Daily Archives: September 17, 2011

A Season and Team Remembered: Images of the Kinston Indians Final Season

Saturday marked the final game in the long association of Kinston North Carolina and their advanced Single-A Carolina League team the Kinston Indians.  The K-Tribe as they were affectionately known was sold in a deal to replace the AA Southern League Carolina Mudcats who are moving to Pensacola Florida.  While it is unknown when, if or in what form professional baseball will return to this small Eastern North Carolina town.  Most people are hoping for another Single-A team to take up residence in Historic Grainger Stadium which received a major facelift at the expense of the city to demonstrate their commitment to keeping baseball a part of the town.  There are rumors and speculation but nothing official yet. The visit of both the President and Vice President of Minor League Baseball to the town this year gives me some measure of hope that they will bring a team to Kinston next year.

The K-Tribe gave their faithful at Historic Grainger Stadium a memorable final season advancing to the Mills Cup Championship series after winning the Southern Division of the Carolina League for the 11th time.  I have been following the team since my first tour at Camp LeJeune  in 1999 and have made periodic visits to see the Indians between then and my reassignment to the Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune last October.  This year I made sure that I attended as many games as I could knowing that it was the last season for a team that I had come to love.

As I began attending I met some wonderful people.  One gentleman, Rick Holder gave me some of his season tickets on games that he knew that he could not attend.  I came to know former Negro League and Carolina League pioneer Carl Long and his wife Ella, as well as my friends Toni and Jerry, Anna and Rocky, Lori, Cara and Jennifer.  There were the players that I was able to spend time with, the off field staff and the K-Tribe General Manager Benjamin Jones.  His predecessor in the job was Shari Massengale, the first female GM in the Minor Leagues.

The team allowed me to throw out the first pitch and when I was interviews and filmed for the Department of Defense sponsored Real Warriors campaign which features how military personnel deal with PTSD.  That was a special night.  I was also in Kinston shorty after Hurricane Irene struck, the town was hit hard and even Chief  Tom A. Hawk in right center field was damaged.

Granger Stadium is a special place. The grounds crew which has won 5 awards for best field in the league in the last 10 years may win yet another this year.  The people are good people and good fans.  Though the K-Tribe did not win a final Mills cup they have contributed much to the town and the town to them.

Early on I decided that I would attempt to chronicle as much of the season in photos as I could.  Since I took well over 1500 photos this year these are just a small portrait that I hope will help people remember this last season of K-Tribe Baseball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Cold Rain Fell: The last Night of Kinston Indians Baseball as K-Tribe Falls to Frederick 11-3

The Kinston Indians ended their 25 years in Kinston losing to the Frederick Keys on night that seemed more like early November than mid-September in Eastern North Carolina.  In a game that was delayed by rain an hour and 11 minutes at the outset which experienced a second delay in the 4th inning

It seemed that the K-Tribe never recovered their edge after their heartbreaking loss in Frederick Tuesday night in game two of the Carolina League “Mills Cup” Championship Series.  For the second strait night in the series ineffective pitching and critical fielding errors doomed the K-Tribe. The damage all was done in the 3rd inning when the Keys, down 2-0 found the range early and often.  Once again they used excellent hitting and aggressive base running taking advantage of every opportunity that they were given by the Indians.  The Keys had doubles by Dale Mollenhauer and Miguel Abreu and Manny Muchado had a 3 run home run which served as a coup de gras capping an 11 run 3rd inning in which 7 of the runs were scored with 2 outs.  In the inning the Indians committed 3 errors and had a wild pitch.

It was a sad end to what had been a magical final season for the K-Tribe.  The Indians become the Carolina Mudcats in 2012.  Many fans plan to continue to follow the team and make trips over to Zebulon to see “their” Mudcats next year.  Many are pessimistic about the possibility of a new team coming to Kinston next year though management is hopeful of something coming through. Kinston is the smallest city to have a Minor League Baseball team in the country with a baseball tradition that dates back over 100 years.  During the 25 years of their affiliation with the Cleveland Indians the K-Tribe won 5 Carolina League Championships and 11 Division titles.  The playing field has been named the best in the Carolina League 4 of the past 10 years. Numerous Major Leaguers including Jim Thome, C.C. Sabbathia, Manny Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Alex White, Grady Sizemore, Albert Belle, Matt Williams, Bartolo Colon, Marco Scutaro, Jhonny Peralta, Cliff Lee, Luke Scott, Fausto Carmona and Lonnie Chisenhall along with many more Indians have reached the Majors.  I expect that a number of the current K-Tribe players will follow in their illustrious footsteps.

One has to compliment the Orioles organization and the Frederick Keys.  They put together a talented team that played aggressive yet solid fundamental baseball.  A number of these young players will likely become outstanding Major League players.

I watched the game with the friends that I met this year and as we filtered out of the stadium we agreed to meet for dinner once a month.  Since we are all connected on Facebook this will be much easier than in the past.  Hopefully Kinston will land a Minor League Franchise next year.  I appreciate the people of the city and hope for both baseball and better economic times for it and them in the future.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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