Results tagged ‘ Durham Bulls ’
It’s time for another “Why I Love” guest post, in which a Minor League fan explains what it is they love about their favorite team, and why. Today’s guest writer is Ken Childs, a proud resident of Durham, North Carolina and, therefore, a proud fan of the Durham Bulls.
Why I Love the Durham Bulls, by Ken Childs
(All photos courtesy of Ken Childs)
I’ve been a resident of the beautiful city of Durham, North Carolina my entire adult life. The city has transformed over the last 14 years from what was almost an afterthought of a place into a bustling center for local restaurants, shopping and the arts. And in the middle of all that growth has been (and always will be) the Durham Bulls.
You’ve probably heard the name: There was a little indie movie made about the Bulls in the 1980s that did okay. The players who have come through here have shaped the Major League Baseball landscape for quite some time. The Bulls have been a consistent model of how teams should be run, and that has been shown in their continual trips to the Governors’ Cup playoffs. The list of “what’s not to like” about the Bulls, their home of Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP) and their organization as a whole wouldn’t be long enough to fill out an index card, let alone this space, so we’ll go with “what there is to like” and ramble on for a while all about it!
Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which opened in 1995, is considered “older” now, at least when compared to the Minor League Baseball building boom that’s come about over the last decade or so. Nonetheless, you likely won’t find a nicer stadium anywhere. On any given summer night, on the corner of Blackwell and Jackie Robinson, you’ll find families, friends, couples and desperately single guys alike settled in the beautiful 10,000 seat stadium to take in not only great baseball, but great entertainment in general. And the building itself is what those new stadiums aim to be. You want your Minor League park to be a smaller version of a Major League stadium, downtown, near lots of restaurants and things to do both before and after the game? The DBAP has long been that, before most new stadiums were even a glimmer in an architect’s eye.
The DBAP has its own little quirks that make it like no other: There’s the bull (of Hit Bull, Win Steak fame), Jackie’s Landing (the nicest bar in Durham), the Blue Monster, the grass in the outfield entire families sit on to enjoy a game on a weekend evening and no other shortage of things that make it unique.
For a facility of its caliber, and a team of its caliber, the Durham Bulls are just about as budget-friendly as their mascot, Wool E Bull, is family-friendly (the “E” is short for “Education”…seriously).
The Bulls offer dollar hot dog nights, the best fireworks show anywhere (your town’s 4th of July show pales in comparison, I promise) and lots of great coupons and deals to get in on the cheap. And, even if you don’t, the most expensive ticket in the place is $15. Admit it: in the past, you’ve spent a lot more on a lot less.
So that’s what there is to love, in general, about the Durham Bulls. Now, why do I love them? For starters, they’re my hometown team. At heart I’m a Chicago White Sox fan, and their Triple-A team is down the road in a lesser city in North Carolina playing in the same International League division. But when they come to town, you can only root for one team, and that’s going to be the hometown one (even if the Bulls are an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays).
At heart I’m a “people person” kind of guy, and the Bulls’ entire staff are the same way. From Jatovi (the Bulls on-field announcer and master of ceremonies) to general manager Mike Birling and everyone in between, there’s not a single person who won’t go out of their way to help a fan make his or her experience amazing. I’m not a needy guy, but anytime I’ve ever had any issue with anything, there was someone there in a Bulls shirt to lend a hand.
I’m also a sucker for food and cheeky events, and the Bulls have me covered that department as well. There’s Food Truck Rodeo night, where all of Durham’s best food trucks (and we have many) line up in right field. There’s craft beer night, ’80s night, ’90s night and the always popular Bark in the Park night. The concessions have everything from traditional ballpark food to taco stands to what is truly some of the best BBQ anywhere. So, whatever you’re in the mood for, DBAP most likely offers it. The on-field action is always great, but sometimes it’s that little extra fun in-between innings that makes the night special.
