Bulls put on opening night with plenty to celebrate
Durham natives Marvin and Bobbie Wheeler settled into their seats Monday at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park for opening day, an event the couple have attended every year since 1981.
“We’re very excited,” Bobbie said. “(There is) a lot of anticipating to get back to see the game and the atmosphere and the crowds and all that.”
Bobbie, 80, grew up on Mangum Street — where part of the movie “Bull Durham” was filmed — and attended her first Bulls game when she was 3 years old.
“My mother wouldn’t let my father go unless he took me,” Bobbie said.
The Wheelers’ wait was worth it Monday — a crowd of 8,035 saw the Bulls score twice in the ninth inning and claim a 2-1 victory over the Gwinnett Braves.
Durham starter Jake Odorizzi pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out eight in his debut at the DBAP.
“It’s a great place to play,” Odorizzi said. “The stadium is awesome, and the crowd was really into the game. When you’re pitching and the crowd is that into the game, it really gets you going.”
There wasn’t much to cheer about early on — the Bulls were held to two singles through eight innings — but the fans did give a standing ovation to N.C. Highway Patrol trooper Mike Potts, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch along with his 4-year-old son Ethan.
Potts, who pitched for the Bulls in 1992, had been shot four times during a routine traffic stop on Feb. 18. He threw to Durham pitcher and Clayton native Chris Archer.
“It feels great to be back on a ball field again,” Potts said. “This is (Ethan’s) first ballgame he’s been to, and it’s a special one.”
Matt West, who was Potts’ pitching coach with the Bulls and managed the team from 1994-95, was also pleased to be on hand for opening day.
“The game never leaves you,” West said. “It doesn’t matter what side of the field you’re on. It’s such a great game, and it’s such a great thing to be a part of.”