Friday, June 9, 2017

Road Trip:Durham

The little over an hour drive from Buies Creek to Durham went by quickly and we would arrive in the early portion of the game between the homestanding Bulls (AAA Tampa Bay) and the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA Boston) to meet Derreck and Brandon.

Durham Bulls Athletic Park is turning 20 this year,but through consistent upkeep and the occasional renovation to keep things fresh,this looks like a ballpark that is no more than a few years old.
Wide concourses and plenty of food choices,the home of the Bulls reminds one of a big league park,which a AAA park should be-a smaller version of a beautiful major league field.
Sorry for the crooked pic,the Kindle is sometimes hard to hold evenly

Entering the stadium with a standing room only ticket as the game was sold out otherwise for a fireworks night,it was a pretty sight walking up the ramp to see the field itself.
The field is one of those that hits you in the face upon arrival and for a 20 year old field is quite amazing.
The famous Bull sign stands tall in left field above a high wall and in right field,there is a large grassy area for lawn seats and a roomy spot down the right field line to eat and drink from one of the many stands.
As noted in the Buies Creek post,I didn't eat,so I'm not sure how the food there was,but there were plenty of choices to choose from.

Since for the most part,I (and Fred too) didn't feel like standing,the two of us with Derreck walked around the park for various pictures and sightlines.
Doug hit the team store,while Michael & Brandon moved around the stadium doing whatever as the game played on.
After that,we sat in the area with tables in right field and watched the remainder of the game from chaired seats.
The heat was starting to get to Fred a bit,so the relaxed setting allowed him to get his bearings a bit along with giving us a seat,which we didn't have otherwise.

After the game,there are many exits,so you don't have the clog of so many parks and we moved to the outside to make our only attempt to graph in Durham.
Derreck,Doug, Brandon and Michael decided to stay in the front of the park and attempt to acquire Pawtucket players,while Fred and I moved to the first base side of the stadium to work on the Bulls.
I had done the Bulls last season in our visit to Syracuse,so I had a few guys already and with AAA,I try to stick to a few targets that I want most rather than do a team set or bring cards for most of the team.
In this case,since I rarely do AAA or Tampa Bay affiliates,I wanted to concentrate on Top 100's-2 from the 2016 set (Blake Snell and Jose DeLeon) and 3 from the new 2017 set (DeLeon,Brett Honeywell and Willy Adames).
I didn't have anything for Casey Gillespie,since I had him sign a card at Syracuse last season,but Fred needed him and Gillespie was far from polite as he stomped by everyone without signing,although as he walked down the street,he did stop once reluctantly before moving away.

The first of the group to come out was Brett Honeywell,who was easy to pick out because of his long hair and cowboy boots,that Fred pointed out that he wore when we saw AA Montgomery last year in Tennessee.
Honeywell was quiet,but nice enough as I added his top 100 to this years set.
Blake Snell was easy to pick out as well because he pitched for my fantasy team before being sent to Durham,so I knew what he looked like.
Snell likes to joke around and mess with you as he signs and was very friendly in chatting while he signed his 2016 100-2 for 2.
Jose DeLeon was the only player that I had two top 100's for and I was hoping to get lucky and have him sign both.
I didn't and chose the 2017 with Tampa over his 2016 with the Dodgers because I saw him with the Rays organization.
Derreck and Brandon are said to be returning to Durham in a few weeks and hopefully,they can get the other DeLeon for me.
Willy Adames was the final 100 and due to help from my traders,I only needed the new one after the 15 and 16 were done in the past.
Adames came out with three other players and started walking,by the time that I realized that it was him,he was halfway down the street-the race was on and for a fat guy and when motivated (remember Chance Sisco?) I can move,so I managed to run Adames down,get him to sign on the move and finish the night strong!
4 for 4 in players,4 for 5 in top 100's,which is an excellent batting average for AAA.
Combined with the three from the Carolina Mudcats,the total for the day was 7 of 8 in cards,7 of 7 in players-Not bad.

The ride back to the hotel was about an hour and we were welcomed with a really bad room in Dunn NC at their Quality Inn.
I never had a bad room with the Choice Hotel chains,but this one was bad and looked like Choice bought a lower level facility (think Super 8 or Econolodge) and just slapped the Quality Inn name on it.
The room had 1970's decor,which wouldn't have been bad,had it not come with 70's bed linen complete with cigarette holes.

On the overall,I liked Durham.
Nice park,graphing pretty good for AAA and Derreck ranked it at the top of his AAA list above Nashville,which we both really liked from last year.
I'd rank it as competitive with Nashville and Columbus,but my gold standard for AAA parks is still Louisville as my top choice.

Good run and a great time,but two more parks and stops ahead,so stay tuned for the next stop in Zebulon,NC for the Carolina Mudcats (cleaning up stragglers) and the Winston-Salem Dash.

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