Wednesday, January 4, 2017

!!! Happy New Year !!!

I've been in holiday hibernation mode - too much snacking and napping - but it's back-to-work now at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Opening Day is a mere 95 days away. (Monday, April 10th, vs. Charlotte Knights) 

Wintertime baseball begins on February 24th when Duke has it's first home series with Army on Goodmon Field. So, baseball is really just 50 days away!

Still, looking back on 2016 is a worthwhile distraction. Our Communications Director Matt Sutor compiled a Top 10 list. Stroll down Memory Lane w/Matt...

Of course, I have my own list...gotta have the last word...

2016 community projects: 
  • The work of Durham's Local Organizing Committee for the ACC Baseball Championship in May led by Casey Steinbacher and Bill Kalkhof.
  • Our sponsorship of the Jackie Robinson documentary by Ken Burns on WUNC-TV.
  • A partnership with The Museum of Durham History on its vintage baseball card exhibit.
  • Formation of the Durham Sports Commission.

 Always tweaking the ballpark:
  • We completed a new clubhouse for Duke's baseball team.
  • Expanded our protective netting.
  • Built the Delta Playground 42 game area on Jackie's Landing.

 Beyond the ball yard:
  • WRAL TV5 covered the Rays' historic MLB game in Cuba and the July 3rd Ft. Bragg game between the Braves and Marlins.
  • Here in the front office, we assisted with Fayetteville's work to land a Minor League team.

 Personal favorites:
  • We were so proud of Bulls broadcaster Patrick Kinas, tapped to work the Rio Olympics.
  • Durham police officers dancing on our diamond.
  • The giant Angus Barn steak sandwich and new summertime ice cream floats.

 A final reflection: 

Twenty seasons ago, the Bulls jumped from Class A Advanced in the Carolina League to Triple A International League baseball. It was a true game changer, another tipping point for our organization and downtown Durham. We will celebrate that anniversary - the ball club's 1998 affiliation with the Tampa Bay Rays - throughout the 2017 season. Join us!

Saturday, December 17, 2016


I have a vocational fascination with the WakeyLeaks brouhaha…where a radio football analyst at WFU is accused of sharing football strategy with opponents.

Radio play-by-play has been a constant in my career. My first job: studio tech for Virginia Squires basketball games at a Richmond radio station. And that morphed into broadcast management spanning college, NFL, NHL, NASCAR and Minor League Baseball. 

40+ years of play-by-play (and lap-by-lap). Nothing resembling the Wake Forest story has ever occurred. The breach of trust is unprecedented. I'm not being overly dramatic. 

The radio broadcast crew is embedded with the team they cover. They are with the players and coaches day in, day out. Unlike TV announcers, who typically fly in for the game, the radio guys are insiders, often traveling with the team. They are privy to confidential information. It informs their perspective. They don't function with the freedom of reporters/journalists. Loyalty and discretion is owed the team they cover. In that department, Wake suffered an epic fail. 

~  ~  ~  ~

PxP: In my opinion, radio play-by-play is an art form. The best announcers, painting pictures with their words, place the listener in the stadium or arena. The color commentator, usually a former athlete, offers unique insight. It's a specialized skill set. And I fear it's taken for granted now that almost every game is on television.

It's been a privilege to work with Bob Harris, retiring after this season as the voice of the Blue Devils. You're crystal clear on Bob's loyalty to Duke University. And the indefatigable Chuck Kaiton, Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Carolina Hurricanes, his cadence can exceed the velocity of a hockey puck. At the Bulls we have Patrick Kinas behind the mic, renowned for his preparation and versatility. Bulls baseball, high school championships, women's hoops - even the Rio Olympics - are on his resume.

Gary Hahn, Tony Haynes and Johnny Evans of the Wolfpack radio network top my list. They had my undivided attention for the NC State-UNC game. Driving to Virginia on the Friday after a Thanksgiving, I began with the broadcast on MIX 101.5, switched to the Triad affiliate, and in the Virginia mountains, I listened to the stream on my phone via On that 200 mile trip from Raleigh to Blacksburg, it seemed like we were in Chapel Hill for the Pack's victory.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Sports Radio Leader

...another honor and compliment for our sports radio group - 99.9 The Fan/ESPN Radio, Buzz Sports Radio and The Ticket.

