DURM Aces: The Path to DURM Night
The path to success is rarely easy. Regardless of how ‘success’ is defined, it’s more than likely there will be setbacks, bumps in the road, and perhaps even moments of doubt along the way. It’s what an individual does in those moments of doubt that can define a person, and make the difference between becoming ‘successful,’ regardless of how it’s measured.
In the case of Blake Snell, there were definitely moments of doubt. Selected by the Tampa Bay Rays as the 52nd overall pick in 2011, the expectations were always high. Tall, hard-throwing left-handed starters are always at a premium, and as a high draft pick much was expected out of the Washington native.
The young southpaw didn’t disappoint in his early years, putting up good numbers in the Gulf Coast League the year he was drafted, and earning Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year honors in 2012. The 2013 season saw the highly-touted prospect take a step back though, as he went just 4-9 with a 4.27 ERA for Single-A Bowling Green.
“There were points when I stopped caring for a little while,” Snell said. “I thought I lost that drive – I was more just doing it to do it.”
It was around the same time of the 2011 draft that Gabriel Eng-Goetz, born and raised in Durham, kicked off his clothing company, RUNAWAY. The clothing line’s founder and creative director, Eng-Goetz was experiencing trials and tribulations on his path to success like Snell, albeit in an entirely different way.
“There have been several points where I was very close to giving it up, but that was mostly because I was younger and I was frustrated I wasn’t getting straight to the top,” he said. “But now I realize after five years that everything else takes time.”
The 2004 graduate of Jordan High School has seen the last five years as a learning experience, constantly absorbing new information about design, business, and everything else that comes with launching a business.
While Eng-Goetz was learning the ins-and-outs of getting a company off the ground, Snell was aiming to re-focus, and embark on a straight line to the major leagues.
“After that year (2013), when I thought that I lost that drive I just sat there and talked with my family,” Snell said. “And that’s when I dug deep and thought, ‘I’m a lot better than this.’ I had a major opportunity and chance in front of me, and now I’m here.”
“Here” is referring to his status as one of the game’s top prospects, the 12th-best prospect in Minor League Baseball according to Baseball America. The consensus top prospect in the Rays’ system was named both Baseball America’s and USA Today’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2015 after he went 15-4 with a 1.41 ERA across three levels, meeting the high expectations of the 2011 draft.
Coming off a prolific season, the 23-year-old opened the season in Durham, but was promoted to the Rays for a start at the end of April, where he would join his new teammates in New York City to take on the Yankees.
“I only pitched one game – I was with the team for one day, so it almost doesn’t feel like I was up there,” Snell said. “But pitching in New York, on a Saturday with 40-something thousand people watching and it was on national TV – that was fun.”
It was only fitting Snell’s big league debut came just shy of five years after he was drafted, as he took the mound at Yankee Stadium less than a month after Eng-Goetz saw a long-time goal become reality. RUNAWAY opened its storefront on Main St. in Downtown Durham in late-March, giving people a chance to see the brand in-person in a store of its own for the very first time.
It was in that very store that the two finally met in early-June, as Snell picked Eng-Goetz’s brain about his journey from nothing to a storefront on Main St., and Eng-Goetz asked about the journey from high school prospect to big league pitcher. It was also in that store where the two got a glimpse of the Bulls’ DURM Night jerseys, which the team will wear on Thursday, June 9.
In addition to the opening of the RUNAWAY store, Eng-Goetz and his team had another thing up their sleeve that had been in the works since the winter – a collaborative jersey design with the Durham Bulls.
What started as an innocuous tweet from RUNAWAY friend @ProfessorToon – suggesting the Bulls wear a uniform designed by the clothing line – was seen by the team’s social media department, and a plan was put in to place.
“When the Bulls reached out for that first meeting, I wasn’t exactly sure what they wanted to do,” Eng-Goetz said. “My goal was to design something that the Bulls would wear on field, even though I never said that explicitly. But as soon as the Bulls came in and sat down in that meeting, it was crazy to me because we were that much on the same page for the whole project.”
As the Bulls met with Eng-Goetz and RUNAWAY’s Communications and Media Director Justin Laidlaw (another Durham native), the two sides brainstormed how they could take their different and unique businesses and brands, and combine them for an unforgettable event.
“I was looking forward to making a jersey that carries this new flag for Durham, which is this hip/tech area, but also keeping in mind all those old Durham memories,” Eng-Goetz said. “The Bulls are a very old team, and for me it was a nostalgic thing to think about working with the Bulls.”
The end result was a uniform that ties together the Bulls, RUNAWAY and the City of Durham. The most striking characteristic of the uniform are its colors, as royal blue, gold and red are seen throughout to pay homage to Durham’s flag.
Highlighting the uniform is the jersey’s chest, where DURM is emblazoned across the front, beginning with the Bulls’ iconic ‘D’ logo. DURM is a term coined by RUNAWAY as an ode to the city’s hard-nosed history, and just above the letters on the chest are the seven stars of Durham, seen on the city’s flag.
The hat the players will wear is a variation of the Bulls’ existing hat, as the team’s block ‘D’ will be in red and trimmed in gold, while the seven stars of Durham will burst through the letter, instead of the team’s iconic snorting bulls. The uniforms final touch comes from the bottom, as the team will don blue, gold, and red socks as a final tribute to the city.
“As lifelong fans this is a dream opportunity,” Eng-Goetz said. “What better stage to showcase pride for our hometown than under the bright lights of Durham Bulls Athletic Park?”
Fans can buy tickets to DURM Night here. Game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off online, with all proceeds benefiting Durham Bulls Youth Athletic League.