Down East Wood Ducks
The Down East Wood Ducks are a Minor League Baseball team of the Carolina League and the owned-and-operated Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Texas Rangers. They are located in Kinston, North Carolina, and are named for the local colorful waterfowl. Established in 2017, the team plays its home games at Grainger Stadium, which opened in 1949 and holds 4,100 fans.
|Down East Wood Ducks|
Founded in 2017
Kinston, North Carolina
|Current||Class A-Advanced (2017–present)|
|Minor league affiliations|
|League||Carolina League (2017–present)|
|Major league affiliations|
|Current||Texas Rangers (2017–present)|
|Minor league titles|
|League titles (1)||2017|
|Division titles (1)||2017|
|First half titles (1)||2019|
|Second half titles (1)||2017|
|Nickname||Down East Wood Ducks (2017–present)|
|Colors||Emerald, black, orange, gold, tan, white|
|Ballpark||Grainger Stadium (2017–present)|
|Texas Rangers/Rangers Kinston, LLC|
|General Manager||Wade Howell|
|Media||960 AM WRNS|
The Rangers signed a 12-year contract with the city to provide a team to play at Grainger Stadium beginning with the 2017 season. Through 2019, the Wood Ducks have played in 418 regular season games and compiled a win–loss record of 208–210. Down East has reached the postseason on two occasions. They have won one division title and one league championship. Their lone Carolina League title was won in 2017. The team has an overall postseason record of 4–3.
Kinston has hosted farm clubs for eleven different major league franchises and one minor league club in its history. Professional baseball in Kinston dates back to a 1908 squad in the Eastern Carolina League.
Kinston's Grainger Stadium hosted Carolina League baseball every season from 1962 to 2011, bar a three-season gap in the mid-1970s. But in late 2010, Carolina Mudcats owner Steve Bryant announced his purchase of the Kinston Indians franchise to replace his Southern League club in Zebulon for 2012. League travel rules combined with the gradual shift of other franchises further south and west had made a Southern League franchise in eastern North Carolina untenable, and a Pensacola, Florida-based ownership group purchased the club to move to a new stadium there for 2012, arranging Bryant's deal to replace them with a Carolina League club under the same branding at the same time. The Indians' move left Kinston without affiliated professional baseball for the first time since 1977.
Meanwhile, there were reports as early as 2008 that two Class A-Advanced franchises could eventually move from the California League to the Carolina League, most likely the Bakersfield Blaze and High Desert Mavericks. After the Indians' departure, Kinston became an obvious destination; by 2013, rumors suggested strongly that one club would be earmarked for Kinston in any California–Carolina shift. In July 2015, the Texas Rangers signed a tentative lease agreement with the city of Kinston should a franchise become available, but the Rangers needed a move partner before Minor League Baseball would permit a switch. Such a partner emerged in April 2016 when the Houston Astros, affiliated with the California League's Lancaster JetHawks only through the end of that season, began discussions with Fayetteville, North Carolina, about siting their affiliate at a new stadium.
During the 2016 season, the Astros and Rangers worked to secure ownership of the Bakersfield and High Desert franchises to prepare for relocation. On August 22, the Rangers announced that they would indeed site an owned-and-operated High-A affiliate in Kinston for the 2017 season. The Astros would eventually announce their own stadium deal in Fayetteville, but with no suitable facility available until the 2019 season, the Astros temporarily placed their club at Campbell University as the Buies Creek Astros. Both clubs officially entered the Carolina League as expansion franchises, with their predecessor California League franchises terminated rather than relocated.
The new ownership group, Rangers Kinston, LLC, filed a trademark application for the name Wood Ducks on August 15, 2016. One week later, on August 22, the ownership group announced that the Rangers were bringing a team to Kinston and that there would be a naming contest for the fans. On September 16, the team announced the finalists in the contest: Down East Eagles, Down East HamHawks, Down East Hogzillas, Down East Shaggers, and Down East Wood Ducks. At first, the names drew negative reaction from fans who were upset that the team would not be known by the town name, that Kinston was not part of "Down East" North Carolina, and that some of the names were demeaning. This backlash later subsided as the community grew to embrace the moniker. On November 2, the team announced that the new name would be the name that they trademarked on August 15, Down East Wood Ducks, without naming a winning fan. A similar situation happened when Kinston joined the Virginia League in 1925. The owners of that club decided that none of the submitted names in a name the team contest were satisfactory and picked a name of their own choosing, the Eagles.
During the Wood Ducks' inaugural season in 2017, they were crowned co-champions of the Carolina League by defeating the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Down East and the Lynchburg Hillcats were declared co-champions as a result of the playoffs being called off because of Hurricane Irma.
