Another title: ‘Awesome’
If it’s late summer, the Durham Bulls must be winning.
Monday night, with a 4-2 victory over the visiting Gwinnett Braves, the Bulls clinched the International League’s South Division title.
The first-place finish has a familiar feel. This is the seventh time the Bulls have won the division title in the eight seasons Charlie Montoyo has managed the team. It’s the 12th title in the 17 seasons the team has played in the International League.
You might think success would be old-hat. But listen to Montoyo, praised by switch-hitter Ray Olmedo as the person who “does everything for us.”
Montoyo said winning titles never gets old.
“No, no, because it’s not that easy,” he said after the Braves game. “It’s not that easy. I don’t take it for granted at all.”
It hasn’t been easy – the team struggled offensively several times this season, often to be bailed out by a particularly strong pitching staff.
It has been a heady season for the Bulls, their fans and their hometown.
For starters, they were coming off a season in which they won their fourth Governor’s Cup by shutting out the North Division’s Pawtucket Red Sox. They narrowly lost their bid for their second Triple-A National Championship, losing 2-1 to the Omaha Storm Chasers,
During the off-season, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, already a premier facility, underwent a $20 million renovation that brought a major-league quality playing field, much improved lighting, more concession stands and a top-flight PNC Triangle Club seating area.
On April 26, just a few weeks into the new season, two Bulls pitchers combined for a no-hitter over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It was the Bulls third no-hitter as a Triple-A club.
Then, in July, the Bulls and Durham hosted for the first time the Triple-A All-Star game, a chance to show off the renovated park and the renaissance of the surrounding downtown.
That event was all the sweeter because Montoyo managed the International League to a 7-3 win over the Pacific Coast League.
This month, fans got to see American League Rookie of the Year and former Bulls’ star Wil Myers come to bat on rehab assignment from the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Bulls will open their quest for post-season titles on Sept. 3, at the ballpark of the West Division champions (likely the Columbus Clippers). They’ll come to Durham for the third game of the series on Sept. 5.
With all they have had to celebrate already, fans could be forgiven for feverish dreams of another Governor’s Cup and, perhaps, another minor-league championship.
It would certainly cap a marvelous year. But for now, we should savor the division title, joining Olmedo in concluding, “It feels so awesome.”