And, of course, there’s the baseball itself. The roster is generally made up of outstanding players who are also outstanding people. Hardly ever do you see a player skip a chance to sign an autograph, grab a picture with a fan or flip an extra ball to a kid in the first few rows. Great players like David Price, Wil Myers, Chris Archer, Craig Albernaz, Desmond Jennings and so many more have spent substantial time here in Durham, and this has led to the knowledge that, at any given ballgame, you’re seeing the future of baseball right before your eyes.
The Bulls are always in the hunt for the playoffs, and since moving to Durham in 2001 I’ve seen them win the International League championship four times. Baseball is always a little bit more fun when your team is winning, and that is rarely a problem here in Bull City.
In short, there are a lot of baseball teams out there, but none are as great as the Durham Bulls. Candlesticks always make a nice gift, but Bulls tickets might be just a little bit nicer.
Thanks to Ken for taking the time to write this and, again: If YOU would like to submit a post for this series, then send an email to the address below. In the meantime, here’s my 2011 “On the Road” post detailing my Durham Bulls experience.
Today’s post will, yet again, function as an exhumation of various endeavors that I didn’t get around to covering at the moment in time when they were actually taking place. And what I’d like to focus on today is an endeavor that very much appeals to me, given my background as college radio DJ/nerd turned Minor League Baseball writer/nerd.
On Thursday, July 18, the Durham Bulls teamed with locally-based/internationally-known indie label Merge Records for an evening of baseball and music. The label , which was founded in 1989 by Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance, curated the Bulls’ walk-up music throughout the ballgame. Here’s the list of tunes that were heard that evening at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which the Bulls have made available as a Spotify playlist.
* Arcade Fire – “Wake Up”
* Bob Mould – “Silver Age”
* Divine Fits – “Would That Not Be Nice”
* Hospitality – “Friends of Friends”
* Imperial Teen – “Runaway”
* The Love Language – “Brittany’s Back”
* M. Ward – “Requiem”
* Mikal Cronin – “Change”
* Mount Moriah – “Bright Light”
* The Mountain Goats – “The Diaz Brothers”
* Polvo – “Heavy Detour”
* Redd Kross – “Researching the Blues”
* Shout Out Louds – “14th of July”
* Spoon – “The Underdog”
* Superchunk – “FOH”
* Telekinesis – “Wires”
* Wild Flag – “Romance”
* Wye Oak – “Civilian”
I was disappointed to see that Eleanor Friedberger was left off the play list — Personal Record is a great LP! — but beyond that I thought this was really innovative partnership and the sort of thing it’d be great to see more of throughout Minor League Baseball. The Bulls’ “Merge Night” went on to serve as the centerpiece of a long Spin magazine feature on the evolution of downtown Durham, and hopefully it will serve as the impetus for a Mountain Goats song about the life of a Minor League mascot.
The evening was also chronicled as part of the season-long “Bull City Summer” project, and in that piece Bulls’ director of marketing Scott Carter explains the rationale behind it thusly:
I consider music the lifeblood of the ballpark experience: it is incredibly important to the atmosphere. But I also believe that if you can mix in some new music that may not be as mainstream, like that which Merge produces, you can make your ballpark into a place where people feel cool. That’s huge. You want people to feel like coming to a game is cool. And we’re lucky to be in a market like this one where indie music is so widely appreciated. So it’s not as out of the norm to hear some of these artists at the DBAP as it may be in some other minor league towns.
I couldn’t have said it better myself (I mean, really, I couldn’t have). While I totally understand that a lot of music on smaller labels isn’t accessible enough for the “all family-friendly entertainment, all the time” atmosphere of Minor League Baseball, the opportunities are out there (though Austin-based Matador records co-founder Gerard Cosloy quickly shot down my idea of a potential collaboration with the Round Rock Express).
