Dear Diar E.,
Let’s address the elephant (and donkey) in the room: yes, I watched the debate. However, I will not be publicly endorsing a candidate. Until someone emerges from the Bull Moose Party, I will keep my political thoughts to myself. I did find it interesting though, that Trump wore a blue tie and Clinton wore a red dress. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Next, I renewed my cable plan this past week, and I decided to pay a little more for HBO, which means I now have access to HBO GO, too. Let me tell you, that thing is CRAZY. Now I can finally watch Hard Knocks. Heard it’s great.
Had some more appearances this past week, including a mascot game at the NC State women’s soccer game on Sunday evening. Good news? I didn’t embarrass myself too badly. Bad news? I tweaked my hamstring. Won’t put me out of commission entirely, but I won’t be participating in any mascot soccer games any time soon. Need to remember to stretch.
Finally, on to my weekly NFL picks. Last week was not so great, as I went 6-10. I’m guaranteeing at least a .500 performance this week though.
Dolphins @ Bengals: Bengals
Colts @ Jaguars: Colts
Titans @ Texans: Texans
Browns @ Redskins: Redskins
Seahawks @ Jets: Seahawks
Bills @ Patriots: Patriots
Panthers @ Falcons: Panthers
Raiders @ Ravens: Ravens
Lions @ Bears: Lions
Broncos @ Bucs: Broncos
Rams @ Cardinals: Cardinals
Saints @ Chargers: Chargers
Cowboys @ 49ers: Cowboys
Chiefs @ Steelers: Steelers
Giants @ Vikings: Vikings
-Wool E. out
On Friday afternoon the Tampa Bay Rays announced their 2016 Minor League award winners, with 1B Casey Gillaspie taking home Player of the Year honors, and RHP Brent Honeywell earning the Pitcher of the Year award. The Rays named RHP Austin Pruitt Durham’s MVP.
Gillaspie had a strong 2016 campaign, split between Double-A Montgomery and the Bulls. The 23-year-old first baseman combined to hit .284 with 18 homers and 64 RBI in just his second full season of professional baseball. The 20th overall pick in the 2014 draft out of Wichita St. was promoted to the Bulls in mid-July and went on to star for the team over the season’s final month and a half, hitting .307 with seven home runs and 23 RBI in 47 games. Over that span the switch-hitter posted a .389 on-base percentage, while his 22 extra-base hits were the third-most in the IL.
In his first season at the Triple-A level, Pruitt earned MVP honors after going 8-11 with a 3.76 ERA. The 27-year-old tied for first in the IL with 28 starts, ranked second with 149 strikeouts and fourth in innings pitched (162.2) and WHIP (1.19). The University of Houston product represented the Bulls at the Triple-A All-Star Game, and became the first Durham pitcher to earn the win in that contest after tossing a scoreless fifth inning.
Full List of Rays 2016 Minor League Awards Winners
Player of the Year – 1B Casey Gillaspie
Pitcher of the Year – RHP Brent Honeywell
Durham Bulls MVP – RHP Austin Pruitt
Montgomery Biscuits MVP – 1B/OF Jake Bauers
Charlotte Stone Crabs MVP – RHP Greg Harris
Bowling Green Hot Rods MVP – INF Michael Russell
Hudson Valley Renegades MVP – LHP Travis Ott
Princeton Rays MVP – OF Eleardo Cabrera
GCL Rays – OF Jesus Sanchez
Baserunner of the Year – OF Jake Fraley
Reliever of the Year – RHP Joe Serrapica
Defensive Player of the Year – C Nick Ciuffo
Dear Diar E.,
The offseason is in full swing, as the Minor League year came to an end Tuesday night when Scranton/Wilkes-Barre beat El Paso in the Triple-A National Championship Game. We here at the DBAP have been quiet for the last two weeks or so, after the fellas’ season ended back on Labor Day. While some people think I just disappear in the offseason, I’m actually a very busy bull – I do appearances, I sleep, I eat and I wreak havoc on the front office. A lot of times I’ll go cruising in my go kart, but I wasn’t allowed to this week (thanks gas crisis). I want to keep track of everything I do, so I think I’ll write in you once a week (plus it’s a nice way to express my feelings freely).
