“Not really about baseball”: we’ve adhered pretty well so far to this watchword of our Bull City Summer documentary project, but cultivating indifference has been hard for me. I really care about baseball, and I watch the games closely. Still, I’ve made a season-long effort to notice the surroundings in a rather moony way—trying to soak up the ambient energy in the ballpark, its sheer quality and quantity.
Bull City Summer’s subtitle, “a season at the ballpark and beyond,” got a very strict redrawing of its documentary boundary last night. Try thirty seasons, and exactly at the ballpark.
The news from last night’s game had nothing really to do with the outcome, which was in favor of Pawtucket, 4-3. Instead, the seventh-inning stretch stretched longer than usual in order to accommodate an exceptional moment. Onto the field stepped Jim Goodmon, the kingpin of the Capitol Broadcasting Corporation/Durham Bulls/American Tobacco empire; the Mayor of Durham, Bill Bell; some city council members and Bulls officials; and Wool E.
It’s the bottom of the second inning on a rainy July evening at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Charlotte Knights are in town, closing out the final evening of a four-game set. At the far left side of the press box, Brent Belvin — the Bulls’ official scorer — is camped once more in the spot he’s occupied for twenty-five years.
The press box windows are open, and that particular variety of Carolina breeze is drifting in — warm, gentle, approximately 115 percent humidity.
You’d expect the army of Labs adorned with bandanas, cool as Wil Myers flying first class to Tampa. The Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen? Not so much.
But a defining element of this year’s “Bark in the Park” at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park was the sheer canine diversity of it all. You had your Labs, of course, and more mutts than you could shake a stick at, but also a hundred-pound Newfoundland named Bigley, whose laid-back demeanor attracted kids and their camera-carrying parents by the score.
Wil Myers, pre-call-up. Photo by Elizabeth Matheson.
This afternoon, Kate Joyce and Adam Sobsey spoke with host Frank Stasio on WUNC 91.5’s The State of Things about Wil Myers’ departure and the progress of the Bull City Summer project. If you missed the interview, you can listen to it here.
First things first, Bulls fans: Today, photographer Kate Joyce and I will be making Bull City Summer’s monthly appearance (so to speak) on WUNC’s The State of Things at noon, i.e. very soon! It’s 91.5 if you’d like to tune in. We’ll be talking with host Frank Stasio about our project and, especially, Wil Myers. (“When are we gonna stop talking about Wil Myers?” Charlie Montoyo quipped, laughing, after I asked him about the departed demigod following last night’s game.
Well, of course there is. If there wasn’t, there would be no Bull City Summer. We see the team play seventy-two times a year: twenty-five guys in Durham Bulls uniforms at any given time, playing Durham Bulls baseball games, trying to hit and pitch their way to the major leagues. It is a wonderful story to witness and document, full of striving, complexity, excitement—or, if you’re just at the ballpark for the sumo wrestling and funnel cakes, then it’s full of, well, sumo and funnel cakes.
Today on the online magazine The Morning News, a Q&A with Sam Stephenson and a beautiful gallery featuring photography by our contributors.
TMN: What do the Bulls mean to Durham?
SS: A lot. Durham Bulls Athletic Park is one of the few places where every demographic within a 30-mile radius is represented. Plus, as Durham becomes more and more of a gentrified hipster haven, the Bulls are a presence with links back to a time when Reverend Gary Davis and Blind Boy Fuller were playing Piedmont blues for tips during shift changes at the tobacco markets, only a block or two from the existing stadium.
The News & Observer has a great feature story about Bull City Summer out today:
DURHAM — Fresh from inserting a wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth, the ballplayer paused from conversing with his teammates in the bullpen to watch a ball coming toward him. It was a foul ball rolling briskly down the right field of Durham Bulls Athletic Park. And as the ball kicked into the bullpen, the player caught it, flicked it to a kid in the stands and leaned over to spit a stream of tobacco juice.