It's about the fans, like Martie Byron, a nursing assistant who bakes cakes for Bull players on their birthdays. "I never worry when we're behind on cake nights," says Byron, whose Bulls are 12-6 on birthdays in '93. "By the seventh inning that sugar rush kicks in, and we start hitting the ball harder. Just the other night we came back from three runs down after one of my blueberry streusel swirls."
It's about history. Earlier this summer, on the evening of June 17, the Bulls had a ceremony for their first-ever retirement of a uniform number. Joe Morgan, class of '63, watched proudly as number 18 was unveiled behind the rightfield wall. Never mind that Morgan wore number 8.
And it's about Bull Durham, the film that grossed more than $50 million and accelerated the team's exodus from its aging home. The movie transformed the Bulls into a diva and D.A.P. into the dinner theater left behind in the wake of a star. "It's definitely the end of an era," says Miles Wolff, who owned the team from 1980 to '90. "It was an old ballpark in a bad neighborhood—a blueprint for bankruptcy. But we slapped a coat of paint on it, and the city of Durham led a minor league renaissance. Now nobody wants to leave."
The fans' concerns about the impending move were summed up by Crash Davis, namesake of one of the movie's main characters and an infielder who played for the Bulls in the late 1940s. In a letter to the editor last year in the Herald-Sun, Davis wrote, "Sometimes people are in a hurry to modernize and they end up destroying the heart and soul of a city in the name of progress."
You can't help but wonder if the Bulls in their new ballpark will continue to be the feel-good hit of the summer in Durham. But with 15 home games left at D.A.P, there might be one last chance to get a souvenir. Pete Bock's son Jeff was drafted by the Braves in June and is now pitching in the rookie league at Idaho Falls, a level below Durham. What if Jeff were to be called up for the final game in the Dap? What if Jeff, after cleaning his great-granddad out of his spikes, goes to work on the mound where his father once preached? Just a thought.