So — what are some prominent (or at least semi-prominent) record labels that operate in Minor League cities? And, speaking more broadly, what are some other ways that Minor League teams could partner with the local music scene in their community? An idea that I have bandied about for the last couple of years is a concourse record fair, held in conjunction with local record stores and/or labels and/or community and college radio stations. Get in touch if you have any suggestions or feedback, as this is a topic I plan on returning to as time and inspiration allows.
I have already thoroughly documented my own Winter Meetings experience, and played a role in documenting the experiences of quite a few others. But as our old friend Ron Popeil was so fond of saying: “But wait — there’s more!”
On both December 2 and December 3 the touring performance crew known as Fur Circus made goodwill appearances at the Nashville Ronald McDonald House and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital (prior to setting up shop as Trade Show exhibitors). This was a win-win mix of altruism and self-promotion — Fur Circus, relative newcomers on the MiLB touring circuit, were able to spread some good cheer while also spreading the word about themselves.
Fur Circus put out a press release prior to their visit, and later wrapped it up with this:
But, of course, all of that happened in the long-ago year of 2012. Here in 2013, we have new things to occupy our time — like New Year’s-themed ticket packs! The Miracle have been doing this for a couple of years now, and I’m always surprised that it hasn’t inspired other teams to do something similar.
Speaking of ticket packs, you may remember that the Durham Bulls are offering the creatively conceived and executed “Wil He or Won’t He” package. Per the squadron:
The Durham Bulls have unveiled a new ticket package in response to the blockbuster trade which sent Minor League Player of the Year Wil Myers and other Kansas City Royals prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for former Bulls pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. The “Wil He, Won’t He?” Pack consists of three big Bulls games, including Opening Day on April 8th and July 4th, and an added incentive for fans should Myers skip Durham and make the Major League roster out of Spring Training. If he does not start the season with the Bulls, ticket package buyers will receive an additional game for free.
Well, now said package has been endorsed by Mr. Myers himself!
Finally, in the all-important category of “Minor League team page staff bios,” both the State College Spikes and Lake County Captains have modeled theirs after retro baseball card designs. An example of each:
Oh, and speaking of retro baseball cards — last year around this time I put together a series of “then and now” blog posts detailing those featured in the classic 1987 Topps set who are currently coaching in the Minor Leagues. Why don’t you give it another look? It was a lot of fun to put together and got a great response, but Lord knows it’s too much work for me to re-do each year. I’m only one man.
Last month’s Florida road trip was, all in all, an overwhelmingly positive experience. But one of the minor disappointments was the relative dearth of local seafood options at the ballparks — for whatever reason, the crab shacks and grouper sandwich spots that were prevalent in the area didn’t cross over into the stadium experience.
So kudos to the Daytona Cubs for taking a step toward rectifying this situation. On select nights through the remainder of the season, employees from nearby Riptides Bar and Grill will be shucking and serving oysters on the half shell!
This past Thursday was the debut of the D-Cubs oyster bar, and as you can tell from the pictures the weather was ominous and therefore the crowds sparse. But he introduction of oysters to the Minor League concession scene is a very positive development, in my opinion, and I am hoping that this idea is a success in Daytona and then spreads to all applicable markets with considerable haste!
I’m not sure of the proper way to dispose of oyster shells, but if this was in Durham I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bulls found a way to recycle them into t-shirt material. The team recently partnered with local collegiate clothing company Spring House to create a line of “Bull City” t-shirts made from 100% recyclable materials (including water bottles, plastic beer bottles and x-ray film).
From the press release:
The entire line is manufactured in Durham’s one and only garment factory, less than three miles away from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. School House, which designed and manufactured the line, sees the Bull City collection as an example of the power of “Made in USA” products and local manufacturing.
At this point you’ve all surely thoroughly dissected my most recent Promotion Preview column over at MiLB.com, which leads with approximately 400 words on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers “Salute to Cows” (yes, I’m just the only person these days who manages to consistently write about Wisconsin in an apolitical context).
