Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cam I Am

I am riding high on Cam Newton's band wagon. He's a polarizing sports celebrity, and that's fodder for our CBC sports radio stations, 99.9 The Fan & Buzz Sports Radio. Having listened morning, noon and night - they pay me to listen to the radio - I've decided that it's all good.  

Some people prefer a scowling warrior, others like a cerebral QB, but I'll take the dabbing showman of the end zone. 

The stakes are high, the pressure is intense, yet Cam plays with joy. That's worthy of applause, not critique. Join the dance! (I sure hope my joy is palpable Monday morning!?!)

Adam & Joe had a contest, soliciting fan letters to Cam, on 99.9 The Fan. Mark Stewart, cleverly riffing on Dr. Seuss, won NFC Championship tickets with this poem; an excerpt... 

If you get to the Super Bowl,
I will root for you
Heart and soul. 

We can win the
Super Bowl with Cam.
We can win it
Cam I am. 

We can win it with the MVP.
We can win with River Boat, you'll see.
We can win it in the box.
We can win without John Fox.
We can win it in the house,
That was named after Levi Strauss.
We can win it in Santa Clara.
We can win it in this era! 

We will win the Super Bowl with Cam!
Thank you!
Thank you!
Cam I am!

Adam and Joe on "Newton's first law of celebrity"
with TV5's Jeff Gravley. Click for video.

We have #sb50 on both WRAL TV5 and 99.9 The Fan Sunday evening, and speaking of Panthers' fodder, spend some time on Check out the Our Take section. You'll be smarter than a talk show host at your Super Bowl party! Keep Pounding.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bill's Law

We are wrapping up a six-part series on our most distinguished retiree Bill Law. He was the Bulls' PA announcer for over 15 years and continues as our Community Ambassador at 87 years old. 

It's been a winter project for sportswriter Mike Potter to extract a lifetime of memories from Bill for the stories published on Click here for the series Bill's Law and a slideshow.

Bill has been a signal corpsman, banker, state gov't manager, city councilman, actor and radio/tv host. And in the Triangle he is Mr. Baseball. While that title might be reserved for a lifelong player or coach, Bill's bona fides are top shelf. His earliest gig was PA announcer for Raleigh's minor league team that played at Devereaux Meadow in the late 60s, he was an extra in Bull Durham, he served as the longtime leader of Raleigh's Hot Stove League and Bill wrapped up his career at the DBAP. A full life...enriched by baseball!

Bill's Bull Durham bat signed by Kevin Costner.

Bill's signature cane.
He walks the talk!

A tribute to Mr. Baseball in the Triangle.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Foul Balls & Fan Safety

As the Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville wound down, Major League Baseball announced a recommendation to extend backstop netting, encompassing both dugouts, to improve fan safety.

I'm proud to report that we had already studied this in the early fall and ordered a new net consistent with the just-issued guidelines. It wasn't a simple, quick decision. We pulled in our architect, an engineer, vendors, other teams, our league office, MiLB, and we sampled opinions of season ticket holders. Joe Fitzsimons at Belk Architecture even developed a 3D computer model of the netting options. (Durham Bulls press release.)

Baseball traditionalists don't share our enthusiasm for this. To purists, the net is an obstruction. There is some good news about that. We'll be using a high tech fabric - Dyneema - that's thinner (but even stronger) than our current nylon net. I expect people will adjust quickly.

Meanwhile, more fans will have the option of sitting behind the net. We decided to double down on safety because patrons are more distracted, primarily by their mobile phones. (I heard sports talker Jim Rome blame this, not on foul balls, but on fans playing Candy Crush!) 

While I can't prove it, I feel that today's hitters are stronger and pitchers are throwing harder. That adds velocity to foul balls. Combine that with the very real distraction of mobile devices, and it's time to update the safety standards. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Grand Slam Gratitude

I carved out some Thanksgiving time to reflect on 2015. It was an incredible season as we celebrated the DBAP’s 20th anniversary. I'll slice it up for you: 

#DBAP20 began with beloved manager Charlie Montoyo’s promotion to the Rays and a new skipper, Jared Sandberg, assigned to Durham. These leadership changes are consequential; we’ve had only four managers during the Bulls’ Triple-A era. Despite a record number of call-ups, the team scratched out a winning season, 74-70. We didn’t make the play-offs, but there were memorable performances. Utility player (and unique personality) Taylor Motter was picked for the International League All-Star Team, and LHP Blake Snell was chosen Minor League Player of the Year by both USA Today and Baseball America. 

Our fans came through with multiple milestones:
  • Fifteen total sellouts 
  • July 4th single-game record of 11,871
  • Full-season record paid attendance of 555K 
Bienvenidos Cubanos…and Blue Devils! We hosted the Cuban National Team, Duke University’s 2015 Commencement, the ACC Baseball Tournament & Fan Fest and our first big wedding in the new PNC Triangle Club.

Beer and Bats! Our in-house concessions operation Bull City Hospitality premiered, and we welcomed the East Coast Bats shop and our own brewery Bull Durham Beer Co. to the ballpark. 

