Thursday, June 15, 2017

Road Trip;Carolina/Zebulon

The road trip continued on day two as we visited the small town of Zebulon,NC to visit the home of the Carolina Mudcats.

After an excellent breakfast at McLean's Old Time Cafe (This meal would be the only thing that I would eat all day) and a waitress that told me she was from Barberton,Ohio (we each agreed that trying to explain to others about Barberton Chicken is a futile exercise unless they have tried it),we moved on and entered Five County Stadium.
Five County Stadium is located in Zebulon,a tiny town,for one reason-Raleigh NC wanted a team and was more than large enough to handle the original Mudcats (AA),but was well within the 50 miles radius that an existing team can block a team to moving the Durham Bulls could block any team from moving to Raleigh,so the trick was finding some place as close to Raleigh as possible without the Bulls being able to block the incoming team-therefore little Zebulon had itself a AA (for 11 years) team and then the High A Carolina League franchise.
The stadium looks like a late 80's-early 90's stadium-lots of concrete and little shade!
The sightlines are good,but you are farther from the field than from newer stadiums.
Still Five County is kept up well and is more than acceptable to watch a game in...

The Mudcats allow graphers to come into the stadium to autograph in far left field (Mudcats) and far right field (Visitors-Winston-Salem Dash on this day),so for a little over two hours,we had the run of the place as the staff prepared the field for the game.
Doug Hopkins and I went to the team store,which the Mudcats graciously opened for us.
I didn't buy much,just two shirts for the ladies at home,but Doug bought plenty.
I walked up a ramp to the upper deck and snapped a picture that included the water tower in the upper left of the photo that was painted like a baseball with the Mudcats written in script.
I was impressed by the way that the Mudcats allowed us to graph and walk around,I wish more teams would allow that.
The only thing is the Mudcats will ask you to leave the stadium 30 minutes before the gates open,which is very reasonable,so that the team knows that everyone in the stadium has a paid admission.
Nothing wrong with that and I'm sure people appreciate the Mudcats friendliness toward their fans.

We worked on Carolina first,mainly because their side was where we came into the stadium and there was a little bit of shade on a hot day from the upper deck.
The heat didn't bother me as much as these huge flies that kept buzzing around and being really annoying.
The left field wall was close enough for us to touch from our position to touch and that gave us an unusual perspective from a stadium viewpoint.
I had gotten all of my major needs from Carolina on the previous day's visit to Buies Creek,but I helped the guys with a few needs and filled in a few stragglers as well.

We weren't sure how much access would be allowed on the visitors side of the stadium and their clubhouse could only be seen from the right field concourse.
We went down a flight of steps and were surprised to have pretty good access as the players for the Dash had to walk across a crushed stone area from a clubhouse that from the outside looked more like an industrial sized garage!

I was able to fill in some Dash (Dashers?) players that I needed such as 2016 Washington number one pick Dane Dunning,who I had talked to in Hagerstown,but my cards were with Derreck, signed three cards for me,Luis Alexander Basabe signed the only card that I had (Chicago obtained Basabe as part of the Chris Sale trade) and we saw former Hagerstown Sun Jake Johansen,who had just been signed by the White Sox,but the player I really needed was catcher Zack Collins on his top 100 card.
Collins was the final top 100 card and obtaining him would give me 8 of 9 top 100 cards for the trip.
However,before Collins came out,it was time to leave the stadium as required by the team.
We had about a half hour to kill,so we tried to stay as cool as possible before broiling!

When we went into the stadium,the employees were giving out sample packets of something called "Bull Frog" which is sun screen of some type.
Considering it's summer time,I'm surprised more teams don't give away similar items before games!
We walked by a former Hagerstown employee and when Derreck tried to say hello,this fellow wouldn't even speak to him!
Sometimes,I wonder about people...

We went straight to the area from before to try to work on more Winston-Salem players including Zach Collins,who we all needed on various items.
As we stood there,a player walked over and asked if we "had anything for me".
I didn't recognize him and said that I didn't,he then showed his glove with #55 stitched on it.
It was White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon,who was there on an unannounced rehab assignment!
Rodon had been through the Carolina League,but not Frederick,so I had never seen him before
Rodon signed a few things for other graphers,but I had nothing for him.
Too bad for me as Rodon did have a 2015 top 100 that was residing back in Hagerstown.
Carlos did talk to us for more than five minutes and told me to send the card to him in Chicago once he returned and he'd sign it.
You never know on these things,but Rodon is reported to be a great signer through the mail,so I'll be willing to give a shot!

As I steamed over a lost opportunity,finally Zack Collins came out and I was lucky to get the top 100 taken care of,so it was a productive stop in Zebulon after all.
Collins isn't exactly what you would call overly friendly or a willing signer,but I cannot complain-I needed one and he signed it,anything else from me would sound ungrateful.
We couldn't stay much longer in Zebulon as Kinston loomed as our final stop an hour away,so we had to move quickly if we were to make that game!
We said goodbye to Derreck and Brandon,who were skipping Kinston as Derreck had to get to work that night and prepared to leave..

Next time,I'll finish the trip with our stop in Kinston NC and Grainger Stadium.
Keep in mind,we'll have the Devils draft pick Friday night and the boxing challenge coming with Ward-Kovalev II on Saturday night...

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