BY: MATTHEW PRESLAR
In 2017 we stumbled on the Greeneville Astros, a Rookie League club based in East Tennessee. That fortunate accident birthed our love for minor league baseball and our appreciation for the Houston Astros Organization. 2017 was also a breakthrough year for the entire franchise. At the major league level, years of frustration were erased when Houston finally won the World Series. That year also marked when the organization pulled their Advanced A affiliation out of the California League and became an expansion team across the country in the Carolina League.
The team picked the city of Fayetteville, NC as home. Fayetteville hasn’t hosted affiliated minor league baseball since the Cape Fear Crocs (Low A, South Atlantic League) moved north after the 2000 season. The Astros have signed a 30 year lease with the city and are the owners of the franchise. For two years, the now Fayetteville Woodpeckers played as the Buies Creek Astros at nearby Campbell University.
Finally, the home of the Woodpeckers was to open in 2019. With our increasing relationship for the entire organization and our gratefulness for their investment in North Carolina, we cleared our schedule to take part in the INAUGURAL OPENING DAY.
During an event of this magnitude, we knew there was no way to evaluate the park on our normal criteria. Instead of “working” we really wanted to take it in, see the nuances and special features Segra Stadium offered, and enjoy the day as a family. As usual, we were very early to the park. We were first in our respective ticket line, meaning my step son Colin could claim to be the first ticket scanned in to the first game at the brand new stadium.
Being early to the gates often has perks in the world of minor league baseball. This day was no exception. First, we were interviewed on camera by a local news outlet (have not yet been able to find video if we made TV). Shortly after that, a local business representative approached us seeing if we would be interested helping hold a large flag in the outfield during the National Anthem that included a military flyover and troops parachuting onto the field. So yes, we were on the field carrying our country’s colors in the opening game ever played at the stadium. These are family memories we will never forget.
The following is a slideshow of pictures documenting our historic day as we helped open the stadium with the Woodpeckers. From walking up to the gates, to making our way out of the stadium and all the hours in between...