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Home Field: Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham, NC

Durham Sports Commission

This article is a story about the Bulls and the bees. The Durham Bulls, the Tampa Bay Rays’ Triple-A affiliate, have been described by Forbes as “likely the single-most famous MiLB team in the world.” The Durham Bulls, who played their first game 120 years ago, certainly have been around for a while, but the team became well known internationally because of its lead role in one of the best all-time sports movies, “Bull Durham.”  

The club currently ranks among the most successful minor league franchises. On the field, the Durham Bulls were chosen as the best minor league team in 2021 by MLB.com’s experts and by baseball fans

Meanwhile, sustainability fans undoubtedly cheered when the franchise created a pollinator garden at its stadium, Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP). In partnership with BASF Agricultural Solutions North America and Durham-based semiconductor company Cree|Wolfspeed, the Bulls opened this pollination sanctuary in 2020. “We hope partnerships like these can continue to shed light on the vital role pollinators play in our food supply chain and ecosystem,” explained Paul Rea, senior vice president of BASF Agricultural Solutions North America, when the garden was announced. 

Photo Courtesy milb

DBAP’s pollination garden contains a selection of annual and perennial pollinator plants. They increase the availability of food sources for the local population of pollinators, like honeybees and monarch butterflies, benefiting the beetles, moths, and birds inhabiting the area. 

“We know the importance of building these spaces in urban settings and are delighted to play a role in the sustainability of our local environment and in the education of the community,” stated Mike Birling, Durham Bulls vice president of baseball operations. DBAP’s garden joins several other pollination gardens and beehives in the Durham area. 

These gardens play a pivotal role in the global food supply chain because over a third of the world’s food crops rely on pollination. Promoting it also benefits the Earth’s ecosystem since wild flowering plants create oxygen that decreases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, inhibits soil erosion, purifies water, and helps to return moisture to the air following rains.

Photo Courtesy Nikki Son

This garden is not the Bulls’ sole food chain-related initiative. The club has been bullish on combating food waste too. Inside the ballpark, a bright neon sign proclaims: “We divert food waste from our kitchens to composting plants versus landfills.” The team typically composts between 10,000–14,000 pounds of food waste each month because, as Dave Levey, the Bulls’ food and beverage director, said, “it is the right thing to do.” Furthermore, the popcorn bags bear a message stating they are made of eco-friendly, 100% biodegradable Eco Select paper.

The Durham Bulls also teamed with The North Carolina Central University Department of Athletics as well as  Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina for an outreach program that delivered lunches for youths at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Durham and Orange Counties. In 2020, this six-week program provided more than 2,000 lunches and saved staff around three hours daily on meal preparation, allowing them to spend more time with the children. 

Additionally, the team was a central participant in GoTriangle’s Bike to the Ballpark events. This civic-minded game promotion presented goodies and prizes to those who biked to the game and provided free bike-locking stations and bicycle inspections.

“We love encouraging people to get out and bike more,” Nick Bavin, the Bulls’ then-sponsorship account executive, explained in 2017. “And it helps us out if people choose to use public transportation or bikes a little more, and it helps them out as well to get them out of their cars.”

Photo Courtesy GoTriangle

The Bulls run numerous community outreach programs aimed at youngsters. “Our flagship community programs focus on improving the lives of children in our community,” stated the Durham Bulls’ Birling. Over 500 boys and girls between the ages of 5–12 participate in the Durham Bulls Youth Athletic League, which offers free recreational baseball to Durham’s  youngest community members. 

The Durham Bulls’ coed Explorer Post 50 program gives teens ages 14–20 a hands-on educational experience in TV broadcasting. Participants work the live television broadcasts of all Bulls games at DBAP. The team and Durham’s Couch Oil Company are also partners in a program that annually awards $1,000 scholarships to six deserving students accepted into a community or four-year college and who live in the 16 Durham area counties. 

It’s great that the Bulls are so well known and that they won 2021’s Triple-A championship. However, it is the things the team does, from nurturing kids’ interests to helping butterflies survive, that positively impact its hometown community.

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