Baseball and Kinston: the city’s longtime relationship with America’s favorite pastime

KINSTON, NC (WNCT)- 9 On Your Side has covered the return of baseball from the very beginning. Now, about a month after the first game we take a look at the impact the team has on Kinston and the entire region. It’s the story of Kinston’s longtime relationship with baseball, on the field and in your wallets.

This season isn’t the first time people have played professional baseball at Grainger Stadium. For 25 years the Kinston Indians called Grainger Stadium place home. To fully understand the impact that the Wood Ducks will have, you have to go back a little bit. You have to understand the impact the Indians had. You also have to understand what baseball means to Kinston.

“Baseball is the one that makes things happen in Kinston right now,” longtime baseball fan Donald Speight said.

Another longtime fan, Doug Craig said,  “Greenville has ECU, Jacksonville has the military base, and Kinston’s got baseball.”

Kinston and baseball go hand in hand.

“Just like basketball, professional basketball players come from Kinston, baseball is the same way,” Speight said.

Kinston loves baseball game and Grainger Stadium.

“It’s enjoyment,” Speight said. “It really boosts the spirit, it gives them something to do, it gives them something to do, and when baseball was gone, Kinston was dead.”

Enjoyment and entertainment at a time when Kinston needs it most.

“We lost a lot of the manufacturing plants, we lost other things, but we kept professional baseball,” Craig said.

Speight said, “All the industrials gone, everything else, Dupont all the other factories stuff gone, baseball is the only thing Kinston really has.”

That was the story years ago when the Indians were in town. Baseball meant pride, it meant fun, and it also meant money. So fast forward to today, the Wood Ducks era and you’ll find a management team that knows exactly how much impact they have on this community.

“Our operating budget per year is over a million dollars so if we can spend that money within the market, we know what kind of economic impact that will have,” Wood Ducks General Manager Wade Howell said.

That’s why the team contracts locally as much as possible.

“We do, the majority of the games,” Olivia’s owner Joe Colomaio said. “I think it’s an economic shot in the arm to this area, and it’s really great having the Wood Ducks here.”

A local vendor serves all the team meals an idea the GM calls a no brainer.

“It’s kind of putting our money where our mouth is as well. You know that we’re trying to spend locally and support as many local businesses as we can,” Howell said.

So while it’s hard to tell exactly how much impact the wood ducks will have, it’s clear they’re in the ballpark somewhere. Locals are confident this team will deliver in more ways than one.

Craig said, “I think it’s the fact that we lost it, and now we’ve got it back, and we’re going to cherish it and take care of it.”

The Wood Ducks consider themselves a piece of the puzzle, the GM tells 9 On Your Side, in no form or fashion are they the only organization that is going to help Kinston’s development.

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