CAROLINA MUDCATS EXPERIENCE
(click on photos for larger view)
Our home team, the Winston-Salem Dash, were playing the Carolina Mudcats in Zebulon, NC and we decided to take a road trip and watch them play on July 18, 2012. It was clear but hot when we gassed up my Toyota for the 2-hour trip to Five County Stadium which is east of Raleigh. It was a day game starting at noon so we left about 9:00 a.m. and arrived just a little past 11:00 a.m. Perfect timing! We were both dressed in Dash gear and I had on my bright red Bolt shirt and Bolt Hat and Phil had on his purple Dash shirt and hat signed by all the Carolina League All Stars. No doubt who we were rooting for!
The first thing you see as you near the stadium from the highway is the Mudcats’ water tower which looks like a huge baseball with the Mudcats logo. Very cute! We pulled into the vast parking lot which was not paved and paid our $5.00 which gets you a free playbill. Whoopee!
We had a nice chat with the ticket ladies while trying to figure out what seats we wanted – the most important feature being in the shade. Apparently, there isn’t much, but the first 5 rows were under the upper section and so afforded a place out of the direct sun. When our lady found out we were Dash fans, she jokingly almost didn’t sell us tickets! Yeah, right.
They needed all the sales they could get on this weekday day game. Let’s just say the crowd was sparse, as most games at this time would be. There were a bunch of kids’ groups there and they seemed to enjoy cheering on the Mudcats even if they didn’t really know the game.
We spoke with another employee about the stadium and learned it was about 20 years old, but had undergone a ton of renovation and updating in the late 90’s and beyond so now it was quite a nice stadium seemingly in the middle of nowhere. However, one of their sponsors’ signs boasted that a Wal-Mart was only one mile down the road and so civilization is nearby.
As you can see from the photos, the seats are a bright orange like their logo which has a catfish in it, an unusual choice of a mascot, but minor leagues are known for some strange mascots! They did have a guy in a Mudcat suit who was known as Muddy, of course. He played in some of the games and tossed out T-shirts once. In the fifth inning he signs autographs and after the game you can get photos with him (as I did). Our first stop inside was the Team Store where I purchased a Mudcats pin for my hat.
The theme in the ballpark concession area was fishing. I guess no surprise there. Bait Shop was the name we saw a lot among others. I was scoping out the food places and noticed that “Catfish Sandwich” was on the menu. Yes, they assured me it was really catfish too. I declined. I found another stand that sold BBQ, more to my liking.
I spoke with Bev White, a wonderful lady at the Info Booth and she saw the many baseball pins on my hat and said she and her husband, one of the ushers, traveled around to many of the stadiums also. I soon found out they will be at the Dash game next week and so hopefully she will find us to say hello.
We had some conversations with our usher, Frank, also, so I would have to say the employees we spoke with were quite friendly. Our seats were great: in the shade and the concourse apparently acts like a wind tunnel and we had a boisterous breeze cool us off. We were so close to the Dash players on deck, we could see just how big or small they really were. I said Hi to a few including pitching coach Gary Ward. I hope they appreciate that there were some fans there for them.
There were two scoreboards, one of which posted the pitch velocity, but no pitch count or strikeout tally. However, that was not a big deal although we do enjoy those new amenities at the Dash ballpark. The entertainment though was definitely not as quite as enthusiastic and enjoyable as the Dash and some other places. They did have a few games, but much of the between inning stuff was advertisements and announcements on their Jumbotron which was more a Mini-tron. (It was quite small compared to most. Perhaps it shows up better at night.) It was okay, but maybe a little boring. No dancing girls or even dogs. I guess there’s not much you can do with a catfish.
The game was exciting and included errors, great plays, lousy plays, pitching both good and bad, lots of runs and even homers. For a short time, the mother of a Dash pitcher sat behind us and was cheering on her son. Unfortunately, he was not having a good day on the mound. She was visiting him and following the team around the area. Another Dash groupie like us.
Apparently, for the home team, a siren sounds with a home run and they shoot off fireworks for multiple runs with a homer. Unfortunately, we heard those a lot. Going into the last inning, the Dash were down 11-4. They did make a great offensive rally in the top of the 9th inning with 5 runs, but still fell short and lost 11-9. Ah well. This is baseball and you have to learn to accept disappointment. Can’t win ‘em all!
We headed home about 3:20 p.m. and hit some hard rain for a short time, but then it cleared off and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way home. I give this experience 4 ½ stars.