by Mike Potter
The Cleveland Indians are coming to Wake county.
Not permanently of course, but for an exhibition game against their new Carolina League affiliates, the Carolina Mudcats.
The game will be on April 3 at 2 p.m. at Five County Stadium, with all ticket packages including an additional ticket
In addition, the Indians and Mudcats agreed to an extension of the Player Development Contract that will keep the affiliation through the 2014 season.
“We couldn’t be more excited about our new affiliation with the Carolina Mudcats,” Ross Atkins, Indians vice-president for player development, said in a press release. “This will be an incredible addition to the Cleveland Indians player development system as we are adding a Triple-A caliber ballpark and facility in a major metropolitan area while remaining in what we feel is one of the best developmental leagues in professional baseball.”
The Carolina League franchise, replacing the original Southern League franchise that had been in Zebulon since 1991 until Steve Bryant sold it and it moved to Pensacola, Fla., had been in Kinston with a Cleveland affiliation since 1987 and won five Mills Cup championships during the stretch.
“It was a real consideration,” Bryant said of the Indians’ stability and success in Kinston. “One of the fortunate things about having this facility and being in our location is that it’s very well known by all the scouts and the teams. They go back and say ‘I was in Five County Stadium, and not only does it have great ice cream but it’s got good this and that.’ We’ve enjoyed the attention — every time we’ve wanted to change affiliations there has never been a shortage of Major League teams that would really like to be here. They like the weather, they like the history of the Carolina League … High-A and Double-A really separate the wheat from the chaff.”
The exhibition will mark the seventh time a big-league club has played an exhibition game in Zebulon. The Pittsburgh Pirates (1992, ’94, ’96), Seattle Mariners (’97), Florida Marlins (’03) and Cincinnati Reds (’08) have all played games in at Five County Stadium.