So I had a “mascot epiphany” of sorts last week.
I was at the (amazing, gorgeous, one of the gems of the Minors) DBAP — the Durham Bulls Athletic Park — and being a mascot geek, I was especially loving the “antics” (hate that word but can’t think of a better one) of the energetic and adorable Wool E. Bull.
Now, I know that Wool E. Bull, who joined the Durham Bulls as their official mascot in 1992, was named after the Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs oldie “Wooly Bully.” It’s even the song he has on his official MySpace.
But could it be total sheer coincidence that one of the most hilarious and memorable scenes in the movie “Bull Durham” (other than the candlesticks mound conference) occurs during a road trip bus ride when the clueless Nuke LaLoosh strums away on his guitar, butchering the classic “Try A Little Tenderness” by singing “She may be WOOLLY … young girls they do get woolly …” (I had hoped there would be a YouTube clip of this scene I could link but sadly, there isn’t … if anyone wants to post one and let me know, I’ll edit this entry and give you credit!)
Coincidence? I think not.
I won’t go into TOO much detail about my 20 years of memories of Durham Bulls baseball, dating back to my christening as a Minor League beat writer in the Carolina League in 1989, simply because I plan to write an entire column about that this coming week (it hits the MiLB.com site on May 5!).
However, I think the Bulls and the film have so much to do with the incredible surge of popularity that Minor League Baseball as a whole has enjoyed in the last 20 years. And for that I have to give a huge thank you to the film’s creator (and former Minor League infielder himself) Ron Shelton.
The team is celebrating that 20th anniversary of the release of Shelton’s classic all season long at the DBAP, including one particularly awesome film clip they show on the Jumbotron screen that fast-forwards that bus trip scene several years (maybe decades) into the future, with Bulls “team ambassador” (that’s his title!) Bill Law as a “more mature” Nuke, singing about young girls getting woolly, and long-time radio broadcaster Ken Tanner as a slightly older Crash Davis tearing the guitar out of his hands.
Anyway, I’d only been to the DBAP once before, several years ago, with a group of family and friends on a rainy night sitting in the outer reaches of the left field stands, behind the visitors’ dugout. So I hadn’t really appreciated just how wonderful a stadium it was until this time through town.
It boasts the perfect combination of old-fashioned red brick charm and new-fangled comforts to provide the ideal night at the ballpark for anyone from a diehard baseball fan to someone who just wants to go out and enjoy a night in the warm Carolina evening air.
And when the game is over, the “entertainment district” is just across the street, with free indoor parking and several restaurants and bars scattered up and down “American Tobacco Campus.” I went to Tyler’s, with its friendly staff and fried pickle chips but there are plenty of other places to choose from, if you still have room after availing yourself of the concession stands at the park.
And with the wealth of talent in the Tampa Bay organization (in my opinion the most loaded organization in baseball right now), you’re pretty much guaranteed of getting to see some of the game’s top prospects in Durham anytime between tomorrow and, oh, the next several years.
So in case you hadn’t figured it out, I’m pretty much of a mind that anyone who calls themselves a baseball fan — or a film buff — needs to make a pilgrimage to Durham, NC. Catch a Durham Bulls game at the DBAP, and while you’re at it head a few blocks over to the original Durham Athletic Park where the movie was filmed to see what they’re doing there.
They just broke ground this week on a $5 million renovation and restoration project to bring the field back to its former glory, as the home of the North Carolina Central University baseball team and the site of a new Minor League Baseball training facility.
Go. Tell them GotMilb sent you. It won’t make a difference but it will make me feel good.