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Minor League Baseball in NC (15+ Interesting Teams to Watch)

Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on April 18, 2024.

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We’ve loved watching minor league baseball in North Carolina for years. Of course, it’s great to watch the pros play in the Majors, but for various reasons, MILB is just more fun.

For starters, the players seem down-to-earth and more relatable to fans. Another reason we love Minor League Baseball here is that teams play throughout the state.

When the season is in full swing, you can watch games from Asheville in the mountains of Western NC to Morehead City on our coast. Our guide breaks down these interesting teams, histories, and notable alumni who’ve come through their ranks.

We’ve alphabetically ordered these Minor League Baseball teams and organized them into a few categories, including:

  • Major League-Affiliated Minor League Baseball Teams
  • Summer Collegiate Teams
  • Partner League Teams

You can skip ahead to the college and partner ranks or keep reading about teams with the closest paths to the Majors. If you’d like to visually plan an adventure to see all or one of these Minor League Baseball teams, you can find them on our North Carolina Travel map.

Read More: Spring in North Carolina (80+ Great Events and Things to Do)

Major League-Affiliated Minor League Baseball Teams

Minor League Baseball in North Carolina

Minor League Baseball went through many changes in 2021, with a total realignment leaving many teams without a Major League affiliate (see our “Partner League Teams” section) and others eliminated.

The new alignment left Minor League Baseball (and North Carolina’s teams) with the following classes, from highest to lowest:

  • Triple-A: Charlotte Knights, Durham Bulls
  • Double-A: No North Carolina Minor League Baseball teams.
  • High-A (Previously Class A-Advanced): Asheville Tourists, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Hickory Crawdads, and Winston-Salem Dash.
  • Low-A (also known as Single-A): Carolina Mudcats, Down East Wood Ducks, Fayetteville Woodpeckers, and Kannapolis Cannon Ballers.
  • Rookie: No North Carolina Minor League Baseball teams.

Luckily, many of North Carolina’s teams were not affected, and here are our Minor League Baseball teams that remain affiliated with big-league clubs.

Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do in North Carolina

Asheville Tourists

Lewis McCormick Field: 30 Buchanan PI, Asheville, NC
Class: High-A
League: High-A East (South Division)
Major League Affiliation: Houston Astros

The Asheville minor league baseball team is the Asheville Tourists have played Minor League Baseball since 1897. Like most of the other teams in this guide, they’ve shifted affiliations and leagues over the years.

Since 2021, they’ve been a part of the Houston Astros farm leagues and one of a few teams affiliated with the ‘Stros.

Lewis McCormick Field in downtown Asheville holds 4,000 seats and is popularly known for its scoreboard that reads “Visitors” in the guest score slot and “Tourists” in the home field slot.

With such a lengthy history, the Tourists have plenty of MLB Alumni, including these Hall-of-Famers:

  • George “Sparky” Anderson (Manager, 1968)
  • Craig Biggio (1987)
  • Eddie Murray (1974)
  • Willie “Pops” Stargell (1961)

Read more: 80+ Great Things to Do in Asheville (The Asheville Bucket List)

Carolina Mudcats (Milwaukee Brewers)

Five County Stadium: 1501 NC-39, Zebulon, NC
Class: Low-A
League: Low-A East (Central Division)
Affiliation: Milwaukee Brewers

The Carolina Mudcats play in Zebulon, a Wake County suburb of Raleigh. Most North Carolinians know that “mudcat” is southern slang for a catfish.

These Mudcats relocated from Columbus, Georgia, in 1991 and have played the Raleigh area ever since. They’ve been a Milwaukee Brewers affiliate since 2017.

The 6,500-capacity Five County Stadium is one of the largest in Minor League Baseball.

Notable MLB alumni:

  • Miguel Cabrera (2003)
  • Matt Holliday (2002)
  • Adrian Gonzalez (2003)
  • Tim Wakefield (1991 and 1993)

Read more: 50+ of the Best Day Trips from Raleigh

Charlotte Knights

Truist Ballpark: 324 South Mint St, Charlotte, NC
Class: Triple-A
Affiliation: Chicago White Sox

Minor League Baseball in North Carolina Charlotte

The Charlotte Knights are a class Triple-A and Triple-A East and hold a highly appraised affiliate with the Chicago White Sox.

Previously known as the Charlotte Orioles, the Charlotte NC minor league baseball team won the Southern League Championship in 1980 and 1984.

