by Matthew Taylor
The Durham Bulls have announced that Rick Dempsey will appear at the team's July 3rd game to sign autographs and throw out the first pitch.
Dempsey in Durham? It doesn't make sense on the face of it. The Bulls are affiliated with the Devil Rays; the Mudhens are affiliated with the Tigers. Check out the sponsor, though, and the picture becomes more clear.
It's a shrewd move by MASN to strengthen its ties to the North Carolina market. The Birds were the nearest Major League Baseball team until the Nats started playing ball in D.C., and O's games are regularly televised in the state.
Since MASN broadcasts both the O's and the Nationals, it doesn't matter which organization gets top billing at Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP). However, the O's have more retired players with name recognition than do the Nats, and fans in North Carolina already have a history with the Birds.
If you haven't been to a game at the DBAP, it's well worth the drive. Having Rick Dempsey there is an added bonus. Time for a road trip.
"JULY 3RD CELEBRATION FEATURES FORMER MVP
Don't miss your chance to meet 1983 World Series MVP Rick Dempsey at the July 3rd game between the Durham Bulls and Toledo Mudhens presented by MASN. Before tossing out the ceremonial first pitch, Dempsey will host an autograph and photo session with from 6pm-6:45pm on the main concourse. Also during the game, the Bulls will wear special edition Red, White and Blue jerseys that will be auctioned off to benefit Meals on Wheels. Get your tickets here."
UPDATE: Turns out that MASN is actually fighting with Time Warner over channel position in North Carolina. The team - and perhaps more accurately, the network - needs all the positive publicity it can get, according to the News & Observer.
In an e-mail, Time Warner spokeswoman Melissa Buscher said that the cable provider believed Orioles and Nationals games were "of little interest" to its customers in North Carolina.
"MASN has insisted on carriage on our basic tier, which would result in almost all of our customers having to pay for a service which very few have any interest in," Buscher said.
Orioles games had been available in the Triangle for more than two decades until MASN obtained the baseball rights to this market from FSN South this season.
"When MASN pulled the rights to these games from Fox Sports Net in 2006, we received virtually no calls from customers," Buscher said.