DBAP/Durham - During the seventh-inning stretch of last night’s 12-8 slugfest between the Durham Bulls and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees at the DBAP (the Bulls scored eight to the winner’s twelve), a moving tranquility happened. There was a moment of silence for the immortal traditional musician from Deep Gap, N.C., Doc Watson, who died last week at age 89.
In a game in which I was numbed by 25 hits and 11 bases on balls from the two teams, the paralyzing cacophony was stopped for a moment of tribute to Watson, one of the greatest guitar pickers in American history (whether he was playing rockabilly or old-time mountain music).
As the Bulls were preparing to bat in the bottom of the seventh, nine Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (has there ever been a team with a forward slash and a hyphen in their name?) stood statue-like in their positions on the field, paying homage to Doc Watson, as if he were other men like FDR or MLK or Willie Mays or Roberto Clemente or whoever. I wondered how many of those players knew who Doc Watson was. When I was their age (I’m 45 now), I might not have known.
According to Bulls longtime PA announcer Tony Rigsbee, the Bulls have been playing Doc Watson’s instrumental version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch since the DBAP opened in 1995. Before 1995—in the old DAP—Watson’s version was played occasionally. Rigsbee told me: “When (former, longtime Bulls PA announcer) Bill Law announced it, he would say, ‘Let’s join our old friends Doc and Merle Watson,’ for the playing of this familiar song.” Rigsbee gave the veteran executive of the Bulls and Capitol Broadcasting, Peter Anlyan, credit for the original impetus to play Watson’s instrumental.
Durham Bulls director of marketing, Scott Carter, joined the organization during this past offseason. He was born and raised in California and he moved here from there. Rigsbee gives Carter credit for the moment of silence last night. Carter told me: “It made sense. Before I moved here I’d never heard Doc Watson’s version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame.’ I loved it. We wanted to pay homage to this North Carolina artist for his contribution to American music and this particular seventh-inning stretch in this ballpark for so many years.”
The difference between winning and losing in last night's game is easy to figure: The Bulls’ pitchers walked nine batters while the Yankees’ walked only two. The rest of the two team’s statistics are basically the same.
Last night’s loss was the beginning of an eight-game home stand for the Bulls. After losing 13 straight early in the season, Charlie Montoyo’s team has improved. They won more than they lost during their recent road trip. Overall, they’ve won 10 of their last 18 road games. They can smell .500. It’s going to be interesting to watch this club over the next three months to see what rabbits Montoyo can pull out of his hat to achieve contention in a division he’s won five years in a row. You can start to see the outlines of a contender, despite the Bull’s remaining eight games below .500. They are getting extra base hits now. Six weeks ago, they weren't.
A comment on tonight’s weather: The temperature measured 70 degrees at first-pitch at 7:09 p.m. At 8:20 it was 68 degrees. At 8:55 it was 66. At 9:49 it was 64. Throughout there was a consistent breeze swirling from the northeast. Longtime baseball goers know to wear long pants and long sleeves in these conditions, or else you will get cold. People who go to one or two baseball games a year will wear less—they judge based on the temperature they feel when they leave the house—and they will freeze and leave early. It happened tonight.
I sat behind home plate tonight, as always. A row in front of me were two of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s starting pitchers, Adam Warren and Ramon Ortiz, and a third pitcher I didn’t recognize. They were charting pitches with a radar gun and clipboards, a customary duty for pitchers that have no chance to enter a game. All three of these guys were wearing jeans and heavy long sleeve shirts. By the middle innings they were wearing jackets. They knew the deal. They’ve been sitting idle in bleachers, dugouts and bullpens their whole lives to date (Warren is 25, Oritz 39), waiting to pitch. Pitchers spend a lot of time waiting, trying to stay warm. If the forecast says low of 64, dress according to a dozen degrees lower. If tonight’s DBAP ticket-buyers had done the same, the DBAP concessions would have sold a good number more beers. Many people left by the fifth inning because they were cold.
Friday night’s starting matchup is not to be missed, Adam Warren vs. Chris Archer. Warren is one of the half dozen most successful pitchers in the history of UNC-Chapel Hill baseball. From New Bern, Warren is a warrior of UNC’s Mike Fox era of repeated trips to the College World Series. Archer is a young ace from Clayton who has a chance to go far in the big leagues. There are a couple of good matchups between now and then. But don’t miss Warren-Archer on Friday night. It could be one of the most intriguing matchups of the season at DBAP.
In a future installment I will discuss at length, with his participation, Bulls' manager Charlie Montoyo's dedication to classic salsa music from his native Puerto Rico. He listens to only the good stuff during his daily 5-mile runs around Durham. Doc Watson would have liked him.