General Manager Brian Maloney has been ranked among the best managers in radio by a leading industry publication, Radio Ink, in the Oct/Nov issue.

We were fortunate to recruit Brian to Capitol in 2009 when we acquired the two AM sports stations in our market, The Buzz and The Bull. He was their GM. We had premiered 99.9 The Fan in 2007, and it was now Brian's job, two years later, to consolidate this local sports "empire" of FM, AM and

Brian pioneered the sports talk format in RDU beginning with The Buzz in 1998. He's an accomplished sales exec with an even greater knack for programming. He paired Adam Gold with Joe Ovies. He put lawyer/sports writer David Glenn on the radio and propelled Coach Steve Logan to sports talk celebrity. Ditto Bomani Jones, now at ESPN. 

In the Radio Ink profile he talks about staying ahead of the curve and generating new ideas as a manager's biggest challenge. His mantra: Think. Explore. Create. Fail. Try. Succeed. I believe there's a top selling business book in that.

Under Brian's leadership, CBC's sports radio group has moved to the top of the ratings in RDU, social media chatter and web traffic. Advertisers find that to be an effective combination. Indeed, Brian is one of the best managers in radio...make that The Best!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Baseball U

Everyone understands that Minor League Baseball exists for the purpose of player development. We are a training ground, and that rings true for our entire operation. The DBAP is a launching pad for careers in the sports industry.

My advice to young people interested in the sports biz: Get a degree in business (or another major aligned with your interests) and it must be paired with a couple of years of part-time work experience in a ballpark or an arena. One internship at the end of your college career doesn't confer a competitive advantage. You need more than that! Here's what we offer at the Durham Bulls:

Seasonal employment. About 50 local college students are on our game day staff ranging from picnic hosts to fan ambassadors to the on-field promotions crew. Another 20 are in food and beverage jobs with Bull City Hospitality. 

Trainee program. In addition to hourly seasonal employment, we had 23 college students or recent grads in our trainee program and two interns. They were working in the ballpark operations, ticketing, retail and marketing departments. We even added accounting trainees this past season.

News flash!!! Some of these jobs begin in Jan-Feb and the rest commence in April. Students who start looking for that summer job in May will miss out. Bulls job postings can be found on the Capitol Broadcasting Company website.

Explorer Post 50. The Bulls and Fox50 sponsor a unique training program for video production. Remarkably, our in-stadium and TV broadcasts are produced by high school students! We have about 75 participants. The young people in this program probably get more hands-on experience in Post 50 than a university communications major provides.

Through the Triangle Community Foundation we offer an annual scholarship program for our matriculating Post 50 members. These are our 2016 recipients, recognized on Labor Day during our last game of the season...

Scholarship winners: 

Bruklyn Miller (3rd from right) – This is Bruklyn’s first season with the Durham Bulls Explorer Post 50 program. She attends Meredith College with a GPA of 3.1 where she is studying Mass Communications with a minor in Marketing. 

Rachel McKinney (2nd from right) – Rachel has been a member of WRAL Explorer Post 5 for 3 years and Durham Bulls Explorer Post 50 for 2 years. She is a graduate of Apex High School with a GPA of 4.8 and is attending UNC at Chapel Hill, studying Media and Journalism.

Austin Edwards (far right)  – Austin has been a member of Durham Bulls Explorer Post 50 for 3 years, and he has taken on a leadership role. Austin is on the PIT (Producer In Training) Crew. He is a graduate of Green Hope High School with a GPA of 4.4 and is attending North Carolina State University, majoring in English with a concentration in film.

Molly Sobb (not pictured) – Molly has been a member of Durham Bulls Explorer Post 50 for 2 years. She is a graduate of Riverside High School with a GPA of 3.8 and is attending High Point University, studying Strategic Communications.

To the right of Wool E. Bull: GM Mike Birling, Post 50 sponsor/volunteer Ken Bland, and volunteer/Post alum Rob Rowe.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Renovated Reynolds

The makeover of Reynolds Coliseum at NC State is spectacular! Thanks to Deputy AD Michael Lipitz for the tour last week. He ably led the project.