Dogs, Dancing and Fantasy! Bark in the Park, Merge Records Night, the Dancing Grounds Crew, Game of Thrones and Star Wars Jersey Nights garnered national media attention.

Close Shave! Staff and players shaved their heads for Vs. Cancer. Our Bully Busters program returned to the schools. Explorer Post 50, our video internship program, was nominated for a regional Emmy.

We didn’t win a title, but nonetheless, it was a championship year for the front office. At the Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville on December 7th, General Manager Mike Birling will be recognized as International League Executive of the Year. Bravo! 

The Durham Bulls are blessed…
- to play in this vibrant Triangle community
- in a resurgent Downtown Durham
- with hundreds of thousands of loyal fans
- for a generous, innovative parent company
- with a solid MLB organization, the Tampa Bay Rays
- and a creative, committed staff.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Wool E. Bull is a Locavore

It’s a challenge to embrace the local food movement at a sports stadium. A grocery store can stock more native products. A restaurant can build its menu around the farm-to-table concept. The Bulls, however, have to feed 10,000 people in 2.5 hours on a Friday night - hence the term institutional food service

But I’m not making excuses. We are looking for opportunities to support local producers. Dave Levey, the General Manager of Bull City Hospitality, has focused on this since taking our concessions operation in-house this season. Our chief supplier is gigantic US Foods, but they have been adept at finding local vendors.

Our hamburger comes from Mills Family Farm in Mooresville. Brats and Italian sausages from Firsthand Foods in Durham. For several years, we’ve served Bright Leaf hot dogs from Smithfield. (They are delivered fresh for every home stand, made with New Zealand beef and their fat content beats the USDA standard.)

At the barbecue stand, our cue hails from Hog Heaven in Durham. The hush puppy mix comes from Selma’s Atkinson Milling Co. Cole slaw and potato salad are made in Halifax. 

The hot sauce on your wings is Texas Pete, not from the Lone Star State, but a secret concoction from Winston-Salem. Hot dog chili is made in Greensboro. Our cooking oil comes from Warsaw NC. Back at home, the Bulls’ caramel popcorn is popped at Jimmy’s Gourmet Golden Popcorn in Durham, and the Durham Co-op Market operates a fresh fruit cart on the concourse.

I could add several paragraphs on NC beers in the ballpark and our on-site Bull Durham Beer Co., but I will save that for another post. Suffice it to say, we are bullish on NC agriculture and local vendors. Wool E. Bull is a locavore!

Bright Leaf hot dogs from Carolina Packers in Smithfield.
Touring the plant last month with Nick Bavin and Chip Allen.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Powerade State Games Recap

I’m ringing the bell for the just-concluded Powerade State Games of NC. The Games returned to the Triangle this summer for a two-year run. 

The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, Durham Coke and Capitol Broadcasting worked with the Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau to include Durham in the event. That work was done back in 2011, but the payoff came during three weeks of competition in June...
  • 22,000+ spectators
  • 11,074 participants
  • 1,023 coaches
  • 654 teams
  • 600+ volunteers
  • 300+ sport officials (umpires, referees, etc.)
  • 28 million media impressions
Durham hosted 8,000 participants and spectators for lacrosse, baseball, basketball and track & field at Duke, NCCU, the Emily K Center and County Stadium. 

Track & Field at Durham County Stadium
    The Powerade State Games is an Olympic-style sports festival comprised of 31 events ranging from youth baseball to BMX, table tennis to Taekwondo, fencing to figure skating. The competition moves around the state every two years. It was held in Charlotte during 2013-14.

My primary interest is in sports tourism - keeping our hotels and restaurants busy - but there's something to be said for the Games' statewide mission of community. The competition draws participants from 91 of NC's 100 counties. And it's aspirational. Young athletes are exposed to our Triangle university campuses and participate in a sports festival promoting Olympic values.

NC Amateur Sports, our neighbor on the American Tobacco Campus, ably organizes the Games each summer. I've been on the board of directors for over 20 years. I can't seem to shake my enthusiasm for their work!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Coach K Compendium

If you follow college hoops you know Coach K as intense, and that's putting it mildly. But we saw another side of him last week on our 99.9 FM Fan Town Hall. He was downright affable!

In the hour-long interview Coach K was joking with the studio audience during commercial breaks, poking fun at hosts Jeff Gravley of WRAL and Joe Ovies of The Fan, and he even remained on the set after the broadcast to talk with the our guests. 

Approachable. Jovial. Modest. Not necessarily what I expected.

It was a most memorable sixty minutes with the NCAA and Olympic champion. The conversation veered from basketball to barbecue, Beyonce, rap and gardening. Check out these multimedia nuggets from 

Coach K didn't vacuum up all of the attention last Thursday. WRAL's Debra Morgan interviewed his wife Mickie about their family life and 46-year marriage. The girls are not awed by him, said Mickie. They adore him but he does not get a lot of respect in our house. With an assist from his family, Coach K scores with humility.