The minor leagues are unique, in that being on the team could mean very different things, depending on the player's age. For baseball fans, though, the minor leagues can be a hidden treasure, as far as entertainment and bang for your buck.
Located in Bowie, Maryland, about 35 minutes south of Baltimore, are the Bowie Baysox, the Orioles' Double-A affiliate. Historically, the Baysox have struggled as a franchise since being founded in 1993, winning one division title (2008) and never getting past the first round of the playoffs. Of course, overall team records aren't as significant in the minor leagues as a stat like a team's attendance. Since 1994, the Baysox have played their home games at Prince George's Stadium, and while Bowie might not bring in the fans that the 'big city' AA teams do, the Baysox make attendance worth your while. Though the experience is a lot different than one at Camden Yards, that's not entirely a bad thing.
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Concessions seem to have more weight in the minor leagues, as teams try to use extravagant menu items to lure fans in. You won't find strange creations like a bacon-shelled taco at Prince George's Stadium, but the food that is offered here definitely has quality and selection.
Some of the different stands include Show Grill, Sweet Shop, Grand Slam Grille, Black Angus Grille and an ice cream shop. The entrees are traditional and the prices are around what you would expect. Show Grill offers food such as a buffalo chicken basket ($9), cheeseburger basket ($9), chicken tenders ($8.50), helmet cheese fries ($7) and giant pretzels ($4). The Grand Slam Grille offers items such as Old Bay cheese pretzels ($5), a local favorite, as well as large imported and domestic beers ($10 and $8, respectively). The ice cream shop offers treats like funnel cakes ($6), ice cream cups ($4) and a Baysox helmet sundae ($6). I had peanuts, a cheese pretzel and a Pepsi, and it was great and filling. The prices are a bit high, but the selection is great and there is truly food for fans of all ages.
The Bowie Baysox, similar to many other minor league organizations, devote a lot of focus to fan participation and a kid-friendly environment, much more so than some of their major league counterparts. The Baysox accomplish this well through several fronts. There are several on-the-field contests with kids during the intermission between innings, like a tug-of-war and a challenge similar to a 'sack race.' There is also an intermission where the marketing interns stand on top of the Baysox' dugout and help lead the audience in singing happy birthday to kids who are celebrating at Prince George's Stadium. The most appealing aspect of Prince George's Stadium for the kids, though, is the 'mini carnival' on the right field side. There are games, face painting and even a carousel for the kids to enjoy. The games cost extra money, but I walked by there several times, and it was crowded each time I looked with tons of kids and their parents.
There are orange bleacher seats on each side, as well as green fold-back seats in the section between home plate and the dugouts. The scoreboard sits behind the left field wall, and there is a video board behind the wall in right. Among the concession stands is a team shop that sells a lot of Baysox merchandise, including hats, jerseys, shirts and pennants. If you've ever been to Harry Grove Stadium, the home of the Orioles' single-A affiliate, you'll notice that the two stadiums are very similar in layout. Prince George's Stadium is just a lot bigger, with a seating capacity of 10,000, while Harry Grove stands at 5,500.
With a population of about 55,000 at the 2010 census, Bowie is the fifth-most populous city in Maryland. The city doesn't really have a reputation as a hot spot in the Old Line State, compared to places like Baltimore, Annapolis and Ocean City. If you're in the city and have time to kill, check out the Six Flags America park nearby on Central Avenue or the Allen Pond Park, a beautiful family park located on Northview Drive. The Bowie Train Station Museum on Chestnut Avenue is also a nice attraction that pays homage to the city's beginnings as a small railroad stop.
If you're looking to grab a bite, Bowie has plenty of grills and American food venues like Old Bowie Town Grille, Rip's Country Inn and Chesapeake Grille & Deli. There's also a Comfort Inn at 4500 Crain Highway, just a two mile drive from Prince George's Stadium.
The game I went to was played on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and while Prince George's Stadium was hardly full, the fans at the game were interested and had their voices heard. Kids were out in full force, watching from the stands and learning the game of baseball in a friendly and fun environment. Typical pump-up sounds like the 'CHARGE!' melody are played throughout the game, and the fans - especially the young fans - always respond to it well, no matter the score. The home-field advantage isn't overwhelming, though the Bowie fans do well to strongly outnumber the visiting teams' fans.
The Baysox also put on a special promotion during the Sunday game I attended; Orioles' Pride Day. Fans who wore their Baltimore Orioles' attire, in tribute to the Baysox' major league affiliate, received a discount if they purchased a box seat ticket. This promotion was a big hit, as fans young and old donned their orange and black en masse. Although Bowie, Maryland may not be a headlining place for a baseball franchise, there's a lot of fan loyalty for the Baysox among the locals.
