KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) - Tuesday was the home opener for the Down East Wood Ducks and fans took to the stands of Grainger Stadium ready to watch nine innings of fun.
For the 2020 season, games were canceled due to the pandemic. In 2021, fans were allowed in the stadium at spaced out distances.
This year, everyone is taking a step closer to pre-pandemic life.
“Since the pandemic has gone down, you’ve got kids out here running the bases and all that kind of stuff,” said Wayne County native Jessie Jones. “It’s for your whole family.”
With the first pitch at 7:00 p.m., Wood Ducks fans fell right back into their routines.
“You get to interact with the guys and fist bump them,” said Jones. “They’ll talk to you and all that.”
For Wood Ducks super-fans like Jones and his friend, William Regenthal, getting to know the players fuels a passion project: collecting autographed copies of baseball cards.
“I got a Wood Duck jersey; I’ve got a bat. I’ve got their lineup card and it’s all hanging up on my wall,” shared Jones. “My room is like a memorial. It’s like a museum.”
Tuesday night, the meaning of baseball rounded third and closed in on home.
“We got to know Cody Freeman with the Wood Ducks last year. We got to be really close with him and my son got close with almost all the whole bullpen,” said Regenthal. “They’re just really nice, accessible people. It makes it a lot of fun for us.”
For the Regenthal’s, they’ll take a pass on peanuts and go straight for the hot dogs.
“[My son] was buying one of them hot dogs with my debit card last year, and I told him, ‘You know, he’s not buying you those hot dogs with his money.’ That’s dad’s money!” laughed Regenthal.
Although COVID restrictions have been lifted for the stadium, the Wood Ducks are going to keep one element of their pandemic modifications. The team will limit the amount of travel they do for their series. They’ll play all six games at home before journeying on to the next diamond.
The Wood Ducks lost to the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers Tuesday night with a final score of 2 to 7.
The team will have their next chance to best the Cannon Ballers Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. on their home field of Grainger Stadium.