Formerly the head coach of Appalachian State, Chris Pollard had the chance to coach against Duke at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Now with Pollard leading the Blue Devils, the athletic department has ensured he will get to coach there more than once a season.
Duke has signed a two-year renewal deal with DBAP, home of the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
DBAP, located in downtown Durham, opened in 1995 and has a capacity of 10,000. It is known as one of the nicest minor league parks in the nation. The Blue Devils will play ACC home games at the DBAP, with the remaining home games taking place at Jack Coombs Field. Duke is the only university that calls DBAP home.
This past spring, Pollard coached the Appalachian State Mountaineers to a 6-3 win against Duke at DBAP. Pollard was hired as the Blue Devil’s head coach in June.
“I think that DBAP gives us a great platform to market our product,” Pollard said. “It’s hard to believe it’s 15 years old because it looks brand new.”
Pollard also believes DBAP is a “tremendous” marketing asset because of its prime location in Durham, near a number of Duke graduates as well as the University’s campus. Kevin White, Director of Athletics and Vice President, feels the same way.
“This continuing partnership is terrific for both Duke University and the Durham community,” White said in a press release. “Duke and Durham have been together as one for a long time, and this contract extension only enhances that existing relationship.”
Pollard also said that it will be a big help in the recruiting process.
“Great high school players are really intrigued by the idea of playing in nice stadiums,” Pollard said. “They also like playing in front of big crowds and in good atmospheres.”
Nick Hendrix, a freshman pitcher from Arlington, Texas, knows what it is like to play in a minor league stadium. Back at Martin High School, his team went to the state championships and played at Dell Diamond, home of the Round Rock Express, the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. When the Duke recruiting staff told him about the partnership with DBAP, he said it peaked his interest.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” Hendrix said. “Most college fields are nice, but Durham Bulls Athletic Park is legitimate.”
Other than the marketing values, Pollard said DBAP plays much differently than Coombs Field. In his four months at Duke, Pollard has seen Coombs as a “pitcher’s park,” whereas he sees DBAP as “a little bit more hitter-friendly.” His gameplan will change depending on where his team is playing, he said.
“At Coombs, you have to be willing to play more small-ball. You have to be willing to bunt, scratch runs and understand that because you’re not going to give up a lot of home runs, that there are going to be more low scoring ball games,” Pollard said. “Downtown, there are going to be times where you wait and play for a big inning because there are going to be more balls leaving the ballpark.”
Pollard says the renewed contract has the opportunity to be a win-win for both sides. Durham Bulls general manager Mike Birling agrees.
“It is good for the Bulls because it brings in fans that may not necessarily come out to Bulls games,” Birling said in an Oct. 30 email to The Chronicle. “We feel once they come and experience our ballpark they will want to come back to watch the Bulls. Also, for the Duke students they can see how easy it is for them to get to the ballpark and hopefully attend Bulls games.”
Both Birling and Pollard appreciate the positive relationship between the Blue Devils and the Durham Bulls staff.
“They’re such a recognized commodity in Durham that when we partner with those guys it helps increase our visibility. We’re glad to have the relationship. We’re looking forward to playing there for the next couple of years,” Pollard said. “We feel like it’s an opportunity for us to grow Duke baseball.”