About Frederick Keys
Looking forward towards its 23rd season in 2011, the Frederick Keys continue its tradition of excellence on the field and at the turnstiles. The Keys have won three Carolina League championships, sent over 100 players to the major leagues and welcomed six million fans through its gates dating back to their beginnings in 1989. Fan support has never wavered as in the eight-team Carolina League, the Keys have never finished lower than third in league attendance. Frederick also has a strong relationship with its parent organization, the Baltimore Orioles. The Keys have been an Orioles affiliate throughout, something no other Carolina League franchise can boast.
In 1989, the Keys inaugural season was played at McCurdy Field as Harry Grove Stadium was under construction. Frederick?s first game was a 4-0 loss in Durham, NC that featured three future big league players in the Keys infield. Included amongst them was 1B David Segui who went on to a 15-year big league career that included two stints with the Baltimore Orioles. The Keys inaugural season was highlighted by the professional debut of RHP Ben McDonald, the only #1 pick of the draft to ever play with Frederick. McDonald?s debut swamped McCurdy Field with over 6,000 fans and was televised. ?Big Ben? would go on to become the first Frederick Key to reach the big leagues, debuting with the Orioles September 6th at Memorial Stadium against the Cleveland Indians.
Frederick would move to its new confines settling in to Harry Grove Stadium for the 1990 season. Harry Grove Stadium opened on April 19, 1990 in front of 5,169 fans. The Keys pitching staff boasted Arthur Rhodes as its opening day starter. Rhodes , a 17-year major league player, would strike out 16 batters on May 30th against Salem. The 1990 season would be a magical one as the Keys won both halves in the Northern Division clinching a spot in the Mills Cup Championship Series. Its opponent was Kinston, who took Frederick to a decisive Game 5 at Harry Grove Stadium. The Keys used a four-run sixth inning to overcome a 5-2 deficit in their 7-5 championship clinching win. It is still the only time the Keys have celebrated a title in front of their home faithful.
In the following years the Frederick Keys would gain notoriety with events off the field as well. In 1991 and 1992 serving President George Bush attended two Keys games while vacationing at Camp David located in Frederick County. 1991 was also the beginning of a four-year run in which the Keys led the Carolina League in attendance. Frederick would set its franchise record in 1993 welcoming 351,146 fans to Harry Grove Stadium.
1993 was also a hallmark season for the Keys on the field as Frederick upped the ante after a .500 first half going 43-27 to win the northern division in the second half. The Keys were led by OF Curtis Goodwin who still leads Frederick in single season games played, at-bats, hits, runs and triples. Overall 13 members of the 1993 club would go onto the major leagues including longtime relievers Armando Benitez and Joe Boroski.
The Keys pieced together a stellar 44-25 second half record in 1994 but fell a game and a half shy of Wilmington in the playoff chase. 1995 would see opening day starter Rocky Coppinger dominate the Carolina League going 7-1 with a 1.57 ERA in his 11 starts with the Keys on his way to a five-year major league career. In 1996, Keys OF Eugene Kingsale was called up from Frederick to the big leagues. The 19-year old is one of just two players to ever jump to the Orioles from Frederick (OF Jeff Fiorentino, 2005) and was the first ever major leaguer from the Caribbean island, Aruba.
Frederick got off to a great start in 1997, winning the first half going away with a 45-24 record, the best for any half in Keys franchise history. Promotions and injuries would befell the club as the Keys sank to last place in the second half and were quickly ousted by Lynchburg in the Northern Division Championship Series. The season did feature the largest crowd in Harry Grove Stadium history as a record 11,006 fans saw the Keys take on Wilmington on August 30th.
Current nine-year big leaguer Jerry Hairston highlighted the 1998 Keys before a mid-July promotion to Double-A Bowie. Frederick would notch a no-hitter the following year as Josh McNatt, Jeremy Halpin and Derek Brown performed the feat April 15, 1999. It was the second of five franchise no-hitters in Keys history. The starting pitchers who have registered no hitters in franchise history are Erik Schullstrom, 1991, Josh McNatt, 1999, John Maine, 2003, Radhames Liz, 2006 and Brandon Erbe, 2008.
Speedster Tim Raines Jr. nabbed a franchise record 81 stolen bases helping lead the Keys to the playoffs in 2000. Former College Baseball Player of the Year and future Major League All-Star Brian Roberts batted .301 with the Keys. Frederick headed there after capturing the northern division in the first half but exited in the first round at the hands of Lynchburg.
Comcast-Spectator purchased the Keys, along with the Class-A Delmarva Shorebirds and Double-A Bowie Baysox prior to the 2001 campaign. Led by dominant starter Erik Bedard, Frederick would finish the year with a 70-69 record, their first overall winning season since 1994.
