Sunday, October 1, 2023

An Unexpected End

Every year the Durham Bulls make the playoffs.  

Every year the Durham Bulls win in the playoffs.  

This year the Durham Bulls lost in the playoffs. 

It's the first time that has happened since 2019. It was an unexpected end. They were playing the Norfolk Tides in the International League Championship and were favored to defeat the Orioles Triple A squad, who reached the playoffs by having the best record during the first half of the season. I forgot that cruddy feeling you get when your favorite team is not the one celebrating at the end of the deciding game. 

Anyway, I have worked on finding cards of several players from this year's Durham Bulls team over the past several weeks. I probably should have been looking all year, but I procrastinated. The new editions  are all scanned and ready to share. Feel free to write down a few names, a few of these players are going to be in the Majors soon.  

First up, outfielder Niko Hulsizer.  

Niko reminds me of Tyler O'Neill, except he's not on the injured list every other week.  

Niko works out. 

Niko hits long home runs. 

Tyler O'Neill is from somewhere in Canada and Niko is from (checks notes) Pennsylvania. 

Anyway, I found a Bowman Chrome autograph of the Bulls left fielder. I like that he just signs his first name "Niko" on the cards. Like there is another player named Niko in the Majors. There is not at the moment.  

Second Niko autograph below.  

This is a sticker autograph, which appears to be slightly crooked. Still like the action photo on this card. Probably a home run, since he hit the ball. All his other at-bats are either walks or strike outs.  

You a White Sox fan?  

The next player actually got traded to the White Sox a few months back, but I am still collecting his cards. The Rays don't make many bad trades, but I feel like this is one of them. I have also posted other Luis Patino cards on here before, just adding a new one to the collection.  

The Rays got Luis Patino in the Blake Snell trade. They used him as a spot starter in 2021 and 2022, but he also got a lot of starts in Durham. He's slight, but throws really hard. Never really got much of a chance with the Rays before they traded him to the White Sox. The Sox have used him several times over the past month and Luis has looked decent.  

A rare miss for the Rays, but if you're a White Sox fan, enjoy.  

Next up, a fan favorite from this year. 

Imagine Jose Altuve with a really violent swing and a more likable personality.  

Sometimes pictures on cards are deceptive, or you can't quite tell what someone looks like based on the picture. Ronny Simon is listed at 5'7, but that feels like a made-up number.  I bet he's 5'7 if he's wearing shoes and standing on a phone book for a major U.S. city. Ronny is also listed at 150 pounds, which also feels a little high. Ronny also has a huge swing with 13 home runs, 25 doubles, and almost 150 strikeouts.

Guess who was on the injured list for the Durham Bulls the entire season?  

This guy. 

Brendan was a top prospect a few years back. Made it all the way to Durham and then things went sideways. I think he was overused while he was at Louisville (the junior college) and his shoulder is now completely shot. He's going to end up being a "what could have been" type player, but those guys are still fun to collect. Especially when you can find their autograph on a Topps Tek card. Love these cards, but I did not scan both sides of it. Know you can see the autograph on the back of the card.  

I am upset McKay's career is likely not going to work out, but also upset that someone let Louisville into the ACC. Their sports teams always showing up around here, like Friday night they played NC State in football. NC State lost, because of NC State. Louisville did not really do anything to win.  

I could have made that same type of throw.  

It was not a good weekend for sports.  

A few more cards.  

The Rays got Blake Hunt in the Blake Snell trade with the Padres. Up to this season, he's been a light hitting catcher, so I did not think much of him when he got called up to the Bulls to be their backup catcher in the middle of the season. I was expecting solid defense and a .220 batting average.......

His name is Blake, but this is the best I could find on a Sunday morning.  

Anyway, Blake Hunt ended up hitting .260 for the Durham Bulls this year and had 6 home runs. Several of those came in the first week he was in Triple A. Definitely a pleasant surprise.  

I found a Bowman Chrome autograph of Blake Hunt for less than $2 and also a Panini autograph below for around $1.  

Three dollars for two autographs of a Triple A backup catcher makes me feel better about my sports teams losing. Did I mention the Cardinals game on Friday night? It was like a Bengals-Rams game. Wait, the Rams moved. It was like a Clemson-NC State game where State got a safety as their only points.  

One more player, because he is local and his high school has an amazing mascot.  

Greg Jones was the Rays first round selection in 2019 out of UNC-Wilmington. He actually went to high school in Cary, North Carolina, which is one of the large suburbs of Raleigh. There are many high schools in Cary, but Greg went to THE Cary High School.

Cary High School is noted for four things:

1. The Cary Water Tower 

2. Their annual band contest 

3. Overcrowding all the local fast food restaurants in Cary, because their campus has open lunch every day


Card break. 

This is Greg's 2020 Topps Pro Debut autograph. 

Back to the story.

4. Their mascot.  

Cary High School's mascot is an Imp.  

Imps appear in German and English folklore where they are they devious and mischievous henchman of the devil.  Here is the Imp.......

The Imp was voted Sports Illustrated Best High School Mascot earlier this year.  

Sorry, there are no quality photos of Greg playing baseball in a Cary High School uniform on the internet.  

Last card.  

This is another 2020 autograph of Greg Jones. This one is from Bowman's Best and features a nice on-card signature. Greg is a toolsy player. He's fast, has some pop in his bat, and also is versitile.  The Bulls played him around the infield and also in centerfield. Buy his cards, put them in a box, and thank me in two or three years when you run across them.  


  1. Maybe it's just me, or maybe it's because I'm getting older, but SI doing articles about high school kids seems a little suspect; and dare I say... a bit gross.

    1. Print media companies are in big trouble. I think back in the day, there is no way SI does that type of story. However, today that's exactly the sort of minutia that gets clicks.


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