The last couple of weeks have been quiet. I took some ‘me’ time, grazing in a local park since the grounds crew won’t let me use the outfield. I don’t understand. We don’t have any more games this year, so why can’t they just let the grass grow and I can eat it? It seems stupid to me. Oh well.
I’ve also done quite a few appearances already, as I had seven(!!) this past weekend alone. People in the front office get annoyed when I’m asleep at my desk, but they just don’t understand being a celebrity.
Also, I’m a huge football fan. People don’t really know that about me, but I am. So I’m gonna start picking all the NFL games every week, just to see how I do.
Texans @ Patriots: Patriots
Redskins @ Giants: Giants
Cardinals @ Bills: Cardinals
Raiders @ Titans: Titans
Browns @ Dolphins: Dolphins
Ravens @ Jaguars: Jaguars
Lions @ Packers: Packers
Broncos @ Bengals: Bengals
Vikings @ Panthers: Panthers
Rams @ Bucs: Bucs
49ers @ Seahawks: Seahawks
Jets @ Chiefs: Jets
Chargers @ Colts: Colts
Steelers @ Eagles: Steelers
Bears @ Cowboys: Cowboys
Falcons @ Saints: Saints
Until next week Diar E.
The 2016 season was another memorable year in Durham Bulls baseball. From numerous sellouts to fun promotional nights to exciting on-field action, thank you fans for making this past season another fantastic experience.
Everyone knows bullpen guys are a little different. Our 2016 squad was no exception. Check out how our relief corps showed up to the DBAP.
Earlier this week, the Durham Bulls’ beloved Team Ambassador and long-time PA announcer Bill Law passed away at the age of 88. Bill meant a great deal to many people in the Triangle, including the Bulls’ front office. Here, members of Bulls’ organization share their thoughts on the team icon.
Ken Tanner, Star of the Game Host
I remember the days when Bill would come in the press box every night before the game and we would kid him about the Red Sox .Those sessions would expand out to include Bill’s tremendous love and knowledge of the game of baseball and great stories of the players and managers he’d been associated with over the years in the minor leagues as well as the majors .Good times, great stories, and Bill’s wonderful sense of fun and fair play. He will be missed greatly.
Morgan Weber, Manager of Corporate Partnerships
Bill was a good friend. He and I shared many conversations, a few tears, and a lot of laughs! One of my favorite Bill Law moments was after the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game Luncheon at Cameron Indoor. Once the luncheon was over, I walked over to Bill with my phone in my hand and said “You look so dapper today…we need to take a picture,” to which he replied, “A SELFIE??!?!?”
I look at him surprised and asked, “You know what a selfie is??”
He said, “Yeah. They FASCINATE me!”
So we took a selfie.
Scott Pose, Radio Broadcaster
I first knew of Bill as a visiting player when he was the PA announcer at the DBAP for the new Triple-A Bulls. His voice had this warm, inviting quality that made everyone feel like they were at home. Little did I know then, we would become friends. Baseball brought us together and I am forever grateful. Only the greatest game on the planet could do that. There are many outstanding people in baseball but Bill was at the top of the list. Not only was Bill warm and inviting as his voice suggested, he was so much more. The best way I can describe Bill is he was the epitome of class, he loved his family, the Bulls, the Rays and the Red Sox. We would tease Bill about his loyalty for what seemed to be the entire American League East, but he was entitled as the Bulls Ambassador. He was always sure to tell me he disliked the Yankees and all who played for them, but he highlighted somehow he was able to make a rare exception for me. He will be missed. All were lucky to have ever known Bill. I will never forget him.
Matt Sutor, Director of Communications
When I first met Bill I was amazed at how revered he was by those around him. But after three short seasons it became apparent why he was so beloved – he cared deeply about those he saw at the ballpark, and about the Durham Bulls.
Bill never failed to put a smile on my face. Whenever I saw him at the DBAP I made sure to go up to him, shake his hand, and ask how he was doing. His answer was always the same: “I’m doing alright.” At that point the conversation would pivot to me, as he’d ask how everything was going, if I was still having fun, and if Mike Birling was giving me too hard of a time. Bill had a way of making everyone he spoke to feel important, feel welcome and feel loved, and that’s what I’ll remember most about Bill Law.
