SaveMiLB Spotlight Series: Burlington Royals
Appalachian League (Rookie)
MLB Affiliate: Kansas City Royals
Burlington Athletic Stadium:
If you love Minor League Baseball there are few places better to be than Burlington, North Carolina. The city of 53,000 is located smack-dab in the middle of one of biggest hotbeds of Minor League Baseball in the country and is home to the Burlington Royals, North Carolina’s lone representative in the Appalachian League (Rookie). For ten weeks each summer Burlington Athletic Stadium and the surrounding municipal park are home to the city’s biggest attractions, allowing fans to catch a game in the early evening and enjoy music, fireworks, and festivals that run into the night.
The ballpark has a long and unique history. The stadium itself was originally built and used 40 miles away in Danville, Virginia. From 1945 to 1958, the stadium was home to the Danville Leafs of the Carolina League, and featured MLB stars from that era including Bill White, Manny Mota, and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. When the team folded following the ’58 season the company that owned the ballpark wanted to replace the stadium with a shopping center. Instead of demolishing the ballpark, the company sold the stadium to the City of Burlington, NC for $5,000. As part of the deal, the ballpark would be disassembled, shipped, and rebuilt in Burlington, where it would become home to the Burlington Indians of the Carolina League. Over the next five seasons future stars like Carl Yazstremski, Rusty Staub, Jim Bouton, Luis Tiant and many others passed through Burlington on their way to the bigs.
From 1965 to 1986, the ballpark was home to local independent teams before returning to affiliated ball as the Burlington Indians, this time of the Appalachian League. For the next 20 seasons Burlington would be the first stop on the way to “The Jake” for future stars such as Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Bartolo Colon before becoming an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals in 2007.
Prior to the 2019 season the city of Burlington invested $1.2 million dollars in renovations to the ballpark, including upgraded bathrooms, new exterior fencing, a beautiful new gift shop as part of upgrades to baseball’s only ballpark to have been used in two states. If you go to a game in Burlington you will note the unique charm of the ballpark and the fans that spend their summers there. The stadium sits above the dugouts, giving fans the opportunity to get a great view of the pitches as they come across the plate and a clear view of the entire field from anywhere in the stadium. Picnic areas that run along both left and right field foul lines give kids a place to run around and play with Royals’ Mascot “Bingo”, or enjoy a beer including local craft selections from Red Oak Brewing.
The Burlington Royals, their fans, and the city of Burlington have been very outspoken against MLB’s proposed new PBA and understandably so. Each year this short-season team contributes over $1 million dollars to the local economy, and the city has invested $3.2 million dollars into improving the stadium over the past decade. The pricing on tickets, food, and drinks are incredibly reasonable and help give hard working families in this community an affordable option for an evening out.
- Burlington Athletic Stadium is one of only two ballparks from the 1988 hit film Bull Durham that are currently used by Minor League Baseball (McCormick Field in Asheville, NC is the other)
- Burlington Athletic Stadium is the only ballpark currently in use to have been used in two states (VA and NC)
- Die-hard baseball fans can take advantage of catching morning games at other ballparks in the region (Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Durham, and Zebulon) and an evening game in Burlington during the season.
- Fun feature: ballpark urinals are designed to look like a team locker room (see below)
Famous MLB Alumni:
- Salvador Perez (2007)
- Wil Myers (2009)
- Brian Giles (1989)
- Jim Thome (1990)
- Manny Ramirez (1991)
- Bartolo Colon (1994)
- CC Sabathia (1998)
- Chris Archer (2006)
- Luis Tiant (1963)
- And many more