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Carolina notes: Mudcats keep rolling
Club enjoying success, less travel playing in new league
06/13/2012 10:00 AM ET
The Mudcats have seen attendance levels remain steady at Five County Stadium.
The Mudcats have seen attendance levels remain steady at Five County Stadium. (Carolina Mudcats)
The Carolina Mudcats remain alive, and the song remains the same in many ways. They've got the same name, ballpark, colors and owner.

But there are a few big differences. The Mudcats are now playing in the Class A Advanced Carolina League rather than the Double-A Southern League. Plus, they're affiliated with the Indians instead of the Reds.

Everything started with some ownership moves. The Southern League was moving into Pensacola, and that team's ownership bought the Double-A Mudcats, moved the team and turned them into the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Steve Bryant was Carolina's owner last year and he purchased Kinston, who played in the Carolina League and moved that team and its affiliation with the Indians into Zebulon and made them the Mudcats.

The bottom line -- Kinston basically became the Mudcats, a team that's been in existence since 1992.

"In terms of the record books, we're considered a brand new franchise," said Darren Headrick, the team's new director of broadcasting and media relations. "The staff here is the staff that was here as a Double-A affiliation. Everything is basically the same -- it's just a new league and new affiliation."

The Mudcats again have red and black and are wearing the same uniforms. They're still in Zebulon, just east of Raleigh. But the move to the Carolina League is one that truly made sense for this franchise.

The biggest positive from the change involves travel. The Mudcats were the team located farthest east in the Southern League -- so their closest bus ride was seven hours to Knoxville.

"Our travel was horrendous," Carolina general manager Joe Kremer said. "We had about 14 [or] 15,000 miles a year on the bus. The Southern League just moved away from us."

But the Carolina League is much different. Carolina can get to Winston-Salem in just two hours, Myrtle Beach in about three hours and Lynchburg in three to four hours. Kremer said the Mudcats will probably have between 8,000 and 9,000 travel miles in 2012, a big difference.

Kremer said the attendance has been about the same this year as last, and they haven't seen much trouble with putting out a team that's in a different league.

"We've fit in this league," Kremer said. "The fans have taken to it very well. I kind of wish we'd done it a long time ago. I like this league."

Headrick also said that the close proximity to other teams should give the Mudcats a chance to come up with rivalries that simply couldn't grow in the Southern League. If the rivalries do take shape, the Mudcats would be able to get both fan bases in the ballpark -- something that never could have happened before.

"Overall, I think it's been a great decision on both sides," Headrick said. "We've really enjoyed being in this league."

In brief

All-Star Bundy: Frederick's Dylan Bundy was picked for the All-Star Game at Winston-Salem on June 17 despite having made just three appearances for the Keys. Rated as the No. 7 prospect by MLB.com, the 19-year-old right-hander has a 1.00 ERA through 11 starts between Delmarva and Frederick.

Home skipper: Winston-Salem manager Tommy Thompson's team has the best record in the Carolina League (39-24) through Monday's games. Thompson will guide the Carolina League team in Tuesday's All-Star contest versus the California League at his park in Winston-Salem when the Dash host the annual contest at BB&T Ballpark.

Happy anniversary: Myrtle Beach and Kinston set a Carolina League record last June 12 for the longest game ever played (23 innings). And when Frederick beat Myrtle Beach, 1-0, Monday night, that game went 13 innings and ended early Tuesday morning, June 12, the anniversary of the marathon.

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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