Pro baseball moves closer to Beaufort County

Published 5:13 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2024

The drive to watch professional baseball will be shorter for Beaufort County fans after the Carolina Mudcats leave Zebulon for their new home in Wilson for the 2026 season.

The Down East Wood Ducks have one more summer in Kinston before moving to Spartanburg, S.C., so the current Mudcats franchise is scheduled to arrive just in time to fill the gap.

The Milwaukee Brewers own the Mudcats and were turned down by Wake County when they asked for renovations and upgrades to Five County Stadium.

Meanwhile, the Wilson City Council unanimously approved a partnership to build a sports entertainment complex next to the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park downtown that will cost just under $65 million.

Wilson city manager Grant Goings said the Brewers committed to moving the Class A Mudcats to Wilson and will sign a 25-year lease.

“I think it’s fantastic that pro baseball will be an hour away,” Washington High School coach Will Tyson said. “My family had season tickets to the Mudcats when I was growing up and I went to almost every home game after school was out. I saw a ton of guys play who made it to the majors and I loved to get there early to watch batting practice and the pitchers throwing in the bullpen.”

Tyson hopes the new team will inspire local youth league players and older ones on the high school level to work harder to achieve their goals.

“I decided I wanted to pitch in college after watching so many pros at the Mudcats games,” Tyson, who pitched at Barton College, said. “I loved watching Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball and learned what it took to keep playing.”

Fans will have a chance to watch 66 home games when the Mudcats arrive and Wilson city officials say the stadium will be used for concerts and other events. The city will issue nearly $70 million in bonds to fund the project in addition to a projected two cents per $100 property tax increase.

“I think it will really help downtown Wilson,” Tyson, who grew up in nearby Middlesex, said. “They will draw from the Pitt/Beaufort/Martin County area for sure and there will be other things to do around the stadium. The best part for me will be calling my dad to meet me and my sons at the ballpark.”