Down East Wood Ducks
- Location: Kinston, NC
- League: Carolina League 2017-2019; Low-A East 2021; Carolina League 2022-
- Affiliation: Texas Rangers 2017-present
- Ballpark: Grainger Stadium 2017-present (moving 2024)
The Down East Wood Ducks, of the Single-A Carolina League and briefly in Low-A East, are the only professional sports team east of Interstate 95 in North Carolina - resuming that history after a five-year gap that started in 2012. The Texas Rangers farmhands play their home games at Grainger Stadium in Kinston, NC.
The geographic distinction will soon be lost again. On May 23, 2023, the Texas Rangers and Diamond Baseball Holdings announced the sale of the Ducks and also the Hickory Crawdads to DBH. Meanwhile, multiple sources in Spartanburg, SC, reported that city will build a new stadium to be ready in 2025 and that the Wood Ducks will populate it. The next day, DBH confirmed the Ducks will move to Spartanburg.
Entertainment giant Endeavor created DBH in 2021 specifically to acquire Professional Development League teams in the wake of - and under new rules created by - MLB's Minor League Reorganization. Endeavor later sold DBH to Silver Lake Partners. Those rules reportedly include caps of 24 teams total and nine in any given level. Former owners Jake Kerr and Jeff Mooney remain with the operation.
The Rangers bought these two of their farm teams about a year apart in the mid-2010s - the franchise that would become the Wood Ducks after the 2016 campaign and the 'Dads the next off-season.
Their purchase of the High Desert Mavericks of the California League - who soon became the Ducks - was the Rangers' Plan B to escape windy Adelanto, CA. Plan A had been to buy and move the Carolina League's Wilmington Blue Rocks, but that sales contract was contingent on the Binghamton Mets moving to Wilmington - which fell through.
The back-up was to move two clubs from the California to the Carolina - two because leagues who play games every day over a series of days need an even number of teams. The Rangers enlisted the Houston Astros to help, with the Rangers buying the Mavs and the Astros buying the Bakersfield Blaze. The necessary technical process followed: The Cali contracted those franchises, the Carolina expanded by two, and its new franchises were placed in Kinston and Fayetteville, NC - although the latter played two seasons elsewhere while a new stadium was built for the now Fayetteville Woodpeckers. This technically means the Ducks and Woodpeckers are 2017 Carolina League expansion franchises - and that the Mavericks and the Blaze are defunct.
The reason for this Machiavellian maneuvering was the Mavs' ballpark, Stater Bros. Stadium. The windiest in the minors, it was known for killing budding pitching careers. The Astros were similarly afflicted, parenting the Lancaster JetHawks in a similar playpen known as The Hangar. Bakersfield's Sam Lynn Ballpark was fraught with its own - but dissimilar - problems, so Lancaster remained in the league, under a different parent, until it was contracted in MLB's 2021 Minor League Reorganization.
Kinston's stadium was available because it had lost its longtime Carolina League club in 2012. The Kinston Indians moved to Zebulon, NC, as that city's Double-A Carolina Mudcats moved to Pensacola, FL. The K-Tribe took over the Mudcats' identity and continue as such today.
The Down East name, announced in September 2016, created some local grumbling; Kinston is near but not in Down East, the larger coastal plains area whose name was used to increase the club's appeal. Five nickname choices from a "Name the Team" contest were also announced that month, with the whole moniker announced November 2nd. The also-rans were the longtime pre-Indians Kinston baseball name Eagles along with HamHawks, Hogzillas and Shaggers. The Down East Wood Ducks' mascot? DEWD, naturally - pronounced like "dude".
The city having spent seven figures renovating Grainger, the breaking of the lease will be a better pill.
The Ducks play Copa de la Diversion Hispanic engagement campaign games as Avocados Luchadores de Down East ("Down East Fighting Avocados").
|Lost in 1st round
|Lost League Finals
|Justin Jacobs, Guilder Rodriguez
|Nick Janssen, Ruben Sosa