Saturday, August 30, 2014

Social (& antisocial) Media

What a week of cyber highs and lows!

We were deeply honored - and downright giddy - on Monday when Good Morning America aired a video clip of our Diamond Cutters dancing grounds crew. That's fifteen seconds of fame to savor! Facebook likes climbed to 59,000 by week's end with a similar number of views on our YouTube channel.

From boom to bust: That blissful broadcast was followed on Tuesday by a viral video of Centerplate CEO Des Hague kicking a puppy. Centerplate is the giant food service company that manages our concessions at the DBAP. Of course, we were the brunt of some antisocial social media. We renounced the act, the actor...and our lawyers are talking. We are on the side of canines. The Bulls hosted three Bark in the Park events to benefit Second Chance Pet Adoptions this season, and we helped Neuse River Golden Retriever Rescue with a fund raiser. The Hague issue is still roiling. An online petition to oust him had 156K signatures at this writing.

Wanting to end this social media commentary on a positive note...
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon has made Internet history raising $101mm as of Friday. I was on the board of the NC association for ten years, and I have a great affection for the patients, families and their advocates at the Jim "Catfish" Hunter Chapter where donations have topped $205K. "Everyone is just blown away. We are feeling very grateful for this unexpected surge of support," per an email from chapter CEO Jerry Dawson. What if this cash infusion sparks breakthrough research that identifies the elusive cause of ALS...and that leads to a cure for this cruel disease? That is the true potential and power of social media!

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Simply stated, we hosted the 27th Triple-A All-Star Game to brag on the renaissance of downtown Durham. Now that the five-day baseball festival is over, I can brag on our staff. 

GM Mike Birling and the Bulls' front office did a fantastic job of extending southern hospitality to our guests - the players and baseball execs from over thirty cities - and entertaining 25,000 attendees. 

They staged twelve public, private and media events in five days, managed the host hotel and ran a transportation program for our visitors. Their hallmarks were creativity, hospitality and dedication - dedication to the Bulls, the event and their co-workers. It paid great dividends!

That first shot of a capacity crowd at the DBAP was taken from a drone last Wednesday evening as the International League All-Stars prevailed over the Pacific Coast League's best, seen nationwide, on the MLB Network.

The Home Run Derby and All-Star game were SRO. The Fan Fest and Blackwell St. Block Party exceeded our expectations. The private events at Washington Duke Inn, Cameron Indoor Stadium and the historic Durham Athletic Park will be long remembered for moonshine tasting, the Duke mystique and Ed Mitchell's barbecue. 

THANK YOU to our title sponsor,
 Durham's global manufacturer of LEDs, CREE.

The Bulls have been universally complimented for raising the bar for this annual event. I'm reminded that my first Triple-A All-Star Game was in 1998 at Norfolk, and the gala was held on an aircraft carrier at anchor in the Hampton Roads harbor. It's very gratifying that we might have topped that in downtown Durham last week! 

Big Fun. Hard Work. Great Outcome. Thanks for coming!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Belting a Homer

I hereby convene Cree Triple-A All-Star Week in the Triangle! I am anxious to get underway.

Fan Fest Saturday. Block Party Saturday evening. Home Run Derby Monday. Open work-out and autograph session Tuesday. The Cree Triple-A All-Star Game Wednesday night. Click here for details.

My favorite All-Star Week accoutrement (that's French for bling) is the Championship Title Belt that goes to the Home Run Derby winner on Monday night. Tim Campbell, an assistant ticket manager gets the credit. It was his job to come up with the trophy. Inspired by championship wrestling - a great southern pastime - he commissioned this belt. And he sourced it in the southern hemisphere! It was handcrafted in Australia by Darren Hall of Championship Gold. I wanted a selfie with the belt, but I could barely lift it...

Buckle up! And partake of the All-Star festivities in Durham.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Bulls on FM @ 99.3

We are expanding the reach of Bulls’ flagship AM radio station the FM band. 

The heritage Bull City station (The Buzz | 620 AM) has a strong daytime signal in central and eastern NC, but at night – when most Bulls games are played – it’s beset by interference.

The Federal Communications Commission has authorized us to improve our coverage with two FM translators – limited power transmitters designed to serve a single community. One will cover Durham and the other will be beamed at Raleigh listeners. The first station our engineers have powered up is 99.3 covering Raleigh.

Program one of your radio pre-sets to 99.3. You’ll get all of the Buzz sports programming: Mike and Mark (The World’s Strongest Morning Show), Dan Patrick, Jim Rome, Dan Le Batard, Duke University sports and CBS Sports Radio.

Stay tuned for more info on the Durham translator later in the summer. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Remembering D-Day

The highlight of my weekend was Friday night's first pitch ceremony. 94 year old Dub Karriker, wounded on Omaha Beach in the 1944 D-Day Invasion, brought the heat!

Click here for the video

Local attorney Patrick Byker introduced me to the Karriker family and suggested the first pitch idea. I was all in on the D-Day observance, but skeptical about the toss. Au contraire! Dub has good genes and a baseball pedigree. A Babe Ruth coach for almost 60 years, he's in the League's Hall of Fame!

The Purple Heart recipient and his wife of 71 years, Louise, live at the Durham Regent. They recently moved here from Arkansas to be closer to family. 

It's no surprise that Dub received a standing ovation Friday evening. Thanks for your service and welcome to Durham!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bulls on Parade

The Bulls had a sell-out Saturday night, and the weekend got even better on Sunday morning when I opened the paper...

That Durham Bulls logo was seen by 63 million people! Parade claims to be the most widely read magazine in America. 

Many of our fans were surprised that the story featured a Little League team in Woburn Mass...but that isn't out of the ordinary. Youth baseball teams all across the country wear our gear. The Bulls' insignia is among the most popular, and team apparel accounts for better than 25% of our retail sales. It's the result of a national licensing program, instituted 23 years ago, by Minor League Baseball. Total sales exceed $55 million for all MiLB teams. That's a lot of baseball caps and t-shirts!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Summer Reading

Excitement on the loading dock this afternoon! Our long delayed shipment of Bull City Summer books arrived - from the printer in China. 

It was worth the wait. This is a high quality edition from Daylight Books in Hillsborough. They specialize in photography books, and their expertise is evident in this volume.

If you pre-ordered the book last year, it's finally available for pick-up at the Ballpark Corner Store. Thanks for your patience. Otherwise, you can purchase BCS for $49.95, and enjoy the book's 200 pages of photography and prose - a chronicle of 2013 in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

This is the companion book for the BCS exhibition at the NC Museum of Art. The show expands to additional venues in May - Raleigh's Contemporary Art Museum and the Crowe Lobby Gallery on the American Tobacco Campus in Durham.

This project was really an artistic experiment from the start.  Only thirteen months ago none of the documentary materials in this book even existed:  None of the photographs had been made nor the writing done.  I'm grateful to the dedicated artists on our team, to Daylight Books, to our partnering museums NCMA and CAM Raleigh, and especially to our sponsors - Triangle Orthopaedics, Capitol Broadcasting, the Bulls, and Baker Roofing - for believing this was possible and helping make it happen.

Sam Stephenson, Director
Bull City Summer