Durham Bulls general manager Mike Birling feared that the team's moment in the sun last September when they hosted the Triple-A National Championship would be spoiled by the one element he could not control: weather.
Roughly three inches of rain fell on Durham Bulls Athletic Park during the nationally televised finale of the minor league season and diminished what Birling had hoped would be a sellout crowd. However Birling's fears appear to have been for naught, as Triple-A Baseball is turning to the Bulls for the second time in three years for one of its signature events. Durham announced today that it has been selected to host the Triple-A all-star game in 2014 for the first time in the event's 25-year-history.
"A year and a half ago, we had a similar press conference and we were awarded the Triple-A National Championship game. At that time, one of the things that I stressed was the importance of getting that game and the importance of the support we needed for that game, could allow us to get bigger and better things to come to the Triangle," Birling said at a press conference this morning in the team's home clubhouse, where jerseys of former Triple-A all-stars hung in every locker. "From the perspective of the (International and Pacific Coast) leagues, it was a tremendous event."
And it was the success of last year's Triple-A National Championship—both the game itself and events leading up to it—that convinced Triple-A officials to bring the all-star game to Durham next year. The game is scheduled for July 16 and will be televised on the MLB Network. It will be preceded by a fan festival, home run derby and other events that Birling says will appeal to both families and baseball enthusiasts.
"When the time came for the decision to be made where we would play the 2014 all-star game, Durham's name immediately went to the top of the list," International League president Randy Mobley said during the press conference.
Mobley went on to praise Durham's organization and execution of its plan last year as well as the events surrounding the game—which included a gala at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium in which men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski served as the keynote speaker. He said he expects a similar production next July.
"It's the whole package they bring," Mobley said of the Bulls. "From an administrative standpoint, it's easy to have confidence in them. I have every confidence that what they present will be more than acceptable. They'll put on a great show."
And a show is what Birling has in mind for the all-star game, which he describes as a five-day "celebration of minor league baseball and all of baseball" that will include a variety of celebrations in the days leading up to the game.
The highlight could prove to be the home run derby, as the team will have a year to brainstorm creative ways for players to take aim at the iconic bull that sits atop the left-field wall. "There is no other stadium in this country that has such an iconic home run target as the famous snorting bull."
Bulls director of marketing Scott Carter will play a key role in organizing the all-star festivities, the second event he has helped plan since joining the team just before last season.
"It's one of the reasons I came to work for the Bulls," he said, "because you get the opportunity to put on these kind of events. Some people work their entire careers in minor league baseball and never get to put on an all-star game. It's going to be exciting."