I knew the 2017 Durham Bulls squad would be special from Opening Day.
It’s tough with minor league teams because players tend to travel through a revolving door between the major and minor leagues. Others get traded. And Durham was not immune to roster shuffling. In fact, the Bulls fielded a fairly young, but talented roster of players; compiling 86 wins. The playoffs came and the team faced some adversity in both series, with opponents winning games and threatening to do so in others. Not to sound cliché, but this Bulls team stuck to the plan and stuck with each other. Whether it was stellar pitching, a clutch defensive play by a fielder or a key hit on the ball. All en route to two series wins and the organization's fifth Governor's Cup in 20 seasons. It took a team effort to get this far and it took just that once more in the Triple-A National Championship Game on Tuesday night. Facing an early 3-1 deficit against the Memphis Redbirds, Kean Wong delivered a grand slam to make it 5-3 Durham. From there, defense was the key as Xavier Cedeno, Brent Honeywell and Diego Castillo combined to pitch lights out - along with several outstanding defensive fielding plays - to seal the deal on the Bulls' second Triple-A National Championship in franchise history.
As a born and bred Durhamite, I've followed the Durham Bulls organization for quite some time, seeing both triumphs and tribulations. I've also been to many a game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park and have seen it grow throughout the years. But of all the seasons I've witnessed, there was just something about this 2017 campaign. “Special” doesn’t quite describe it. The product on the field was great. The record crowds, enthusiastic. But even better? The Durham Bulls are the best team in Triple-A baseball. Again. That is something to cherish for a lifetime.
Despite the typical ebbs and flows of the season there was something truly magical about the guys on this team. They exhibited an amazing chemistry with each other throughout the season. An undeniable sense of brotherhood. Win or lose.
I guess you can say it all worked out.