Baseball isn’t my favorite sport. It’s slow and monotonous, some seats are always empty no matter what the announced attendance is, and being in the outfield has to be one of the most boring positions in sports. Despite that, the one baseball team I follow isn’t in the MLB. It’s the Durham Bulls of minor league baseball (MiLB). And since my oldest memories of the team might fade over the years, I decided to put them down while I still can.
My first clear memory of watching the Bulls was back in the early 2000’s. I was probably in elementary school. Back then, since my parents and I lived so close to Durham we could go to at least one Bulls game a year, sometimes with a sponsored group, other times by ourselves. The memory in question is of something that’s so routine nowadays: a CGI Bulls logo on a video board spinning around fast before slowing down and spinning around again.
The first video board at Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP) was like most scoreboards made in the day: a small rectangle that looked more like a square from far away. According to this old article I’m reading from Capitol Broadcasting’s website, it was installed in 2004 and was 13′ by 17′. If you look at what few images of the board remain online, you’ll wonder how we were able to clearly see or read anything sitting a couple hundred feet away. At the time of installation, however, it was a little larger than the average screen. One of the graphics they used to show was that spinning bull, and at the time I recall that being the coolest thing I’d ever seen.
It turns out the scoreboard outlived our attendance to Bulls games by a year or so, but some evidence of its existence remains in the grassy berm it sat on. The berm had specially sculpted bushes around the scoreboard area, and no one bothered to remove the bushes afterwards.
Another memory is walking around the concourse smelling the usual mix: hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, and others. It’s actually quite comforting in a way. The team store used to be located in a small building in the concourse. I remember wanting to buy either a baseball or a jersey, don’t remember which. I did own a Bulls cap (which I wore until it became too small), two Bulls baseball bats, at least one Bulls t-shirt, and I believe a plush Bulls baseball. One thing we did for a couple years was collect plastic cups. This wasn’t a yearly thing, and some of them have been lost by now. Less than half a dozen remain.
During our years attending games the American Tobacco Campus provided a great visual backdrop but nothing else, since it matches with the red brick of the ballpark. When they built DBAP, it was placed across the street from this complex of abandoned tobacco warehouses that made Lucky Strike cigarettes. We know this because the water tower still visibly says Lucky Strike on it.
It took years, numerous groups backing the project and a lot of money, but the Tobacco Campus is now open as a huge gathering place for Bulls fans and the city of Durham as a whole, the bulk of it placed in between and inside the existing buildings. Numerous restaurants and companies opened their doors along the lengthly two-floor complex, and the city placed a unique man-made river flowing through the middle of the gathering area, which includes a caged-in basketball court and seating underneath the restored water tower. Here’s the cool part: you can still see the original tobacco machinery inside some of the buildings if you look close enough. It’s quite a place.
Other memories include pictures with Wool E. Bull, one of the best names for a mascot in baseball, a baseball flying past me in a white blur, almost always leaving before the 9th inning, and being able to walk around the entire park during our most recent visit.
Another thing is the buildings surrounding DBAP. When the park opened, construction of a building called Diamond View commenced soon after. For many years, that was the lone building in immediate distance to the park, minus the Tobacco Campus. During our years, the building had a FOX logo on the side. That’s now gone. After we moved to Charlotte, Diamond View II and III were built, making the park feel more intimate than before. The original Diamond View now looks old and puny compared to its two modern companions!
Well, that’s about it. I still enjoy both the team and the park. The rest revolves around watching the actual games and that gets boring, especially when no one scores a run, much less a hit. Bottom of the 2nd: 0-0, no outs. Ugghh…
Hope you enjoyed this article and expect more sports-related articles soon!