The 2019 Wood Ducks won the first half of the season with a 50–20 record, but lost to the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, 3–2, in the South Division finals. Corey Ragsdale was selected for the league's Manager of the Year Award.
|Record||Win %||League||Division||GB||Record||Win %||Result|
|2017||62–77||.446||9th||4th||12||2–0||1.000||Won Second Half Southern Division title|
Won Southern Division Title vs Myrtle Beach Pelicans, 2–0
Declared Carolina League co-champions with Lynchburg Hillcats
|2019||87–52||.626||1st||1st||—||2–3||.400||Won First Half Southern Division title|
Lost Southern Division Title vs Fayetteville Woodpeckers, 3–2
|Totals||208–210||.498||—||—||—||4–3||.571||1 League title, 1 Division title, 2 Half Division titles||—|
The Down East Wood Ducks play their home games at Grainger Stadium, located at 400 East Grainger Avenue in Kinston. The original structure was built by architect John J. Rowland in 1949 at a cost of $170,000 inclusive of everything except the land, with $150,000 raised by bond issue. The stadium is owned by the city and leased by the team. A dedicatory plaque identifies the structure as "Municipal Stadium," but it has been called Grainger Stadium since it was first built. Kinston Indians ownership referred to it as "Historic Grainger Stadium" due to its age relative to other fields in the Carolina League. It is the second-oldest stadium in the circuit. The name Grainger comes from its location on Grainger Avenue as well as its use early on by Grainger High School. Grainger is a prominent old family name in Lenoir County. The Texas Rangers have invested in a multi-year renovation project to improve the 4,100-seat facility.
Down East Wood Ducks roster
Major league alumni
As of the completion of the 2019 season, 15 Wood Ducks players have also played in at least one game for a Major League Baseball team. These players are:
- Emmanuel Clase (2019)
- Brett Eibner (2018)
- Peter Fairbanks (2017, 2019)
- Anthony Gose (2018)
- Jonathan Hernández (2017–2018)
- James Jones (2018)
- Brett Martin (2017)
- Yohander Méndez (2018)
- Joe Palumbo (2017–2018)
- Pedro Payano (2017)
- C. D. Pelham (2018)
- Ricardo Rodriguez (2017)
- Adrian Sampson (2017)
- Jeffrey Springs (2017)
- Locke St. John (2018)
- Hoopfer, Evan (August 23, 2016). "Rangers purchase new Advanced-A ball club in North Carolina; club in California to dissolve". Dallas Business Journal. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
- Hill, Benjamin (December 16, 2010). "Mudcats on the move to Pensacola". MiLB.com. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
- Leventhal, Josh (August 1, 2008). "Minors Shift: Cal League May Send Two Teams To Carolina". Baseball America. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
- Wolfe, Wes (October 20, 2013). "California minor league team might relocate to Kinston". Kinston.com. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
- Glaser, Kyle (May 8, 2016). "Cal League: Relocation, contraction rumors swirl once again". Press-Enterprise. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
- Norris, Josh (April 28, 2016). "Shift of Cal League Franchises to Carolina League Appears Likely". Baseball America. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
- Piper, Michelle. "Baseball rolls back into Kinston". NewBernSJ.com. Kinston Free Press. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- "Kinston's new baseball team wants your help finding name". WITN.com. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- "Rangers Kinston, LLC". NC Secretary of State. February 26, 2015. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
- "Wood Ducks trademark application". USPTO. August 15, 2016. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
- WITN Staff (August 22, 2016). "Professional baseball returning to Kinston in 2017". WITN 9. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
- Speddon, Zach (September 16, 2016). "Kinston Reveals Name The Team Finalists". Ballpark Digest. August Publications. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
- WITN (September 16, 2016). "UPDATE: Many upset over Kinston Baseball choices for team name". WITN. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
- Allen, Jennifer (November 3, 2016). "Down East Folks Cry Foul Over Team Name". Coastal Review Online. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
- Taylor, Michelle (September 16, 2016). "Not Down East: Community reacts negatively to proposed baseball team names". Kinston Free Press. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
- Wright, Jarah (September 25, 2017). "2017 Best Logo/Branding: Down East Wood Ducks". Ballpark Digest. August Publications. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
- Ramey, Elisse (November 2, 2016). "Down East Wood Ducks new name for Kinston baseball team". WITN. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
- Anon. (February 11, 1925). "Ball Club Given Name of Eagles; Choice Of Heads". Kinston Free Press.
- Roberts, Quinn (September 9, 2017). "Wood Ducks named Carolina League co-champions". MLB.com. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
- "Carolina League cancels Mills Cup Finals". MiLB.com. Minor League Baseball. September 8, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
- "Kinston Indians Throwback Thursday Games". MiLB.com. February 8, 2018. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
- Tripodi, Chris (August 22, 2019). "Feliciano, Zavolas Pace Carolina Standouts". MiLB.com. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
- "2019 Carolina League Playoffs". MiLB.com. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
- "2017 Carolina League". Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
- "2017 Carolina League Playoffs". Carolina League. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
- "2018 Carolina League". Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
- "2019 Carolina League". Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
- "2019 Carolina League Playoffs". Carolina League. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
- Mock, Jr., Frank L. (June 1950). "Kinston's New Stadium". Athletic Journal. XXX (10): 14.
- Rowland, John J.; Simpson, James M. (July 1949). "Stadium for All Municipal Functions, Kinston, N. C.". Architectural Record. 106 (1): 121–123.
- "2019 Down East Wood Ducks Statistics". Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference. Retrieved September 30, 2019.
- "2018 Down East Wood Ducks Statistics". Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
- "2017 Down East Wood Ducks Statistics". Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference. Retrieved April 12, 2019.