Krista Boyd, Director of Marketing
Over the past five seasons, I’ve been blessed to work with the best of the best in baseball at the Bulls. Bill and I only officially worked one game together when he filled in on PA while Tony Riggsbee was off at Spring Training in 2012, but what an experience that game was. It was my first time running a show at the DBAP and Bill was kind enough to guide us through the process. Through his kind smile and encouragement he made me quickly feel a part of the Bulls family and for that I will be forever grateful.
Bryan Wilson, Director of Merchandising
Mr. Law was so much more than a friend to me, and many of the Bulls staff. He was a mentor, and a father figure to all of us. He loved the Bulls more than any of us, but he also taught us by example of what it meant to be a part of this organization. He taught me to love every second and never take this job for granted. He would come into the store almost weekly to say hi, have a conversation and ask me “Bryan, what do you have that I cannot live without?” We talked about baseball, life, family, or anything else that came up. Bill always asked about my kids, and frequently said how much he enjoyed seeing them growing up running around the park. But he also reminded me to spend as much time with them as possible because they grow up way too fast. Mr. Law, thank you. Thank you for the conversations, laughs, life lessons and friendship. We will all miss you dearly.
George Habel, Vice President
This is difficult to explain, but Bill’s voice was always a component of the ballpark to me. We have the signature brickwork and steel beams, and Bill’s voice reverberated throughout the structure. Our ballpark has a certain look, and because of Bill, it even has a sound. It truly met the criterion of “unique” – a Boston accent mellowed (or sweetened) by a lifetime spent in North Carolina. We will miss Mr. Law…deeply. I have not known a more loyal member of the staff. But I can still hear his voice at the ball yard.
Mike Birling, General Manager
I remember the first Bulls game I attended. I had just been hired late in the 1998 season with only a few games remaining. I knew the Durham Bulls were this iconic franchise, but didn’t know much about the incredible history at that time. The first time I heard Bill Law’s voice come over the PA system it stopped me in my tracks. It was so distinctive and so “historic.” You could just tell he was creating a relationship on a nightly basis with our fans from behind a mic.
Coming from a Single-A team where every inning we were doing on-field promotions and also had an on-field MC I knew that was something I wanted to bring to Durham. Well, Bill wasn’t the happiest person when I told him he would still do the announcing, but he would have a person on-field that would do the promotions. For those that knew Bill know he wasn’t afraid to say what was on his mind and he made it very clear to me that this wasn’t the smartest thing to be doing. I could tell our relationship was going to take some time to grow. Can’t say I blame him with some young kid coming in and trying to change the way the Durham Bulls were doing things. Eventually Bill understood what we were trying to accomplish and did everything possible to make the transition work.
One of the toughest moments of my career with the Bulls was transitioning Bill off the mic. He was so proud of his streak of doing every single game that was ever played at the DBAP. This team and this ballpark meant everything to him and he didn’t want the day to come where he wasn’t a part of that. Well that day finally came and he was heartbroken, but that is also the time that mine and Bill’s relationship got stronger. We transitioned Bill into the role of Team Ambassador and he just fell in love with the new role. He was so proud of taking on new projects or being the voice of the Bulls at many speaking engagements. It seemed to have given him a new life with the Bulls. Well, that life came to an end a few days ago. The Bulls family is heartbroken over that loss. You just don’t see people anymore with the passion and love that he had for the game of baseball and especially his Durham Bulls. There are so many memories of Bill that will last with me forever, but the most important thing I know is Bill is back behind the mic calling baseball games in a much better place than here at the DBAP.
Daniel Robertson has been a constant in the Durham Bulls’ lineup all season long. Watch how the 22-year-old infielder preps for gameday.
Jake Faria’s Triple-A debut was exactly what a top pitching prospect dreams of. The right-handed pitcher needed just 82 pitches to get through six scoreless innings, and allowed just two hits and one walk, while striking out six Lehigh Valley IronPigs batters.
Faria looked ready to cruise through Triple-A just like he had in High-A and Double-A last season.
As a 22-year-old in his fifth minor league season in 2015, Faria was expecting to take another step in his development.
“Last year I came into the season with a new changeup, some new delivery things,” he said.
That changeup helped carry him to a quick 10 wins in 12 games with High-A Charlotte, and he was promoted to Double-A Montgomery in the middle of the season.
