It starts with Norm, banging his hand on the bar. Soon the whole gang from the classic television show "Cheers" joins him on the big scoreboard beyond right field at Prince George's Stadium. Then the crowd joins in, rollicking to Queen's "We Will Rock You" by the time the scene ends.
The scoreboard--officially known as "a multi-functional video board"--is the latest offering from Maryland Baseball to Bowie Baysox fans. So far, the fans seem to be taking to the big screen, which runs 15-by-20 feet, costs approximately $500,000 and became fully operational earlier this month.
"It's really nice to look at," said Eric William Harris, 14, of La Plata. "It catches your eye out there."
This is a far cry from the manually operated scoreboards that can still be found in Boston's Fenway Park and Chicago's Wrigley Field. In fact, stadium operators are familiarizing themselves with the board's new technology. Saturday, for example, the stadium crew had a difficult time getting the board to work at all--the screen was black--until the sixth inning.
There's a number of things the board can do. There are wire cameras stationed on the first- and third-base sides and a wireless camera that can go anywhere, all of which help the board show replays. It also shows players' pictures when they come up to bat as well as a number of graphics.
"It's really going to add to the experience for the fans," Bowie General Manager John Danos said. "Fans are going to love it. It's a whole different deal. It [looks like] a big-screen TV."
Maryland Baseball's two other franchises--the Frederick Keys and Delmarva Shorebirds--soon will have similar boards in use. The Keys, in fact, already have theirs running but without the camera effects. That one also should be complete soon, according to Bowie video board operator Anthony Champa.
"I'm overly pleased with how everything's gone so far," Champa said.
CAPTION: Who's on. . . . Bowie's computerized scoreboard puts entertainment first. Whether it's baseball-addled Abbott and Costello or clowning from "Cheers," the near-$500,000 high-tech contraption electrifies Prince George's Stadium.