The 2002 Keys would struggle mightily, winning just 18 games in the first half en route to a minor league worst 47-92 season. Manager Jack Voigt is still the only Keys player to manage the club. Voigt was an outfielder on the inaugural 1989 Keys.
The next few years saw pitching prospects lead the way as John Maine pitched in the Future?s game in 2003 and Hayden Penn was named given the Jim Palmer Prize as Orioles Minor League pitcher of the Year in 2004. The Keys have featured nine players in past Future?s Games and have had eight pitchers earn the Jim Palmer Prize (Mike Linskey, 1989, Anthony Telford, 1990, Rick Krivda, 1992, Armando Benitez, 1993, Rocky Coppinger, 1995, Nerio Rodriguez, 1996, Hayden Penn, 2004 and Jim Johnson, 2005) and nine players play in the prestigious Future?s Game (Papy Ndungidi, 2000, Erik Bedard, 2001, John Maine, 2003, Adam Loewen and Jim Johnson, 2005, Nolan Reimold and Radhames Liz, 2006 and Jake Arrieta, 2008).
The 2005 season would return the Keys to the top of the Carolina League hierarchy as after a .500 first half, Frederick went on to post its best all-time franchise record (79-61) en route to its second Carolina League championship. The Keys were led by Carolina League Pitcher of the Year, Jim Johnson and Carolina/California League All Star MVP Nick Markakis. Markakis hit two home runs in the summer classic to win the honors as the All-Star Game was played at Harry Grove Stadium. The Keys reached the Mills Cup Championship Series with a sweep of Lynchburg and went into a deciding game five in Kinston, NC tied at 2-2 with the Indians. Rains delayed the game by a day but the Keys were up to the task, shutting down the Indians in a 2-0 series clinching win.
In 2006 the Frederick Keys pitcher Radhames Liz started a no-hitter in April and OF Nolan Reimold won the All-Star Game MVP in Salem, VA in June, but the Keys entered the playoffs with both of them having been promoted to Double-A Bowie. Frederick dramatically won back-to-back elimination games in Wilmington to win the North but came up short, being swept away by Kinston in the finals. After the season the Keys and Bowie Baysox were purchased by Maryland Baseball Holdings, owned by Ken Young. Young is also the owner of the Triple-A Norfolk Tides (Orioles) and Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes (Dodgers).
The Keys would return to glory in 2007 in a unique way. Frederick became the only team in Carolina League history to claim a division pennant in a half in which they were under .500 as the Keys won the first half with a 32-37 record. Entering the playoffs as the prohibitive underdog, The Keys stunned the Carolina League landscape, sweeping Wilmington before capturing their third Carolina League title in Salem in four games. Pitcher Chorye Spoone was the MVP of that playoff run pitching a complete game one-hitter to clinch the north before pitching a complete game in the decisive game four in Salem to close out the championship.
2008 would end the run of Northern Division titles at three but saw some incredible individual talent play at Harry Grove Stadium. C Matt Wieters became the first ever Key named Minor League Player of the Year when he was bestowed that honor by Baseball America following the season. The Orioles 1st round pick in 2007 hit two home runs in his first two official at-bats on opening night in Frederick. Pitcher Jake Arrieta was named Carolina League Pitcher of the Year in a season in which he started the All-Star Game, pitched in the Future?s Game and then was the first active Frederick Key to be selected to play in the Olympic Games as he represented the United States in Beijing, China.
The second highest drafted player to pitch for Frederick would start for the Keys on opening night 2009 as Brian Matusz started for Frederick in Salem. It was the beginning of Matusz?s professional career after being selected by the Orioles with the fourth pick of the 2008 draft. Matusz would work his way up to the big leagues joining five other former Keys who made the leap to Baltimore in 2009. Frederick posted a sub-.500 record in 2009 but boasted its first ever MVP ? Brandon Waring. Waring hit 26 home runs and drove home 90 runs, the first Keys player to drive home 90+ runs with Frederick since 1996. Zach Britton became the third Key to win Carolina League Pitcher of the Year. The left-handed pitcher was slated to start the annual Carolina/California League All-Star Game. Robbie Widlansky, who was called up to Frederick in late-May won the league batting total hitting .340.
In 2010 the Keys had the second best firsthalf in franchise history, winning 41 games en route to another playoff run. Led by 1B Joe Mahoney and leadoff hitter Xavier Avery the Keys posted its first winning record since 2005 going 72-68 before bowing out to the Potomac Nationals in the Northern Division Championship Series. OF Ronnie Welty made the post-season all-star team and Bowie, MD product LJ Hoes provided a spark at second base.
For the Keys it is 22 years and counting. Frederick has welcomed its six millionth fan and celebrated its 100th Key to reach the major leagues. In the end, Keys baseball remains what it has always been; a fun, affordable night out for family and friends seeing future big leaguers hone their craft, right here at home.