The 2013 Durham Bulls season is the 25th anniversary of the hit movie Bull Durham. Bull City Summer will cover all 72 home games at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park during the 2013 season, and the results — in literary writing and art photography — will update the brand created by that movie for this historic minor league baseball franchise.

Bull City Summer plans to include:

  • A blog, bullcitysummer.org, updated through the 2013 season and marketed by WRAL.com.
  • A series of bi-weekly blog posts on Paris Review Daily, the website for the legendary New York City literary journal, throughout the 2013 season.
  • A fine art photography book to be published by Daylight Books in 2014.
  • An exhibition of photographs at the North Carolina Museum of Art from late February to July 2014.
  • An exhibition at CAM Raleigh from May to September 2014.
  • A series of documentary film shorts — and, potentially, a full-length film.

The Durham Bulls are at the highest level of minor league baseball — the AAA level, one step below the major leagues.

“Psychologically, baseball at the AAA level can kill you,” said Durham Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo, who has won titles in five of his six seasons managing the team. “When you get to this level, the difference is not talent, but whether you can focus on things you can control.”

At the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and its surrounding downtown, there is a community with routines and traditions of its own, which mirrors the obsessive American craft of baseball—in the stands, in concessions, behind the scenes, and beyond the ballpark, a daily story unfolding and rarely documented, usually disappearing into the next day.

Bull City Summer will document these daily stories.

The project is directed by Sam Stephenson, a North Carolina native and longtime Triangle resident, who for a decade directed The Jazz Loft Project. The Jazz Loft Project won an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award in 2010 and included a book called by New York Times book critic Dwight Garner, “a singularly vital and thrumming American document.” Bull City Summer is the inaugural project of Stephenson’s Rock Fish Stew Institute of Literature and Materials.

“The goal of the project is to converge on the stadium and its surroundings with a team of documentarians and see what we find — ’stories, images‘ — on the field and behind the scenes over the course of a season. If we succeed, there will be a portrait of the art and craft and grit of baseball and the community that revolves around it in downtown Durham,” Stephenson says.

“The Jazz Loft Project concerned a building in New York City 1957-1965 obsessively documented by photographer W. Eugene Smith. For a decade it felt like I was living in 1959 New York City. By the end I was ready to live here in 2013, to document something happening here now, not New York 50 years ago.”

Bull City Summer will include work from photographer Alec Soth, who hails from Minneapolis, MN and is known for large-scale American photographic projects. Soth’s work has been exhibited in most major art venues worldwide, and he is the author of many books of his work.

“The opportunity to photograph spring baseball in North Carolina was a no-brainer,” Soth says. “But beyond the obvious pleasure of the assignment, I’m excited to see how the medium of photography engages with the sport. The pacing of baseball arouses a kind of leisurely attentiveness that is analogous to photographic seeing. You look and look and then every once in awhile, snap, you get a hit.”

Adam Sobsey will serve as a main writer for Bull City Summer. Sobsey began covering the Durham Bulls as a beat writer in 2009 for INDY Week. He writes a weekly column for Baseball Prospectus and wrote the Tampa Bay Rays chapter for the 2013 Baseball Prospectus Annual. Sobsey is also a playwright, with work seen in New York, California, Texas and North Carolina.

“For me, a baseball game is much more than a series of events and outcomes simply to be reported and disseminated,” Sobsey says. “It’s a cultural object, both by itself and as it interacts with American life, and therefore a subject for documentary art—it invites and demands consideration, elaboration, framing, cropping, coloring and exposure. This project is a natural fit for the way I look at and write about the sport.”

We look forward to you joining us this summer and beyond.