Bethesda Big Train, a team in the Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate Baseball League, offers family fun along with college baseball. Photo by Peter Li Credit: Courtesy of Bethesda Big Train; Photo by Peter Li

“Small town charm and big-league talent.” That’s the motto of the Bethesda Big Train, a summer collegiate baseball team, according to Bruce Adams, its president and founder.

Bethesda Big Train is a team in the Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate Baseball League. It started in the late 1990s and is named for local baseball hall of famer Walter Johnson, whose nickname was “The Big Train.” The team has serves as a steppingstone toward the major league for various players throughout the nation, Adams said.  

“That’s why we have these leagues, so they can not only practice and play more but they can actually get the experience with [a wooden bat] and major league scouts can actually see them,” Adams said. “About 40% of our players do sign a pro contract after college…22 of our alumni have made it to the major leagues. That’s the goal of almost everybody who plays in a league like this because it’s a total grind.”

The season started June 3 and will finish at the end of July, consisting of more than 40 games, according to the team’s schedule on their website.

Players stay with host families for the duration of the summer season, according to the team’s host family coordinator, Amy Matush, who also hosts players herself. Although Bethesda Big Train has been a pastime for her baseball loving two sons, Austin and Owen, for the past decade, Matush didn’t start hosting players until 2018.

“[My sons] have loved baseball for many, many years,” she said. “We just thought it would be a wonderful thing to do for the community and do for them. Once they got a little older and they can appreciate the sort of discipline, the training and just have some nice role models around for the summer.”


For Ohio native, Gavin Jones, 19, in addition to progressing his baseball dreams, being a Bethesda Big Train player also helps him step outside his comfort zone.

“Part of the fun kind of being able to play college [baseball] and being able to even play for the Big Train is the idea of not being at home, and as much as I miss my family, I think there’s this also a fun aspect of being able to meet new people and being able to put myself out there and uncomfortable situations,” he said. “Not everything in life is supposed to be easy.”

Gavin is a college sophomore and recently transferred to Kent University from the University of Alabama to study business analytics.


Aside from baseball, a major aspect of the games are entertainment and the community.

 “It’s your American pie right in your backyard,” Matush said. “I don’t know a lot of people know that it’s here, but when they get there, they really enjoy themselves.”

Adams said Bethesda Big Train has played evening games for 23 seasons, but parents came to him saying that didn’t work for them as their children would go to bed at 7:30 p.m. To answer this need to make games more family friendly, they started offering day games. 


Another big part about offering a better family friendly environment this season is the debut of the kid’s fun zone. The zone is free and includes a moon bounce, an inflatable t-ball experience, cornhole and a variety of games and prizes.

“Only about 30% of the people who go to a baseball game are there and happy with the pure baseball game,” he said. “They can go there; they can sit there and for nine innings they can watch that game. They are completely happy. You don’t have to do anything else for fun, but to fill a ballpark Peter [Kirk, original owner of the Bowie Baysox baseball team] told me you need to put on a show every night.”

This Sunday Bethesda Big Train presents Grandparents Day with a morning game at 10 a.m. and an afternoon game at 1:30 p.m. The day will feature a “Breakfast with the Big Train.” Eat the Change products will be available for sample from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Louie, the Bowie the Baysox mascot, will be in attendance.


For those wanting to see the Big Train experience first-hand, Adams said it is best to purchase tickets ahead of time. Tickets can be purchased through the team’s website.

“When it comes to a Big Train game, I feel like I live in a small town,” Adams said. “So, that’s what we’re selling because in the busy, crazy world we live in, that small town charm isn’t always with us all day. So, you go out there and you meet new friends and it’s a relaxed experience.”