Fun, Food, Fandom: Minor League Baseball in North Carolina

Fun, Food, Fandom: Minor League Baseball in North Carolina

Durham Bulls Athletic Park is one of the most intimate venues in baseball

There’s never been a better time to catch a ballgame in North Carolina than this season. With two new Minor League Baseball teams in Kinston and Fayetteville (Buies Creek), plus nine other teams and ballparks across the state, you have plenty of places to experience America’s pastime. Intimate venues, catchy promotions, loveable mascots, unique food and beverages, and affordable prices mean the minors serve up major fun.

Of the six Minor League Baseball "classifications," North Carolina currently hosts Class A, Class A Advanced and Triple-A teams, and only one other state has more ball clubs than we do. Here’s why you should try to catch a game at as many ballparks as possible this season.

Asheville Tourists
Class A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies
The Tourists play in historic McCormick Field, which was built directly into the side of a mountain and features stunning views from the stands and a 42-foot wall in right-center field (the highest in professional baseball). Asheville is known as Beer City USA and the Tourists accommodate locals and visitors with more than 30 different brews.

Buies Creek Astros
Class A Advanced affiliate of the Houston Astros
The Buies Creek ball club is new to North Carolina for the 2017 season. They’re playing their first two years at Campbell University’s newly renovated Jim Perry Stadium before moving to a new ballpark in nearby Fayetteville in 2019. Unlike many Minor League teams who adopt their own unique names, logos, mascots and more, the new “baby” Astros Minor League team is embracing their “parent” club in a big way, including their name and white Astros uniforms at home and orange tops on the road. They’re also using a logo that's similar to the Houston Astros branding, with “BC” replacing the “H” throughout.

Burlington Royals
Rookie affiliate of the Kansas City Royals
The Burlington Royals also take the mascot of their parent club. Another historic tie, to a different area, is that Burlington Athletic Stadium was originally built in Danville, Virginia, when the ballpark was purchased for $5,000 in 1959 and reconstructed at its current location for the 1960 season. Home of many classic Carolina League games, the stadium enjoyed a brief appearance in the film Bull Durham.

Carolina Mudcats
Class A Advanced affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers
Hailing from Zebulon’s Five County Stadium, about 25 miles east of downtown Raleigh, this team has one of the most popular names, logos and mascots (Muddy the Mudcat) in the entire league. Its Cattails Restaurant features a club-style setting and is a great place to catch all or part of a Mudcats game.

Carolina Mudcats fan fun

Carolina Mudcats

Fans participate in fun competitions on the field at Carolina Mudcats games

Charlotte Knights
Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox
Situated in bustling Uptown Charlotte, BB&T Ballpark is the Knights' home, opening in 2014 and since then has been the most-visited venue in all of Minor League Baseball. The 2017 season marks 125 years of professional baseball in the Queen City, with Knights officials scheduling many events, special appearances, giveaways and more to honor the city’s rich baseball tradition. Popular theme nights include Thirsty Thursdays, featuring $3 draft beer, and Friday Night Fireworks, which light up the Uptown skyline.

Charlotte Knights game view at ballpark

Sitting at a Charlotte Knights home game provides great views of the Uptown skyline

Down East Wood Ducks
Class A Advanced affiliate of the Texas Rangers
Playing their inaugural season in historic Grainger Stadium, which was built in 1949, the Wood Ducks are bringing Minor League Baseball back to Kinston after a five-year hiatus. Look for innovation and creativity on the field and off. During Friday home games, the team will host Food Truck Friday, featuring the Chef & the Farmer Food Truck – of Chef Vivian Howard fame and derived from Kinston’s most popular restaurant – along with another local food truck that will differ each time. Kinston’s Mother Earth Brewing will be the official beer of Food Truck Friday, offering $3 drafts.

Durham Bulls
Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays
In many ways, the Durham Bulls define all that’s good about Minor League Baseball. The team has played in Durham Bulls Athletic Park since 1995. Every night, they play a welcome video that features clips from the 1988 hit movie Bull Durham (it was filmed at the team’s previous ballpark). The ballpark features the “Hit Bull Win Steak” sign above the left field wall. The sign didn’t exist until it was built as a prop for the movie, but it proved so popular that team officials kept it. The Bull Durham Beer Co. is one of only a few breweries in the country located inside a professional baseball stadium.

Hickory Crawdads
Class A affiliate of the Texas Rangers
The Hickory Crawdads are celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2017 and are also one of the most popular brands in baseball, thanks to a great logo and two fun mascots: Conrad the Crawdad and Candy the Crawdad. The ballpark’s “CLAWlossal Challenge” gives those who dare six outs to eat a foot-long hot dog with chili and cheese, pub chips, an 8-ounce hamburger, a barbecue sandwich, a corn dog, five onion rings, two jalapeño peppers and two pickle spears. It costs $25 to take the challenge, but winners get their money back and a T-shirt.

Greensboro Grasshoppers
Class A affiliate of the Miami Marlins
While several Minor League teams have dogs who take home plate umpires' spare balls and more, the Greensboro Grasshoppers have historically taken barking at the park to another level. They currently have three black Labradors that are a big part of the stadium experience: Miss Babe Ruth, Master Yogi Berra and Miss Lou Lou Gehrig retrieving bats, taking balls to the ump and participating in in-game skits. The Grasshoppers play in downtown Greensboro’s NewBridge Bank Park.

Greensboro Grasshoppers baseball game

Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

At the Greensboro ballpark, fans enjoy a playground for kids and large outdoor sports bar for adults

Kannapolis Intimidators
Class A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox
Playing in Intimidators Stadium supported by Carolinas HealthCare System, the Intimidators name pays tribute to Kannapolis native and NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr. The ballpark features many motorsports-themed areas, including a NASCAR standings board next to their South Atlantic League standings board. The concessions stand sells Dale’s Mater Sandwich, a classic tomato ’wich made on toasted bread, with a little salt and pepper and complete with Duke’s Mayonnaise.

Winston-Salem Dash
Class A Advanced affiliate of the Chicago White Sox
The Dash call downtown Winston-Salem’s BB&T Ballpark home, with amenities such as an upgraded Flow Club that features an all-inclusive ticket including great seats, food, beverages (beer, wine and more) and parking. The ballpark also offers up a unique concession item, with the Cheesy Pig Dog: a hot dog topped with macaroni and cheese and barbecue. The mascot Bolt makes his rounds, entertaining fans.

Cele and Lynn Seldon were based on the North Carolina coast for 13 years and are currently “mid-50s gypsies” in search of their next chapter.

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