Monday marked the return of professional baseball to Grainger Stadium, as the Down East Wood Ducks (High A; Carolina League) played their home opener.
The Texas Rangers-owned Wood Ducks are one of two teams, along with the Buies Creek Astros, to join the Carolina League this season as part of the circuit’s realignment with the California League. The home debut of the new franchise brought an anticipation of its own, particularly given its significance for fans in Kinston, who have been without professional baseball for several years.
Grainger Stadium’s last franchise before the Wood Ducks was the Kinston Indians (High A; Carolina League), who relocated from the city after the 2011 season. That created a years-long absence of professional baseball that ended on Monday, when fans turned out in solid numbers, as the Wood Ducks’ home opener drew a reported crowd of 4,267 spectators.
Those fans were eager for the Wood Ducks’ arrival, and have high expectations for the return of Minor League Baseball to Kinston. More from JDNews.com:
The Wood Ducks, fresh off a strong start to the season — winning three of four on the road against the Salem Red Sox — came home to a raucous crowd, with long lines forming at least two hours before the game’s start.
It’s the excitement and the atmosphere which brought us here,” Seven Springs resident Tim Coble said. “The Kinston Indians were a big asset to the community and I hope the Wood Ducks do the same.”
Danny Rice, national director of Woodmen of the World, said the environment surrounding Grainger Stadium was nothing short of electric.
“I’ve been around Kinston for a long time and this is the most excitement I’ve seen around baseball in a long time,” Rice said. “With so many other great things going on in Kinston, like the shops downtown, the Water Park and restaurants, baseball provides another great complement to the city.”
On the field, the Wood Ducks pulled out a victory, defeating the Winston-Salem Dash 4-3 in a 10-inning contest.