by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats are doing a little outsourcing.
Don't worry. They're not taking any jobs out of the country.
But the club has sold its broadcast rights to Play-by-Play Sports Properties, LLC, of which veteran play-by-play man Patrick Kinas is president, and will also be picking up another radio station on its network.
Kinas (pictured), joined by company chairman Joe Bourdow and Mudcats general manager Joe Kremer, made the announcement at a press conference in the home clubhouse at the park.
The main aspect that will affect listeners is the addition of WDWG-FM 98.5 out of Rocky Mount as a co-flagship with Raleigh's WDOX 570.
"As far as I know, this is the only minor-league team in the country that has agreed to license its broadcast," Kinas said. "The bottom line is we're all about the success of the Mudcats. What we bring to the table is that we'll bring the Mudcats back to where they were a few years ago coverage-wise, and the bottom line is getting more people to this great stadium and watching the Reds' players here.
"We've essentially quadrupled our coverage range. You can drive basically an hour and a half on I-95 and not lose our signal. That's about 2/3 of a game, if you're going the speed limit. Last year, you couldn't even hear our games in our ballpark (without tuning in to Kinas' 0.1-watt in-house FM broadcast.)"
Kinas will be going into his 12th season behind the microphone for the Mudcats. He is also the play-by-play voice for N.C. State women's basketball, and a TV play-by-play broadcaster for East Carolina football and men's basketball.
Bourdow, who has been with Kinas in the booth on more than a dozen occasions since 2003, is retiring as president of Valpak Direct Marketing Services.
"The radio coverage is going to be much wider than it has been since 2003," said Bourdow, who added that Mudcats flyers will appear in the Valpak mailings in Raleigh. "If you're a Mudcats fan you're going to be able to hear it on the radio in 2010."
Kremer said he's confident the larger broadcast will help the Mudcats increase their fan base.
"The Mudcats are very excited about this endeavor," Kremer said. "Patrick has been with us for a number of years, and we're excited he's back doing play-by-play. To the general fan base, this really isn't going to be any kind of hiccup at all."
Kremer said the club, which drew about 260,000 fans last season, had slower ticket sales in 2009 but that things are looking up.
"Actually, we're up from this time last year," Kremer said."Compared to a lot of teams around Minor League Baseball we did very well. It has a lot to do with the market we're in. Raleigh probably has not suffered as much as a lot of areas of the country.
"This year, things have gone very well. A lot of people are encouraged by what's starting to happen. A lot of people who have been with us in the past and maybe backed off last year are back with us. So at this point in time, we're actually a little bit up renewal-wise and new contract-wise."
Kremer said the club's new affiliation with the Cincinnati Reds last season after a stint with the Florida Marlins has begun to pay off.
"When we had the exhibition game last season, we were amazed at how many Reds hats and T-shirts came through the door," Kremer said. "I would bet about 60 percent of the people who came through the door already owned something. That was more big-league loyalty than we had seen with the Rockies, Marlins or Pirates. We were very encouraged. We had heard there was a large group of Reds fans in the area, and there are a lot of transplants here from that area.
"We had a nice team the first half last year, and then things sort of fell apart before they came back together toward the end. We think we're going to be competitive again this year. The Reds are committed to trying to make sure that we do have a good team. I think the Red fan base is here."
The 2010 season will be the Mudcats' 20th in Zebulon, and the club will have a variety of promotions through the season, Kremer said.
"There's a lot of brainstorming going on," Kremer said. "There are a lot of memories. The last full homestand will be dedicated to the 20th anniversary. We'll lead up to it by highlighting former players and that sort of thing, picking that All-20 year team and those kinds of promotions. We'll have a logo.
"I think a lot of people, when we came to Zebulon, North Carolina, 20 years ago, didn't think we'd still be here. Just think of how many professional sports teams have come through this market - basketball, football, soccer - and are not here anymore. A lot of people thought 'that team out there' would never make it."
The Mudcats will open on the road April 8 against the Birmingham Barons, then play their home opener April 14 at Five County Stadium against the Montgomery Biscuits.