Fans young and old got the chance to take in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in a new way on Saturday.
Instead of sitting in the stands taking in a ball game, the fans were able to get on the diamond and see the view many of their favorite players get the chance to see. The All-Star Fan Fest kicked off a week of events at the park leading up to Wednesday’s All-Star Game. It also allowed fans to get a up-close look at the facilities and even take on an animated Billy Hamilton in a race to steal a base.
As the gates opened for fans at 11 a.m., many were waiting to sign waivers to participate on the on-field activities like taking a swing at batting practice and throwing out a pitch.
For longtime fans like Bobby and Betty Clayton of Durham, getting the chance to see the park in a way they’ve never seen it before was a big draw.
The two have been ticket holders for a few years now, but being able to walk up through the clubhouse and look out over the field was good experience for them.
“We’re diehard Bulls fans,” Betty Clayton said. “Whether they win or lose, we’re right here with them.”
The Bulls play a special role in the Clayton family because every year their kids come up to visit for a game and bring the grandkids along as well.
“It’s time to relax, and get your mind off of things,” Bobby Clayton said.
Being able to take in the space from a different view helped them place themselves in the cleats of some of their favorite players.
“It was good to come up through the clubhouse,” Betty Clayton said. “It’s a good perspective of what they see.”
One of the main spectacles for the day was an animated Billy Hamilton stealing a base. Those willing took the challenge of racing the animation, which was the stand-in for the real player. The goal was to beat Hamilton’s animated self. Hamilton is one of the fastest base stealers in the league — doing so in just under three seconds.
One of the challengers, Darren Bland came to the stadium with is mother, Christina Anglin. Bland enjoys playing baseball and thought it was exciting to be able to see the park from the point of view of the players. Anglin agreed.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said.
When it came to racing the animation, Bland didn’t quite make it, but he came in at a solid 4.8 seconds.
Anglin said they’re planning to attend the All-Star game events next week, so Saturday was just the start.
For other families, coming out to the ballpark was just about exploring something they all enjoy.
Julie and Tom Moore came out to the ballpark with their son Bill. They said they were curious to see what was going on during the Fan Fest and have been to a few games at the ballpark. Not only do they enjoy the game of baseball, but they also said the food keeps them coming back.