Established in 1989, the Frederick Keys have served as the Class A affiliate for the Baltimore Orioles for over twenty years. The ‘Keys’ nickname, likely a unique one throughout all major sports, is a homage to poet Francis Scott Key, a lawyer and poet most famous for writing the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 1814. Located about 50 miles west of Baltimore, the Keys are a four-time champion of the eight-team Carolina League, the most recent title coming in 2011.
The Keys earned a different ‘title’ of sorts in 2012, though that likely made the front office very happy; the highest average attendance in the entire league. The Keys play at Harry Grove Stadium, which was opened in 1990 and of which the Keys have been the one and only tenant. Currently holding 5,500 seats, the Keys averaged about 86% capacity in Harry Grove Stadium in 2012, a great sign for a minor league organization that rests in Maryland’s eighth-largest city. What keeps the fans coming back? From what I experienced at the game, the return visits seem to be driven by a family-friendly atmosphere and a great concession selection.
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This may be a Class-A park, but you can certainly argue that the concession choices are a class or two higher. There are several different stands around the concourse behind the seating bowl, and each one of them features at least a few menu items that are unique. Bullpen BBQ, Hot Corner BBQ, Angus Grill, Brewer's Alley, Keys Creamery, and Dugout Dogs are just some of the places you can choose from if you're looking to grab a bite at Harry Grove Stadium. The hot spots seem to be Hot Corner BBQ, as well as Keys Creamery, an ice cream stand.
Prices are pretty standard; at Dugout Dogs, hot dogs are $4, chili dogs are $5 and nachos are $5.50 for large, $4 for regular. Beverages are $5 for a souvenir cup and $3.50 for a regular. Beer is sold at several different stands, including Brewer's Alley on the left field side. Brewer's Alley has IPAs and seasonal beer ($8 for a large, $5.75 for regular) as well as wine ($6) and 16-ounce domestic cans ($6). It took me about ten minutes to decide what I wanted, because again, while every concession stands sells items like soda, popcorn, pretzels and candy, every stand does have 'exclusives.' I finally landed on an Italian Sausage Basket (includes fries, $8) and a soda from Hot Corner BBQ. The basket was well-made and filled me up. My only word of caution would be that some of the stands are cash-only. There is an ATM to the left of the entrance in case you're out of cash, however.
If you've ever been to Prince George's Stadium, home of the Orioles' Class AA affiliate Bowie Baysox, you'll realize that Harry Grove Stadium is a lot like Prince George's, on a slightly smaller scale. Harry Grove Stadium has a scoreboard above the right field wall and a video board above the left field wall, although it's a bit small and hard to see, depending on where you're sitting. Bleacher seats are down the first and third base line (general admission), while blue fold-down seats are on the top row around the back of the plate (reserved seating) and orange fold-down seats are on the bottom row, closest to the action (field seating). Behind the seating bowl is the concourse, with the concession and beer stands along with two Frederick Keys merchandise shops that are just to the right of the entrance, on the first base side. If you go all the way down the right field side of the concourse, you'll reach the Keys' Funzone, a play area with games and a moon bounce where kids can play while the game is underway, though it does cost money for Funzone tickets.
With nothing but blue skies and trees behind the outfield walls, Harry Grove is definitely an aesthetically pleasing place to watch baseball at the Class A level. The Keys' mascot Keyote walks around the stadium to the delight of fans, and there are fun games that the Keys staff put on between innings like trivia questions and kids challenges. The atmosphere is definitely kid-friendly, while also including aspects that adults would like, like selling alcohol.
The home of Francis Scott Key, Frederick, Maryland is rich in American history. Founded in 1745, the city was an important market town, as well as a leading mining county and the site of several historic events during the Civil War, where it was a major crossroad. As a result, Frederick has several museums and attractions to keep an average tourist interested. From the Monacacy National Battlefield to the Museum of Civil War Medicine and to Rose Hill Manor, history buffs will have a heyday in Frederick, even apart from the Frederick Keys baseball game. If learning about American history isn't something that floats your boat, come to Frederick for Baker Park, which features a lake, swimming pool and several playgrounds. Wineries are also a popular attraction in the city, and downtown Frederick is considered an Arts & Entertainment District, with attractions such as the Weinberg Center for the Arts.