The team sent along some photos to run with the piece, and I’d like to share a couple of them here. These are just fantastic, these images, especially because they remind me of a VHS video produced by a Wisconsin-based band that I watched approximately 1500 times in college.
And, finally, I draw your attention to THIS. It’s the State College Spikes’ take on the “Call Me Maybe” video, and they totally nail it. Watch it, definitely.
After 365 days, we as a species have finally escaped from beneath 2011’s tyrannical yoke.
Not surprisingly, very little news of note emerged during the just-concluded holiday season. But, nonetheless, it is now my duty to get you up to speed. For starters, I am ashamed to admit that the unveiling of a Rookie-level team’s secondary logo somehow escaped my all-seeing eye. The team in question is the Grand Junction Rockies:
As you may recall, Grand Junction’s primary logo was unveiled in November (the team has re-located from Casper, where they were known as the Ghosts). Like the secondary logo, the primary logo is strongly influenced by the parent Colorado club. (And, as more than a few Tweeters/commenters/emailers pointed out to me, it may have been influenced by Pizza Hut as well.)
In any case, both logos were designed by Visual Intent. This marks a rare instance in which a Minor League logo was NOT designed by either Studio Simon or the newly-rechristened Brandiose.
Speaking of rare instances, very few teams offer ticket specials in conjunction with the New Year. But the Fort Myers Miracle have once again done just this, with their annual “Resolution Pack.”
*A $10 gift card for your nutritional needs and supplements from Mother Earth Natural Foods
*4-pack of Box Seat Ticket Vouchers to enjoy the Miracle in 2012
*One FREE week membership to Snap Fitness and a FREE training session
*One FREE Matt Booth Boot Camp Adventure
*One FREE financial planning session with Pasquale Evangelista with Raymond James & Associates
And with the new year comes HOT STOVE SEASON, when teams stoke anticipation for the upcoming season by hosting dinners highlighted by celebrity guests, giveaways, and memorabilia auctions. The Delmarva Shorebirds are putting a unique twist on the format this season, as the club is hosting a “bloggers roundtable.”
Says the team:
In addition to traditional guest speakers, the Shorebirds will host a roundtable conversation about a litany of topics. Guests will have the opportunity to engage the panelists during the roundtable and throughout the night.
“The new format really lends itself to passionate baseball fans that want to talk about the sport with those that cover it on a regular basis,” said general manager Chris Bitters.
If any teams wish to invite
hopelessly obscure superstar blogger Ben’s Biz to a banquet, then shoot me an email and we’ll discuss the specifics of my appearance fee and backstage rider.
Finally, I’d like to offer a hearty congratulations to Scott Carter, the new director of marketing for the Durham Bulls. Carter’s previous Minor League gig was as a VP of marketing for the Fresno Grizzlies, where he implemented trend-setting promotions such as Twilight Night, Tweet-Ups, post-game mascot wrestling, and much more. Looking forward to seeing what he’ll be able to accomplish in Durham, a historic franchise with a strong fan base that competes in an excellent facility.
It was in Durham, in fact, that my current profile picture was taken. I ended up wearing this hat for 43 days straight.
For the past two decades, the Kane County Cougars have played at Elfstrom Stadium. The facility was named in honor of Philip B. Elfstrom, a former Kane County Forest Preserve president who played a key role in bringing Minor League Baseball to the region.
Sound familiar? It should. For Kane County is the fourth Fifth Third Ballpark (or Field) in Minor League Baseball. (The others are located in Toledo, Dayton, and West Michigan.) Clearly, a naming-rights juggernaut is forming.
Fifth Third Bank is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s unusual name is described on Wikipedia as [T]he result of the June 1, 1908 merger of Third National Bank and Fifth National Bank, to become the Fifth Third National Bank of Cincinnati. While Third National was the senior partner, the merger took place during a period when prohibitionist ideas were gaining popularity, it was believed that “Fifth Third” was better than “Third Fifth,” which could be construed as a reference to three “fifths” of alcohol.
