-4865)
League: Double-A Eastern League
Parent: Baltimore Orioles
Address: 4101 Crain Highway, Bowie, MD 20716
Directions: From I-495, take exit 19 A, U.S. 50 East, to MD 197 South, take a left on U.S. 301 North, and turn right on Ballpark Drive. From I-695, take exit 4, Route 97 South toward Annapolis; use exit 7, Route 3 toward Bowie/Odenton, which changes into 301 South at Route 50; and turn left on Ballpark Drive.
Written By: Jesse Goldberg-Strassler (January 2013)
There is an overlooked tradition of storied ballparks hosting new teams while their new homes are being built: Seals Stadium welcomed the San Francisco Giants during 1958-59 until Candlestick Park was ready, for instance, while the Polo Grounds served as the New York Mets’ home in 1962-63 while Shea Stadium was being erected.
The expansion Bowie Baysox were born in 1993, taking the Hagerstown Suns’ slot in the Class-AA Eastern League. The Baysox played their home games during that inaugural season at storied Memorial Stadium, where the Baltimore Orioles nested before moving into Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992.
In 1994, Bowie received its own ballpark, though “construction delays due to poor weather” forced the Baysox to play in College Park and Frederick, among other sites, until the facility was ready. That day arrived June 16, 1994; Prince George’s Stadium, named after the team’s home county, was open for business.
As both a baseball fan and a native of Prince George’s County, this was exciting news from the very moment the team was first announced. This was a brand new ballpark/franchise located in my DC metropolitan region of Maryland, the perfect location/atmosphere to see baseball without worrying about Major League prices and Baltimore traffic. The Baysox fully embraced the community, too. My family attended drive-in movies in the Prince George’s Stadium parking lot. I fondly remember the team’s policy of allowing free admission to any youths wearing their team’s baseball jersey, and so my younger siblings and I suited up in our Greenbelt Little League or t-ball gear and cheered on the Baysox with gusto. In high school, I managed a “coach-pitch” team, and we took part in the popular program of pairing our youngsters with the professionals, dashing together onto the field to stand at attention during the national anthem.
Though much of this could be used to describe a host of Minor League outfits, Prince George’s Stadium further distinguished itself as the home for singularly memorable events: Each years brings the annual Congressional Baseball Game, pitting elected Republican politicians against their Democratic colleagues, with often rollicking results. A contrasting collection of celebrities and partisans enjoyed Allen Iverson’s Celebrity Softball Games, which featured athletes from other sports and various other entertainers showing off their skills (or lack thereof) as the crowd offered uproarious support.
The Baysox have been affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles since the club’s inception, a fine arrangement considering the team’s nearby proximity to the Charm City. an favorites Scott McClain, Howie Clark, and David Dellucci highlighted the team’s early years A prospect-studded roster of Jerry Hairston, Calvin Pickering, Ryan Minor, Eugene Kingsale, Jesse Garcia, and Augie Ojeda provided further hope in 1998, though the team managed just a 71-71 record; only Hairston amounted to anything at the MLB level.
First-rounder Jayson Werth played briefly in Bowie in 1998 and 1999 before spending 85 games in Bowie alongside athletic Darnell McDonald in 2000, a year in which the Baysox hosted the Double-A All-Star Game. 1999 and 2000 were also the years of left-hander Matt Riley, seemingly the second-best southpaw in the minors behind St. Louis’s Rick Ankiel, though MLB success never arrived. Such was the disappointing case for many of the Orioles’ top prospects who came through Bowie around the turn of the 21st century: Mel Rosario, Keith Reed, Larry Bigbie, Luis Matos, Mike Paradis, Beau Hale, Ed Rogers, Tim Raines Jr., and Val Majewski. A 23-year-old left-hander named Erik Bedard defied such a fate in 2002, dominating the Eastern League to the tune of a 6-3 record with a 1.97 ERA and racing up to grab the Major League spotlight. Future New York Mets stalwart John Maine impressed in five starts in 2004. The next season, it was first round outfielder Nick Markakis showing off his tools amid a rapid ascent to Baltimore. The 2006 Bowie rotation featured Jim Johnson, now depended upon as the Orioles’ closer.
The Baysox themselves were a consistent squad, always around the .500 mark, never a true league championship contender. This changed slightly in 2008: Behind the hitting of Nolan Reimold, Luis Montanez, Jeff Nettles, and a 22-year-old catcher, Matt Wieters, Bowie went 84-58 to seize the Southern Division title, falling in the league semi-finals. The 2012 Bowie Baysox met with the same fate, seeing their hopes dashed in the Eastern League semi-finals. Down the road, though, we may learn that this Baysox squad boasted the finest talent of them all, featuring 19-year-old shortstop Manny Machado and, for three starts, 19-year-old right-hander Dylan Bundy.
Prince George’s Stadium has a comfortable seating bowl ringing its natural grass field, with trees bordering the outfield walls. The teams’ clubhouses are located outside of the ballpark, down each line. The ballpark itself is away from Bowie’s downtown shopping area, providing easy access via major roadway as well as easily accessed (free) parking surrounding the ballpark.
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