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'Back to normal again.' More than 600 days later, Durham Bulls return home to DBAP

Posted May 11, 2021 5:14 a.m. EDT
Updated May 11, 2021 10:57 p.m. EDT

— The Durham Bulls' home opener on Tuesday was a relief for fans and folks looking for a return to normal for one of the most beloved summertime activities in the Triangle.

It's been 607 days since the Bulls played a regular season game at the DBAP, as team officials try to make everything as fun as possible while battling COVID-19 restrictions.

"I wish I could say that fans are going to come back here and everything's going to be like it was 606 days ago, but it's not going to be that way," said Bulls Vice President of Baseball Operations Mike Birling. "We're not going to be able to do some of the promotions we've been able to do just because of limitations, but we're still going to try to create that experience."

The DBAP has hosted numerous games for Duke, but this will be the first Bulls game since 2019. About 2,800 fans are expected to attend Tuesday's game. Spectators will still have to wear a mask.

"Now we get to see a live ball game and the energy is just so different," said Karrie Mathues. "It just feels like things are resuming back to normal. It's just nice to see people happy and ready to enjoy themselves. It's been a long haul."

Fans found QR codes on the backs of seats that they could scan to access a food and drink menu on their phones.

The Bulls, who are off to an impressive 5-1 start to the season, lost to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp 4-3 on Tuesday night.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen threw out the first pitch.

Cohen said she was grateful the Durham Bulls was recognizing the hard work of health care workers.

"I am so honored the Durham Bulls asked me to throw out the first pitch on the first game," she said. "I see the light at the end of this tunnel and when we can do outdoor things like this, and get together, it sort of brings back that sense of normalcy."

Fans were also able to get a COVID-19 vaccine at the ballpark during Tuesday's home opener.

"I just hope that people get vaccinated so we can have even more events into the future. I hope this night is just the start of more things we can do," said Cohen.

Right next to the stadium, WRAL debuted its new Durham newsroom on Tuesday. The newsroom has a news ticker, TVs and a mural painted by Durham-based artist Candy Carver.

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