“Early on in the season we had a ridiculously good pitching staff,” Faria said. “I think we just fed off of each other. It just made every one of us better. We put up a lot of runs, so every win was a team effort. There weren’t many 1-0 wins.”
Toward the end of his time with Charlotte, Faria recognized that he was racking up wins, but when he got to Montgomery he lost track of his total. Late in the season, he earned his 17th win of the year between the two levels, and the Minor League Baseball world took notice.
He finished a breakout 2015 with a 17-4 record and 1.92 ERA in just under 150 innings pitched. He also rang up 159 strikeouts for Charlotte and Montgomery, finishing with the sixth-most strikeouts in Minor League Baseball behind teammates Blake Snell and Jaime Schultz.
Coming into this season, he knew those marks would be hard to replicate.
“I’m not trying to repeat the exact same year, because that’s really tough,” Faria said. “You can’t do that every year. Just trying to build step by step off of every game. Trying to continue the process I’ve been doing the last few years and see where it takes me.”
After another half of a season with Montgomery, it took him to Triple-A and Durham. Faria noticed the big differences between the two highest levels of the minors in his first game.
“The first game I threw against (Phillies prospect) Jake Thompson, which is a huge name,” Faria said. “He’s really good and always had good numbers, so that was kind of a big deal.”
The addition of more former major-leaguers in opposing lineups was the biggest change to Faria. He recalled facing one player with major league service time in Double-A, and that had been a big deal. Now it’s an everyday occurrence.
“Even on our team you have J.P. (Arencibia), who has been in the big leagues for at least four years, you have Dana (Eveland) who has been in the big leagues for four or five years. Especially in games when you’re facing guys who have been in the big leagues, guys you used to watch on TV. Like, I want to be that guy and now you’re playing that guy,” he said.
Faria kept building off of his past success with 42 strikeouts through his first 38 Triple-A innings. But after the All-Star break, he got off track for two brief starts.
“In the Syracuse game I was throwing everything for strikes, but after a certain amount of hitters it was just too late,” he said. “I just kept doing what I did when I first got here — attacking hitters. I got away from my game plan a little bit, throwing certain pitches in certain counts, but once I got back to the basics I got back on track.”
After two rough outings, Faria bounced back with a quality start. He allowed just six runs over those three starts to wash away the memory of those two previous starts.
Faria said, “If I can get through the first inning I’m really comfortable, but once I get the first time through the lineup and get a really good look at their hitters, that’s when I’m really relaxed and settled in.”
Faria enjoys a 3-1 record at the DBAP with a 2.15 ERA, and said he appreciates that Bulls fans embrace and support the team so well in the stadium and even around the city. Recently, he was recognized by Double-A Southern League managers as having the best changeup in the league this season in a Baseball America survey.
With slightly more than a month in Triple-A under his belt, Faria has overcome his first hurdle at the highest level of the minor leagues. Now that he’s back on track, he is ready to continue his climb to the big leagues.
Dayron Varona defected from Cuba to chase his dream of playing in the big leagues. Now, just one step away, he knows there’s nothing that can stop him.
After the Bulls beat Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 8-4 last night, and Charlotte lost to Indianapolis 1-0, Durham now enters today tied for first place in the IL South with a 45-55 record. That’s right. Despite being 10 games under .500, the Bulls are tied for the top spot in their division. To celebrate, we’re going to take a look at some ‘fun’ facts regarding this ridiculous situation:
- The four teams in the IL South division hold the four worst records in the IL. Any team from any other division would be leading the IL South as of this morning.
- The IL South has had a complete turnaround from 2015, when the division became the first division in league history in which every team finished with a winning record. The Bulls and Knights tied for last in the division a season ago, finishing 74-70.
- 26 of Durham’s 44 remaining games come against the IL South. The Bulls are 26-22 against division foes this season, but just 6-11 against Norfolk, which holds the league’s worst record.
- The Bulls are hitting .232 as a team this season, which is 16 points lower than the team’s worst offensive season in its Triple-A history (.248 in 2014).
- Most importantly – NONE OF THIS MATTERS. The winner of the division will go to the Governors’ Cup playoffs regardless. So saddle up Bulls fans, the race to the playoffs has begun.