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At Home With the Durham Bulls
07/31/2008 10:00 AM ET
The Minor League Baseball landscape is endlessly diverse and encompasses everything from rookie league clubs nestled in mountainous rural areas to Triple-A teams located in the heart of major urban centers. Accordingly, each club must develop marketing and promotional strategies that resonate with its unique fan base. Each week, profiles a Minor League club to spotlight just how interesting and varied the world of professional baseball can be.

Today we speak with Matt DeMargel, director of media relations for the Durham Bulls (Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays). Thanks in part to their prominent role in the 1988 baseball classic Bull Durham, the Bulls are one of the most widely recognized franchises in all of Minor League Baseball. How would you characterize your team's fan base? Has it grown or changed in recent years?

MD: Our fan base is primarily young families who enjoy coming to a game for not only baseball, but affordable family entertainment as well. What type of marketing strategies do the fans respond to?

MD: We've had great success with blast emails through the company we contract with. We also make a nice preseason publication explaining ticket plans, groups, picnics, etc. Has your team staged any notable promotions in recent years? Any that just didn't work?

MD: I think our promotions with Time Warner Cable, where we bring out Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network characters five weekends per year, have been successful. I try to erase the ones that didn't work from my memory. How has the internet affected the way your team is run?

MD: It's been tremendous. Fans can purchase their tickets online and print them at home, making it very easy to get into a Bulls game. Does your concession stand serve any regional specialties or otherwise remarkable items?

At a Glance: Durham Bulls

First season: The current International League incarnation of the club played its first season in 1998. The history of professional baseball in Durham dates back to 1902.

Affiliation: Tampa Bay Rays (1998-present)

Stadium: Durham Bulls Athletic Park (1995-present)

League Championships: 1924-25, 1929, 1930, 1940-41 (Piedmont League) 1957, 1965, 1967 (Carolina League), 2002-03 (International League)

City Population: Approximately 209,000

Notable Durham Alumni:

  • Bob Boone
  • Julio Franco
  • Greg Luzinski
  • Joe Morgan

People who've called Durham home:

  • Rick Ferrell (Hall of Fame catcher)
  • Branford Marsalis (musician)
  • Christopher "Play" Martin (of hip-hop duo Kid 'n Play)
  • Rodney Rogers (former NBA player)

MD: We serve North Carolina barbecue, courtesy of Dillards BBQ. What type of merchandise sells best at the team store? Are there any unique items available for purchase?

MD: We sell all types of merchandise, but our best sellers are caps and T-shirts. This year, we are offering jerseys with the customers' names and numbers on the back. It's been very popular. How large a role does your mascot play, both at the stadium and within the community?

MD: Wool E. Bull does around 250-300 community appearances a year and is active at all the games with five between-inning promos and an autograph/picture session in the store. Minor League stadiums often vary greatly from one another. What are the positives of playing in your facility? Any drawbacks?

MD: We have wonderful sight lines and a cozy atmosphere in our seating bowl. We also feature eight areas for picnics, a playground for kids, a 32-foot "Blue Monster" wall in left field that you can walk on top of, and the famous snorting bull. The only real drawback we hear from players is the lighting. What are some of your favorite on-field moments since you've been with the team?

MD: My favorite moment was when we won the 2002 Governors' Cup Title at home. Also exciting was Clay Aiken's visit to sing the anthem when he was on American Idol and Cam Ward and Erik Cole of the Carolina Hurricanes bringing the Stanley Cup on the field after they won it in 2006.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.