My good friend, fellow blogger and weekly radio show foil Barry likes to grouse sometimes about the-way-things-were around Durham. One of his favorite subjects: they just don't make baseball games the way they used to.
"When I first started going to Bulls games at the old DAP," he told me over beers and dogs at a game earlier this summer, "the fans really cared about baseball games."
The die-hard Mets fan expressed his regret at seeing fan interactions become scripted events, a set of Pavlovian responses to flashing scoreboard instructions -- and an event that, for many, becomes a series of faux-sumo matches and bean-toss competitions interrupted by some hardball every now and then.
Of course, it's been hard for someone like me who was -- until recently -- a pretty low-key baseball fan to not to love the Bulls just the way they are. The minor leagues are all about a fan-friendly and family-friendly atmosphere, a place where kids and parents and friends all reconnect on a nice warm day in sunny North Carolina.
To a deep baseball fan like my pal Barry, it's all so much icing on top of the baseball cake. And he's been afraid that the baseball experience has gotten buried inside a veritable Blue Monster of cheesy cream cheese frosting.
One thing got stuck in Barry's craw in particular. "You know," he told me during one pitcher change, "this really shows you what I'm talking about."
"When there was a pitching change for the visiting team in the old DAP, the home crowd would make this WHOOOP-whooo noise while the new pitcher warmed up," he complained into his beer. "We were known for it."
Well, I had a chance to get to last night's 4-1 victory over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. (A match that ran late enough into the night as to explain the paucity of stories 'round here today.)
Just as I predicted in yesterday's story, and as augmented by some commenters, the players on both sides were a bit more of a rag-tag collection of AA-level players and vets, those not quite beloved enough by their bosses in the Bronx or St. Pete to have earned a one-month all-you-can-eat at the Big Show.
And the crowd was small -- I haven't heard any announced numbers yet, but it couldn't have numbered over 3,000. No big corporate-sales groups; relatively few kids; no lines at the playpen.
It was probably one of the best baseball games I've ever been to.