Prince George's Stadium is very easy to get to, especially compared to its major league counterparts, like the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. From Baltimore, take Route 97 south and then Route 3 south to Bowie/Odenton. After passing the Route 50 overpass, turn left onto Ballpark Drive. If you're coming from Washington, DC, proceed on US 50 east and exit at MD 197 south before turning left onto 301 North. Turn right at the first light onto Ballpark Drive. The trip is about 30 miles from Baltimore and about 21 miles from Washington, DC, depending on where you are in the respective cities. Bowie is directly south of Baltimore and to the east of Washington.
Bowie is located in Prince George's County, hence the stadium name. The county doesn't have the best reputation in Maryland, but the city itself is pretty and well-maintained. A huge Baysox sign stands near the entrance of the stadium so that you can't miss the left turn once you're close enough. Parking is free, and there are an ample number of spaces in front of the stadium, though additional parking is available off nearby Governors Bridge Road. The drive is nothing special, but it's easy and certainly doable both on a weeknight and on a weekend afternoon.
There is no higher level of minor league baseball played within Maryland than at Prince George's Stadium with the double-A Bowie Baysox, members of the Eastern League (Baltimore's class-AAA affiliate plays in Virginia). The prices do sort of reflect that, with box seats being $17, reserved seats being $14 and general admission being $12. Reserved seats and general admission are $12 and $9 for youth and seniors, respectively. Combined with the food and possible souvenir prices, a trip to Prince George's Stadium is hardly cheap. You can get into Oriole Park at Camden Yards for less, though your view of the field at Camden Yards will be infinitely worse than your view at Prince George's Stadium. Part of the appeal of the Baysox also lies in the fact that there's extra entertainment besides just the actual game which, while it's mostly directed towards the kids, can also be entertaining for the adults at the game.
One extra point goes to Louie, a green furry mascot that makes his way around the stadium throughout the game, greeting young fans, showing enthusiasm and giving high fives. Interestingly, Louie looks a bit like the Philly Phanatic, but is to this day an 'unknown species.' Another extra point goes for the PA announcing. A few batters on each team had their names announced by a young kid through the PA speakers. Some of the harder player names got misread by the kids, but it was still a nice change from the usual PA announcing you may hear at another stadium. One last extra point goes to the overall view at the park. When you look out past the outfield wall, you see nothing but tall green trees to go with the big blue sky. No buildings, no loud traffic, no distractions. This aspect sometimes gets lost, but Prince George's Stadium is really a pretty place to play baseball.
Bowie, Maryland baseball. The city doesn't quite roll off the tongue as a hot spot for sports the way it does with some other class-AA organizations (Richmond, VA, Jacksonville, FL, San Antonio, TX). Still, Marylanders are happy to support the Baysox, attending games in hopes of seeing the next Baltimore Orioles star player. You'll be paying good money at the game, but the entertainment level is high, especially if you have younger kids. Minor League Baseball can be a hard sell for the marketing departments, because the rosters frequently change and the good players always end up moving up and away. Despite this, it would be a mistake not to at least catch one Baysox game. The focus isn't as much on the players; it's on you, the fan.
Prince George's Stadium is the home of the Bowie Baysox, Double A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Opened in 1994, it has played host to numerous special sporting events including several All-Star events.
My impression? It's a great big bowl of fun.
I attended a game in Bowie on June 1st, 2010 (a Tuesday) and could not believe how unbelievably dead the ballpark was. Official attendance was 1,438...but an unofficial count was more like 400. The weather was beautiful: 80 degrees and partly sunny. It was a nice ballpark, but I just could not get past the fact that there were no fans and a non-existent atmosphere. Realizing there weren't any big promotions and it was a school night, I wouldn't expect big crowds....but a Double-A team in that market should be able to draw a few thousand.
The food and drink here was awesome...a lot of variety and it was good too. Platters were reasonably priced and a solid meal. I think eating at the ballpark is a better idea than in the nearby suburbanish area of chain eateries.
Ballpark design wasn't anything special, but it was pretty nice to see an open concourse from a ballpark built in 1993. The outfield surroundings of trees were quite pleasant.
I attended a game at Prince George's this year I found it to be well priced and highly enjoyable. I got lucky that Vladimar Guerrero was on a rehab assignment. Overall a decent experience not the best AA park Ive seen but definitely not the worst.
I've been here twice. Once was for an AA All-Star game and the other time was a June weeknight. While I like the stadium and the carousel in RF, there really wasn't much else that is notable. The crowd for June weeknight game was very sparse and quiet. They didn't really seem to get that interested in the game. That's OK with me, I go to a lot of games each year and I like quiet, relaxing parks. The food was OK and parking is easy. My favorite part is a pre-game visit to the Wine Cellars of Annapolis. Next time I'm in the area with time to kill, I'll probably visit Frederick instead.
3809 N. Crain Highway
Bowie, MD 20716
8604 Chestnut Ave
Bowie, MD 20715
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