Excellent Adventure Day # 58
Small Town, Great Baseball
Kinston was one of those places that, when I opened the Baseball Blue Book in 1986 and first dreamed about a minor league baseball tour I first thought of. Where is Kinston? I wondered. Is it really spelled that way or is it a typo? What’s it like to go to a game there?
The answer to the first question is Kinston sits in the center of what is known as the Coastal Plains region of North Carolina. It’s not far from Wilson or Greenville. It is spelled right. According to Wikipedia, the city was originally Kingston but dropped the g after the American Revolution to avoid the association with the King of England.
You can get great East Carolina Barbecue there, though I didn’t learn this until years later…and….it is a great place to watch baseball.
Grainger Stadium opened in 1949 so it was neither the oldest, nor the newest park in the Carolina League when we visited though it now has the distinction of being the oldest and its style with a big overhanging grandstand has much more in common with the parks of the 20s and 30s than it does with the parks that came later.
The Kinston Indians were in the midst of a run of talented teams that sent many players on to Cleveland in the 1990s and they came from behind that night to beat Salem, 3-2.
The weather was cool and clear for June in North Carolina so we’ve got some nice footage of the Salem Buccaneers taking BP in the afternoon sun. There were a bunch of interesting things to film and at the end of the night we won a dubious, if well deserved distinction and cashed in the next morning before leaving town.
The Kinston Indians played at Grainger Stadium from 1987 through 2011 and baseball in the town goes back to the 1920s but after the 2011 season the team moved to Zebulon, NC and took over the name of the Carolina Mudcats, which had been a Double-A franchise in the Southern League. The city was without minor league baseball for five seasons but in 2017 the Down East Wood Ducks became an expansion team in the Carolina League and settled back in at Grainger Stadium where they have been very well received.
Coming up tomorrow morning, I’ll have an interview on the Low Mileage Tour on 435 Voices podcast with North Johnson who was the General Manager of the Indians in 1991 and spent 17 years in Kinston.
Tomorrow we continue in the Carolina League and head north to suburban Washington, DC where we saw the Prince William Cannons host the Durham Bulls on a Thursday night.