More than just a game: The Durham Bulls give back

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By Faith Inman

In the Triangle, home to many sports teams that bask in the national spotlight, lives the Durham Bulls Baseball Club. Made famous by the popular movie Bull Durham, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays hosts more than 100 baseball games every summer. People love coming to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, designed by the architect who drew plans for Camden Yards.

Celebrities such as Jason Michael Carroll, Magic Johnson, Kevin Costner and Bill Cosby, have all visited the ballpark over the years. It requires a lot of work to bring in such VIPs. Everything that takes place while the season is going on is a product of the off-season. There are many yearlong tasks that have to be completed by the Bulls organization. This leaves a limited amount of time and space for them to focus on things other than baseball.

One thing fans may not know, is that the front office works to give back to the community every chance they get.

According to Bulls General Manager, Mike Birling, they do not begin each year with a set number of community service projects. “It has, and always will be, the mission of the Durham Bulls to use our influence and platform to help as many as people as we can,” said Birling. “It is the Triangle community who has supported us and made us one of the most famous Minor League Baseball teams, so we need to give back if we can.”

With the help of their mascot, Wool E. Bull, the Bulls are involved in over 400 projects a year. Habitat for Humanity, Strike Out Cancer and Project Homeless are some of the major ventures the organization focuses on.

Mascot Coordinator, Nicholas Tennant, says that one of his favorite things involves visiting the Children’s Hospital each month.
“The other thing that the Bulls are involved in is Habitat for Humanity. Every off-season we help build a new home in Durham,” said Tennant. He also explained that Wool E. Bull remains a key resource when it comes to reaching out to young kids. “We have him go to schools and teach kids that reading is fun,” he said.

It is apparent that the Birling and Tennant are both passionate about the Bulls’ community projects. “I would love to start a school program where we focus on healthy habits, reading, being a good citizen, or being drug free,” Tennant said.

Kids are a major priority to the Bulls organization. Birling explained that the Durham Bulls Youth Athletic League means the most to him. “These kids are located in some of the worst parts of Durham. We are able to keep them off the streets and give them an alternative to some of the traps they can fall into,” he said.

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