Who better to celebrate winning the International League’s Governors’ Cup than with a governor.
That’s what the Durham Bulls did on Wednesday as North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper traveled to Durham to celebrate their championship season.
“When you think of the Durham Bulls, you think of this great city,” Cooper said. “The Durham Bulls are iconic. They’re known across the country. I thought it was appropriate that we come together to celebrate this national championship. We do it for our schools. Unfortunately, because of the nature of minor league baseball with players dispersed all over the place after the season that we couldn’t have them all here. But I think it was important to come together and say ‘Thank you,’ to the players and to the organization.”
Cooper ended his remarks by exhorting the Bulls to go out and win it again next season.
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“As governor of this state, I want to say congratulations on the success of the Durham Bulls and congratulations on winning this second national championship and let’s go get’em again next year,” Cooper said. “Go, Bulls.”
Bulls general manager Mike Birling announced that the team has extended its player development contract with the Tampa Bay Rays until 2020. The team has been affiliated with the Rays since jumping to Triple-A in 1998 after a long span as the Atlanta Braves’ Class A affiliate.
“This was the 20th season we’ve partnered with the Rays,” Birling said. “In those 20 years, we’ve won 13 [International League] South Division championships. We made the Governors’ Cup finals 11 times, including winning five times with two national championships. Our player development contract was set to expire in 2018 but it’s being extended two more years and we’re very excited.
“Over the last two decades the Rays have provided us with great players, managers and coaches who have led us to unparalleled success on the field, and who also represent us with class in the community. We look forward to continuing this special affiliation.”
Durham Mayor Bill Bell also spoke during the celebration.
“Everybody has something to be proud about in their city and one of the things we’re proud about is that the Durham Bulls call Durham their home,” Bell said. “But it so much more than baseball when you come to the Durham Bulls’ park. We’ve had the occasion to celebrate many championships around the area, baseball, basketball, high schools.”
Bell said he wished there could have been a ticker-tape parade for the Bulls.
“We’ve got to figure out how we can do that,” Bell said.
Other members of the Durham City Council and the Board of County Commissioners were present at the reception that was held in the PNC Club at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
It’s been about two months since the Bulls won the IL championship and then topped it off with a Triple-A national title. The Bulls claimed their fifth Governors’ Cup and second Triple-A national title.
The Bulls defeated the Pacific Coast League champion Memphis Redbirds, 5-3, on Sept. 19 at PNC Field in Moosic, Pennsylvania, outside nearby Scranton. They defeated Memphis in the 2009 Triple-A title game.
“The Bulls provided such great entertainment during the great season they had,” Cooper said.
Cooper went on to say that the Bulls were an important part of the economic recruiting toolkit both Durham and the state use when trying to attract businesses to the Triangle.
“When we’re out recruiting businesses to come to North Carolina, one of the things they look at is quality of life,” Cooper said. “And Durham Bulls baseball is a family experience. It’s a great atmosphere with food and fun and fellowship. It’s the kind of experience that goes beyond the game of baseball and this organization has been able to provide that for this city. It is a special recruiting tool we have.”