At the time, no one could have imagined that the name would go on to inspire the most attention-getting Minor League concession item of the 21st century: West Michigan’s “Fifth Third Burger.”
Here’s hoping that the Cougars pick up on this trend, and offer a Fifth Third Brat at the ballpark in 2012 (washed down with 5/3rds of a pint of Leinenkugel).
But regardless of potential new food items, this news out of Kane County means that there are a total of 20/3 Fifth Third ballparks in the Minors (approximately 6.66, for you conspiracy theorists). How do you feel about this? Is it an example of the increasing homogenization of a traditionally diverse industry? Or a reflection of strength and resiliency during tough economic times?
— A topic that provokes far less ambivalence is blogging, which is obviously one of the greatest things one can do with his or her time. And for an example of a Minor League team blog at its most impressive, take a look at the “2011 Year In Review” post over at “From the Nest” (the official blog of the Great Lakes Loons).
Contained therein are everything from “Top 10 Games” to “Best Nicknames” to “Fashion Stats” to “Notable First Pitches” to “Goofy Head Shots.
I’ll be honest — Minor League team blogs usually make me grumpy, as they are often well-intentioned but amateurishly done and eventually abandoned. So when teams go above and beyond I take notice. The Loons’ “Year in Review” is more than a blog post. It’s a statement of purpose, one that could be incorporated into sponsorship proposals and season-ticket renewal letters as an example of just how much the team has to offer.
— And speaking of going above and beyond — the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have made a tradition of offering highly collectible Opening Night bobbleheads, and 2012 is no exception. As part of a year-long 50th Anniversary of Midwest League Baseball celebration, the team is offering no less than five bobbleheads as part of an Opening Night “All-Fan” giveaway.
These wide-eyed fellas are united in their ability to arouse distinct feelings of unease, but diverse when it comes to what they represent. Sez the team:
Each bobblehead is decorated with the jersey and cap from one of the following years:
- 1953 Appleton Papermakers
- 1960 Fox Cities Foxes
- 1983 Appleton Foxes
- 1995 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Original home jersey)
- 2011 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Updated home jersey)
All fans attending the game between the Timber Rattlers and the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Thursday, April 5, 2012 will receive one of the bobbleheads at random. There will be equal numbers of four models of bobbleheads. However, only 250 of the 1953 Appleton Papermakers bobbleheads will be available as part of the giveaway.
Finally, congratulations to Durham Bulls broadcaster Neil Solondz, who recently got the call-up to the parent Tampa Bay Rays. As you may recall, Solondz was one of three broadcasters profiled in my recent MiLB.com article on broadcasters on the cusp.
I’d like to think that I’m a blogger on the cusp. But the question remains: the cusp of what?
Writing a pre-Thanksgiving post on “what I am thankful for” has the whiff of an obligatory elementary school essay assignment, but I want to get something up on this slice of the internet before it all goes (mercifully) dark for the holidays.
And you know what I’m thankful for? That I have a job that puts me in absurd situations on a regular basis. Some highlights from the 2011 season.
The point of this unbridled exercise in Holiday week narcissism is…well…I guess there is no point. But I do want to issue a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who has supported these absurd endeavors of mine. And it’s never too early to start thinking about the 2012 season — please, get in touch if you have any suggestions regarding Minor League places to go and things to do. I really do try to say “yes” as much as possible.
Finally, two stories are up today that I’d really appreciate if you checked out. First up is my story on Greg Halman, who was stabbed to death earlier this week. I talked to people who knew him at all stops on his Minor League journey, and did the best I could to write something that went beyond “I’m shocked that his happened” quotes.
Elsewhere, I have a guest column up on Baseball Propectus. It’s a pretty through overview of the Minor League mindset, and I sincerely hope it brings a few new converts into the fold.