Thursday, April 2, 2015

Back to the DAP

Back in January I made a trip to the original Durham Athletic Park to look around the outside of the stadium.  I vowed to take in a game at the stadium this year and fulfilled my promise yesterday when I attended the NC Central/Virginia State baseball game.  I was really interested to see the inside of the stadium and to see how the park played during an actual game.  It was really cool.

I love the entrance to the stadium.  I imagined it to be much bigger from the movie, but it's entry way is really unique with the round tower out in front of the stadium.  I had explored most of the outside of the stadium on my January trip and got to the game a few minutes early to check out the inside of the DAP.  However, there was not a lot of spaces to really explore.

This is the view fans have when they walk through the entrance to the seating area of the Durham Athletic Park.  The space is really simple, but in a good way.  There aren't cup holders or fancy gimmicks in the seats of this park, which was built in 1940.  Instead fans can find a simple set of benches and seats which offered a nice shaded view of the field.  The entire grandstand is protected by a netting, which is probably a good thing since you are really close to the field.

In my opinion, the two most unique features of the stadium are the outfield configuration in right field and the design of the grandstand.  Let's start with the grandstand.  In the movie Bull Durham, most people are familiar with the green and gold pattern of the grandstand at the Durham Athletic Park.

I looked around for older pictures of the stadium, and while the color of the wall has changed several times over the years, the unique pattern and design of the grandstand remains the same.  Currently it is painted a rust color with a goldfish, yellow color framing the rectangular patterns.

You will notice in the background behind Kevin Costner the on-deck circles are kind of in the distance and in the middle of nowhere.  The dugouts are down the line a bit, similar to Fenway, and the players tend to stand in their own places and call it the on deck circle.  NC Central outfielder Eric Kimber drifted way down the line and was standing really close to home plate while waiting his turn to bat.

The insides of the dugout also look a little bit limited in space.  Both teams seemed to use the top of the dugout as a storage area for gloves, helmets, baseballs, and bottles.

Also notice that the radio both behind home plate.  Looks a little bit like Dodger Stadium before they remodeled it, but the Durham Athletic Park is actually older than that stadium.  Which brings us to right field.  The fence down the right field line is only 290 feet.  The wall down the line is taller and the power alley is not labeled, but it is clearly the place to hit the ball in the stadium.  Here's what the right field corner looks like now.....

and who could forget this scene from Bull Durham which shows what the right field area looked like while the Durham Bulls were using the park.....

The stadium is built into a city block and the buildings in the movie are clearly the same.  In fact, I think that the only thing that has really changed in the space is that the wall has gone from billboards to some sort of chain linked fence.  NC Central actually took advantage of the short porch to right during the game and connected for two home runs.  

So, let's get to the game.  Both of these teams play in the MAEC, which is Division I.  Central has a newer baseball program, but I was really impressed by the team.  I did a little bit of pre-scouting and had a few players I was watching for in the game.  I missed one of the pitchers, but was impressed by everyone else I got to see.....

Let's start with Christian Triplett.  He did not have a hit in this game, and has had some bad luck this year with hits falling, but I like the way he played.  Here's his first at-bat....

A video posted by The Snorting Bull (@thesnortingbull) on

The junior was one of the team's top offensive producer last season leading the team in home runs and was amongst the leaders in RBIs.  The numbers are not quite there at the plate this year for the junior first baseman, but I think he has some potential.  He's a big target at first base and moves well on defense.  

I also enjoyed watching lead off hitter Eric Kimber.  He has great patience at the plate and clearly understands his role as a lead off hitter is to get on base.  He is leading NC Central's regular players with a .383 OBP and drew 3 walks which lead to 2 runs during this game.  He also stole a base and played some good defense out in right field.  Here he is in the second drawing a walk.  

A video posted by The Snorting Bull (@thesnortingbull) on

The third and finally player I enjoyed watching was junior pitcher Cameron Scalzo.  He ended up going 7 innings and gave up 1 run, five hits, and struck out six batters.  Here's a look at the tall right hander throwing pitcher......

Central won this game fairly easily.  Scalzo gave up an early run, but was backed up by two six run frames.  In the second inning the Eagles posted their first six spot after a Virginia State error allowed several extra base runners.  The big blow in the inning came from catcher Conrad Kovalcik who took advantage of the short right field porch to blast a three run home run.  NC Central added another 6 in the bottom of the 7th to go up 14-1 which ended up being the final score.  

Overall, it was a fun afternoon of baseball.  The quality of play was much better than I expected and the atmosphere of a college team playing in the old Durham Athletic Park is really awesome.  If you live in central North Carolina and are looking for an inexpensive (their games are free) and entertaining activity this is great entertainment.  The Eagles still have several more home games left this season including games against in state schools like UNC-Wilmington and Campbell.  I will definitely be back for another game before the season ends.