Nearly all of these attractions, including a Francis Scott Key Mall, are a decent distance away from Harry Grove Stadium, however. The sightseeing is certainly worth a drive-around if you have a car, however. If you're looking for a place to eat besides the stadium, I would recommend somewhere such as Black Hog BBQ & Bar, which is just down the road from Harry Grove (0.7 miles) at 118 South Market Street. The owner of the Black Hog also owns The Tasting Room, a high-end restaurant and wine bar that is a mile from the stadium at 101 North Market Street.
There are several hotels close to the stadium, including an Econo Lodge, Best Western and Travelodge. If you're looking to stay in a little bit of style while you're in the city that's sometimes affectionally called 'Fredneck,' I recommend the Hilton Garden Inn at Corporate Court.
Fan attendance and support are driving forces in how successful a minor league organization is portrayed. In 2011, the Keys' lease was expiring, and questions remained about whether the Keys would stay in the city or move elsewhere. Fans made their voices heard though through social media and other outlets in support of keeping the Keys organization in Frederick, and a new 10-year Harry Grove Stadium lease was signed later that year. The Keys' fans then put their money where their mouths were in 2012, registering the highest average attendance in the entire Carolina League.
Since the Harry Grove atmosphere is so fan-friendly, many fans bring their families (including young kids) to the games, especially on the weekends. Attendance is especially strong during nights where the Keys hold special promotions, such as a guest appearance by a celebrity or post-game fireworks. During the normal nights, attendance is respectable. The recent success of the Baltimore Orioles has likely pulled some fans back to Camden Yards, but there are certainly faithful Keys fans as well; I went to a Sunday night game that didn't have any special promotions or giveaways, and the announced attendance put Harry Grove Stadium at about 77% capacity.
Fans are interested and involved in the game, giving a collective groan after a Keys infielder made a big error and getting loud when a Keys batter hit a solo home run later on. The young fans add extra energy with cheers like 'CHARGE!'. For the most part, the fans are what you would expect, considering the Keys' classification; nothing over the top but enough to keep a home-field advantage.
Traffic is not something that you ever have to worry about when it comes to a Frederick Keys baseball game. From Baltimore, take I-70 West for about 38 miles of the 50-mile trip. If you're coming from Washington, DC, you're mostly taking I-270 North and bearing right onto Washington National Pike. Signs clearly mark the stadium when you're getting close, so it's a hard stadium to miss. There are, however, two entrances, and it's important to park in the correct one. One parking lot is behind the right field wall and is mostly for staff and special events. The main entrance and parking lot is in the front of the stadium. It's a hard parking lot to miss because it's just across the street from a cemetery. You read that right; Harry Grove Stadium is just across the street from a cemetery.
Parking is free and the lot is big enough that you'll be able to always find a spot, even if you arrive at the game late. The bathrooms are adequate and actually have small water mist-makers near the entrance that cooled down fans during the hot night on which I visited, while also being a source of entertainment for kids.
The Keys make it pay off for fans to buy their tickets in advance -- literally. On game day, tickets for field seating, reserved seating and general admission are $14, $12 and $11, respectively. Field seating includes the lower bowl of movie-style seats, reserved seating includes the upper bowl of those seats and general admission includes the bleacher seats down the first and third base lines. If you buy the tickets in advance, however, each ticket is $2 cheaper. Youth (ages 3 to 12) and seniors (60+) are $2 off on reserved seating and general admission. This puts the Keys near the top of the league in ticket prices and also puts them only about $1 to $3 cheaper per ticket than the Class-AA Bowie Baysox.
Coupled with decent food prices and free parking, however, an afternoon or night at Harry Grove Stadium won't break any banks, especially compared to a game at Camden Yards or Nationals Park. Compared to the rest of the Carolina League as well as the Baysox, though, the Keys could do more to add to the value of a game day.