The ACC men's basketball tourney and the Dixie Classic originated in this hallowed hall, completed in 1949. It's the repository of Jimmy V's legacy and home to Kay Yow Court. A shrine to Tobacco Road hoops. Holy ground for Wolfpack Nation. 

The arena's rich history has been preserved, enhanced actually, with museum quality displays, and the space has been totally reimagined. More from

Sunday, September 25, 2016

99.9 The Fan - Marconi Nominee

You can't brag about an award you didn't win, but I must give a shout-out to our crew at CBC Sports Radio - 99.9 The Fan, Buzz Sports Radio and 1550 The Ticket.

Specifically, 99.9 The Fan (WCMC-FM) was nominated for a Marconi Radio Award - top sports station of the year in America. The awards gala was held last Thursday night in Nashville at the annual Radio Show. It's a huge conference staged by the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio Advertising Bureau; 2,200 in attendance.

99.9 The Fan has been a sports station only since 2007. We're a relative newcomer to the format, so it's quite an honor to be nominated. WFAN in NYC won the trophy last year, and this time around we were competing with a slate of major market stations. (RDU is radio market #38.)

The Detroit station won this year. We shall return!!! And I'm proud that we were on the the field of play. Congrats to our staff at 99.9 The Fan. That's our Director of Programming and Operations on the left, Dennis Glasgow, and our General Manager, Brian Maloney, on the right. Top talent!

Monday, September 19, 2016

HB2 Damage in Durham

The anvil of HB2 landed on Durham last week.

The ACC, at the direction of its University presidents, pulled their neutral site championships out of NC for 2016-17, following a similar decision by the NCAA. So, the week-long ACC Baseball Championship will not be held at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park next May. In the spirit of transparency (and venting) I post herewith:

It's is so frustrating that this is hurting our community that prides itself on diversity and inclusiveness. Sadly, that doesn't offset our Legislature's resistance to the same. 

I'm not despondent, though. This will be worked out by either judges or politicians in the next year, and hopefully, the tournament will return. I'm more concerned with the loss of momentum. We are trying to convince the ACC that Durham should be the long-term home of the event, and we were awarded a four year contract to show that Durham (and the Triangle) would embrace the event and grow attendance.

Last May, our pre-sold ticket sales were up 24%, and day-of-game sales averaged 1,000 per game for the weekend games. That was without UNC in the 2016 field, so clearly, we were making progress attracting "locals" to the games. Over the past two years, the ACC Baseball Championship in Durham has averaged attendance of 60K for the week with an annual economic impact of $3-5 million.

Regarding the latter, our hotels and restaurants, that had enjoyed full capacity over the typically slow Memorial Day weekend, get a punch to the gut.

My griping is not aimed at the ACC. They are our partner. We've hosted eight Championships since the DBAP opened in 1995. And I should admit that we have been the beneficiary of controversy in the past. We landed the tournament during the SC Confederate flag controversy, and we played host on very short notice when Fenway Park reneged on an invitation to the ACC.

My grousing is reserved for the NC legislature, the Republican leadership and our Governor. (I am registered as an unaffiliated voter, and on this issue I'm particularly unaffiliated with the GOP.)

I will never be convinced that this was really about the transgender bathroom issue in Charlotte - because the law has no enforcement provisions. Trust me, I've read the bill (over and over.) It was cooked up by the GOP leadership to motivate their voters, and it was meant to slap down Charlotte's city council. In the process, they took a broad, mean-spirited swipe at the entire LGBT community. That's what brought NC embarrassing national attention and the ire of the NBA, NCAA and ACC. Restroom security/privacy was never a problem - just a scare tactic to get votes. 

Meanwhile, the travel and tourism sector takes a major hit. Restaurants and hotels will lose millions. At sports venues, the hourly employees - the ushers, concessions workers and parking attendants - will lose work. The party known as a champion of business has done a great deal of economic harm.

We have just formed a Sports Commission in Durham to recruit sporting events to the Bull City. I'm a member. It was created and funded by the City Council and Board of County Commissioners last spring. The Durham Chamber of Commerce shepherded the project for over two years. Now, we are in the process of hiring two staffers. We must remove this anvil, aka HB2, so that we can get about our work.