BY: MATTHEW PRESLAR
— DURHAM BULLS --
Although major division rivals of our Charlotte Knights, we like to make a yearly check in at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP). This visit we scheduled as an overnight so we had time allowed to check out the town around the ballpark.
First off, I want to point you to Tobacco Road Sports Cafe. Tobacco Road is a pregame destination for many Bulls fans and you can actually enter the stadium for the game from the patio of the restaurant. We visited Tobacco Road three times during our short time in Durham. Tobacco Road appeared to be the only LATE NIGHT eatery open after the game in the immediate area around the park. The premium sandwiches offered at GREAT prices made this a great value well beyond expected for this upscale casual sports bar.
During our extra time in Durham, we explored the former industrial area. The AREA is dubbed Tobacco Road for a reason. Several brands of tobacco had factories just past the park into the downtown. You can essentially turn and look and see buildings for several different tobacco companies, including “Bull” Durham.
Back to the stadium... although nearly 25 years old, the DBAP is still a premiere stadium and playing field. There’s so much pride in the Durham Bulls brand. It obviously means something to all involved in the franchise, and it shows on game day. Grounds crew is top notch, ushers, vendors, branding... the DBAP is a great place to be. I feel like many people around Durham are locals and have lived the Bulls brand their entire lives. In comparison, many people in the Charlotte area are transplants. They may like the Knights but its not quite the same life-long relationship as fans in Durham... currently the Knights are beating the Bulls to get in the playoffs, though!!!
— GREENSBORO GRASSHOPPERS --
The next day brought us back to Greensboro. After ten years the townhouse buildings behind right field are finished which makes First National Bank Field look complete. We also saw our first woman umpire, Jen Pawol, working the plate. Jen is only one of two women currently officiating affiliated minor league baseball.
The giveaway that night was a Marcel Ozuna bobble head, former Grasshopper during their era with the Marlins. In their first year affiliated with the Pirates, the Grasshoppers featured several elements to make sure you knew: souvenir cups prominently featured the P logo on one half of the cup and the scoreboard showed the Grasshoppers raising the “JOLLY HOPPER” flag in victory as to the Pirates raising the JOLLY ROGER when they win.
We also were SO close to witnessing a special feat. The Grasshoppers combined on pitching a one hitter. With only five outs remaining in the game, the Asheville Tourists got their lone hit for the game. History is hard in baseball and the super fan in me surely wanted to see a no hitter. Still, a memorable night at the park and I love seeing the progress made around ballparks close to home. Keep it up Grasshoppers.