One extra point goes to the Fun Zone that is down the first base side of the concourse. Minor league games are a popular spectacle event for younger children, and it's good to see the Keys have recognized that and installed a mini-playground just for them, complete with games and staff supervision.
Another point goes towards the overall selection when it comes to merchandise and food. For being such a relatively small stadium, Harry Grove certainly offers a lot of choices. The concession stands will almost always have something you're craving, and the two merchandise stores offer a wide range of memorabilia that can help you commemorate your visit.
Harry Grove Stadium earns two extra points; equivalent to the number of names the organization had before landing in Frederick in 1989 (Rocky Mount Pines in 1980, Hagerstown Suns from 1981 to 1988).
Being a part of the marketing department for a Class-A team can't be easy. This role involves convincing baseball fans to come out to a smaller stadium for a game that will likely get no national attention played by a group of players that may or may not ever see the Major Leagues. The Keys do a pretty good job with the pitch, though, and as a fan, you'll have a good time at Harry Grove Stadium. Try to come during a special promotion; such as post-game fireworks or a themed night; that will definitely allow Harry Grove Stadium to leave an impression on you.
Harry Grove Stadium is the home of the Frederick Keys, Single A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Opened in 1990, it has hosted an All Star game, concerts and professional wrestling.
As far as minor league baseball goes, it's kind of average.
Enjoy making the trip to Harry Grove. Easy to get to and good sight lines. Not many thrills, but a good family park. Enjoyed a SkyBox for a game which was nice but nothing really extraordinary. Overall a good park to watch future O's.
My parents are partial season ticket holders for the Frederick Keys, so I decided to join them on 9/1/2012. I'd been to the stadium a couple times, but not in a few years.
Food & Beverage: Standard Ball Park fair. Prices were reasonable for a ball park. Staff was friendly and helpful.
Atmosphere/Fans: The atmosphere was pretty good. The park was clean...pretty much no nonsense baseball. Haven't seen a park with bleachers in a while...I'm glad I bought a seat. This is as close to no-nonsense baseball as I've seen in a while. The ushers show you to your seat and clean it off for you...a nice, classy touch.
The big screen could use an upgrade. It's comically small compared to other stadiums I've seen, including regional Atlantic League teams (York Revolution and Lancaster Barnstormers).
Fans are there to see a baseball game. The stadium was pretty full that night. Points for that, Frederick!
Neighborhood/Access: Neighborhood is fine. Parking is ample, and free. It's very easy to get to from the major highways, but you will have to drive.
Return on Investment: For me, high, because I got to enjoy it with my parents. In general though, there are probably better parks in the region to go to. If you're in Frederick though, it's definitely worth the price.
Extras: There weren't many extras...except meeting Rudy (yeah, that Rudy) who was there that night signing autographs. The key jingle is cute, as is the weird soybean competition...
As I said in the comments, I was an intern here for the 2009 season and then came back for a game in 2012. I thought it was a great experience. There's obviously a different feeling than if you went to Camden or Nationals Park but that's not bad; it's a more cozy, personal feeling. The Keys and the Keyote mascot try to get everyone involved. Not to mention that with only a few thousand people there at most each game, you always have a chance at catching a foul ball!
And I haven't been to any other minor league park for a long time so I don't know if $11 for general admission is high or not. It seems to have definitely gone up the past few years, but I'm sure it's not the only place that has. They also run fun promotions, one where if you buy a ticket to a game and the Keys lose that night, you get to attend another weekday game for free.
They always run promotions and it's easy to get to. I never tried traveling around Frederick so I do doubt there's much to do there but to watch minor league baseball where the organization does care about the fans, Harry Grove is a good place to go.
124 N Market St
Frederick, MD 21701
118 S Market St
Frederick, MD 21701
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5646 Buckeystown Pike
Frederick, MD 21704
7226 Corporate Ct
Frederick, MD 21703