Baseball returns to Kinston with Wood Ducks home opener

KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Baseball is back in Kinston.

After a five-season absence, Minor League Baseball will be played at Grainger Stadium for the first time since September 15, 2011, when the Kinston Indians still played in the stadium.

The Down East Wood Ducks started their season Thursday and will have their home opener against the Winston-Salem Dash at 7 p.m.

Community members say after the Indians left in 2012, the city felt like it was missing something.

Kinston native Tim Chase has fond memories of going to Indians games growing up.

“When I was a little boy, my uncle used to drive from Jacksonville to Kinston to pick me up to take me over to Grainger to watch a ball game,” said Chase. “And those are the kind of memories that build Kinston and taking the pride and team back in Kinston, it’s so nice so that more memories can be built like that,”

City officials said, with the return of a baseball franchise, they expect to see economic spikes in restaurants, hotels, and tourism to the city. They also said, in previous years of having a team, 60 percent of fans in attendance were from outside Lenoir County.

King Barbecue will cater all the team’s post-game meals, which means extra money at a time when they need it most.

“It helps up get back on our feet financially,” said Joseph Hargitt, with the restaurant. “I mean, it’s a big help to us.”

The city wasn’t the only driving factor behind getting the team back, there had to be an interest from a major league team to sponsor the Wood Ducks.

“You know we looked for a minor league team for five years, and we got really fortunate with the Texas Rangers to come and get back in the Carolina League,” said Bill Ellis, Director of Parks and Recreation for Kinston. He said the players can’t wait to start and create a sense of pride back in the community.

The Wood Ducks also have a whole summer long promotional schedule from fireworks every Friday to Taco Tuesdays. There are also new concession stands, more parking and food trucks on certain days of the week.

The Wood Ducks said they expect a sellout at the game.

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