As another season comes to a close at the DBAP, we take time to look back at the highlights and accomplishments of the 2012 season. Despite missing their first post-season trip since 2006, the Bulls had many moments to celebrate along the course of the season. All-Star outfielder Leslie Anderson led the league in hitting for most of the year and Dane De La Rosa set a new career-high in saves.
Several superstars rolled through Durham. Matsui-Mania took over the DBAP when 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui joined the Bulls in June. Fans caught a glimpse of the 2008 American League Rookie Of the Year, Evan Longoria when he rejoined the team that was his last stop to "The Show."
The Bulls honored their past when they inducted former Durham skipper Bill Evers into the International League Hall of Fame with an on field ceremony on May 19th. Evers family celebrated with him as league President Randy Mobley presented him the "Curtain Call" trophy.
Here is a look back at the highlights and top moments of the 2012 season.
Opening Night - Anxious and excited, folks from all over the Triangle waited for April 5th to come all winter. Opening Night was finally upon them, to gather and watch the most famous franchise in Minor League Baseball. Determined to pull one out for the home team, the Bulls battled the Braves in a 12 inning, 4+ hour contest for their first win of the season treating fans with a walk-off win.
Dancing Grounds Crew - On select nights at the DBAP, fans were treated to a special performance after the sixth inning. Instead of the routine infield drag by the grounds crew, Bulls staff members took over the rakes and when they rounded second base would drop their drags and strut their stuff. From Tina Turner to One Direction, Bulls fans were treated to show stopping performances that brought down the house with their dancing skills.
Matsui Joins Team - The Durham Bulls became a household name in Japan when 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui joined the team on May 15th. After signing a contract with the Tampa Bay Rays, Matsui reported to Durham, where he played a grand total of 13 games with the Bulls. Godzilla made his presence known as he packed the stands with fans, wanting to catch a glimpse of the perennial All-Star. The DBAP erupted in cheers after Matsui hit a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning on May 21st, sending Durham to a 3-2 victory over the Charlotte Knights.
Dice K vs. Matsui - The stars aligned at the DBAP on May 17th. Just days into Matsui-mania at the DBAP, fellow countrymen, Daisuke Matsuzaka made a rehab start for the Pawtucket Red Sox. It wasn't just American's who were interested in the historic game, the Bulls game was carried internationally, airing on Japanese TV. Flash bulbs went off all over the DBAP the first time Matsui stepped in the box to face Dice-K.
Bill Evers Night - The original skipper of the Triple-A Durham Bulls, Bill Evers was honored with a pregame ceremony before the start of the May 19th, game. Evers became the first Triple-A Durham Bulls to be inducted into the International League Hall of fame. While Evers knew about the ceremony and the award, he was surprised to find out that the Durham Bulls officially retired his number.
Wool E's Birthday - From Wool E. Bull himself - "It was amazing to celebrate my birthday with Bulls fans and my fellow mascot buddies. Who can say they have 9,000 of their best friends at their birthday party. We had such a fun time with games on the field, music in the air and of course cake for the kids. Despite what the official record says (disregard asterisk), I won my first base race! In all serious, I received the most amazing birthday present a Bull could dream of (no, not a lifetime supply of grass), this year I was given a huge honor by the city of Durham. Mayor Bill Bell presented me with the key to the city. It is an incredible honor, though I am not quite sure what it unlocks yet."
80s Night - We went back in time to the land of shoulder pads and Devo as we turned back the clock for 80's night on June 7th. Each player received a customized classic 80's album, with their face superimposed on the cover. In addition, fans and staff dressed in their best outfits. Wool E. Bull even got into the spirit by transforming into a Rubik's Cube.
Chris Archer Makes Major League Debut - One of the most rewarding things about watching Durham Bulls baseball is seeing young players develop before your eyes. Clayton's own Chris Archer went from a 23 year old prospect to a major league player when he was called up to the Show on June 20th. Archer had a strong debut, making a total of two starts for the Tampa Bay Rays, striking out 14 major league hitters. Since returning from his first stint in "The Show," Chris Archer is 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA (3rd in the league) with 14 BB and 42 SO in 44.1 IP.
All Star Game - Durham shipped two players to Buffalo for the Triple-A Mid-Summer classic in July. Having one of the best years of his career, Leslie Anderson started in right field for the IL All-Stars and collected the only multi-hit game for the club. He was joined by Bulls closer Dane De La Rosa. De La Rosa added a scoreless inning with two strikeouts in the affair.
The Best Of Wool E. Bull - One of the newest and most adorable features at the DBAP this season has been Mini Wool E.'s. Wool E. Bull and his cute pals room around the field between innings, teasing umpires, toying with players and running around like they own the place. Wool E. Bull has made more friends this year than ever before.
Evan Longoria Rehabs with Bulls - Nearly four years after playing with the Bulls, Evan Longoria rejoined Durham for a rehab assignment in late July. The 2008 American League Rookie of the Year delighted fans at the DBAP.
Rehab Assignments -It was a busy season as eight Rays besides Evan Longoria made rehab appearances with the Bulls: Jeff Keppinger, Sam Fuld, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, Jose Lobaton, Luke Scott, Kyle Farnsworth and Jeff Niemann.
Olympic Medalists At The DBAP- On Thursday, August 23rd, fans welcomed Olympic medalists and Duke student-athletes Abby Johnston and Nick McCrory to the DBAP. The two divers threw out a synchronized ceremonial first pitches and signed autographs for fans during the game.
Six Game Winning Streak-5 Game Sweep of Norfolk/Sean Rodriguez Hits Bull - True to their form, the Bulls played hard through the very end. The team ended last homestand with a season-high six game winning streak. Durham swept their only five game series this season against the Tides, their first 5 game sweep since August of 2007. This was all capped off with a win on Sunday, August 26th, when Sean Rodriguez crushed a 2-run shot that kissed the side of the Snorting Bulls, lifting the team to victory.
Leslie Anderson Selected to Post Season All Star Squad - Leslie Anderson became the sixth Bulls outfielder and the first since 2009 to be named to the International League Postseason All-Star squad. Anderson will finish the season with career-highs in hits, doubles and home runs. He leads all Bulls in most offensive categories such as RBI and home runs.
The Bulls staff would like to thank each and everyone of you for coming out to the DBAP during the 2012 season and for helping make the Bulls the best team in Minor League Baseball!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.