Here’s the thing with the Knights, their alumni are too high to count! These are some remarkable former Knights, including two from the Orioles era:

  • Eddie Murray (Orioles, 1976)
  • Cal Ripken Jr. (Orioles, 1980)
  • Curt Schilling (Knights, 1988)
  • Jim Thome (Knights, 1993 and 2007)

Read More: The Best Things to Do in Charlotte

Down East Wood Ducks

Grainger Stadium: 400 E Grainger Ave, Kinston, NC
Class: Low-A
Affiliation: Texas Rangers

Minor League Baseball in North Carolina Kinston

The Down East Wood Ducks were established in 2017 and are a Texas Rangers affiliate. Grainger Stadium is not new to Minor League Baseball, though, as the Kinston Indians played here for many years, as have other professional teams in Kinston since 1949.

The stadium is North Carolina’s second-oldest but has experienced multiple renovations. You can sit close to the field or watch the game from the Mother Earth Brewing Pavilion in right field.

While the Wood Ducks don’t have a long history, they do have a few Major League alumni:

  • James Jones (2018)
  • Anthony Gose (2018)
  • C.D. Pelham (2018)

Read more: 18 Awesome Things to Do in Kinston (and Why We’ll Be Back for More!)

Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays)

Durham Bulls Athletic Park: 409 Blackwell St, Durham, NC
Class: Triple-A
Affiliation: Tampa Bay Rays

Minor League Baseball in North Carolina DBAP stadium

The Durham Bulls are affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays and perform at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP). The stadium is one of the largest in Minor League Baseball, holding around 10,000 seats.

The original name for this team was the Durham Tobacconists, way back in 1902. After many rebranding attempts (Raleigh-Durham Triangles?) and periods of inactivity, this team has stuck with the Durham Bulls since 1980.

We are grateful because I couldn’t imagine a world without Wool E. Bull.

Of course, the Bulls will forever be linked with the classic movie Bull Durham.

Parts of the movie were filmed in North Carolina and in Durham, at the Bulls’ former home—Historic Durham Athletic Park.

Even though Crash Davis never made the Bigs, hundreds of former Bulls have played at the Major League level.

A couple of them are part of the Braves dynasty that dominated the NL East, part of the lengthy affiliation from 1980 to 1997. Another familiar name started with the Bulls and Houston before being traded to Cincinnati in the 1960s:

  • Chipper Jones (1992)
  • David Justice (1986)
  • Evan Longoria (2007, 2008, and 2012)
  • Joe Morgan (1963)

Read more: 50+ of the Best Things to Do in Durham

Greensboro Grasshoppers

First National Bank Field: 408 Bellemeade St, Greensboro, NC
Class: High-A
League: High-A East (South Division)
Affiliation: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Greensboro Grasshoppers play in downtown Greensboro at a 7,500-seat stadium. After a 15 year run with the Marlins and 10-plus before that with the Yankees, they are now a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate.

The lovable Guilford the Grasshopper is a fan favorite. But, if you don’t like the Yankees, you can skip past the next part.

Most of these players who made it to the Major Leagues were prominent pieces of the Yankees dynasty under Joe Torre:

  • Derek Jeter (1992 and 93)
  • Jorge Posada (1992)
  • Mariano Rivera (1991 and 1993)
  • Giancarlo Stanton (2008)

Read more: 30+ Awesome Things to Do in Greensboro (Truly Unique Places!)

Fayetteville Woodpeckers

Segra Stadium: 460 Hay St, Fayetteville, NC
Class: Low-A
Affiliation: Houston Astros

Minor League Baseball in North Carolina Segra Stadium

The Fayetteville Woodpeckers play at Segra Stadium on Hay Street and are one of North Carolina’s newer Minor League Baseball teams.

They’re affiliated with the Houston Astros and have a unique take on the loved and hated rainbow jersey—only with bright candy apple red, cement gray, solid black, and white.

The team first played at Campbell University from 2017 to 2018 and played as the Buies Creek Astros. When they moved to Fayetteville, ownership selected “Woodpeckers” after it was a finalist in a local name-the-team contest.

The red-cockaded woodpecker was once a prominent bird in the Fayetteville area. Thanks to the solid play of these Woodpeckers, they’re keeping the name alive at the big-league level:

  • Enoli Paredes (2019)
  • Bryan Abreu (2019)
  • Cristian Javier (2019)

Read more: 25 Outstanding Things to Do in Fayetteville (Great Restaurants and More!)

Hickory Crawdads

L.P. Frans Stadium: 2500 Clement Blvd NW, Hickory, NC
Class: High-A
League: High-A East (South Division)
Affiliation: Texas Rangers

The Hickory Crawdads franchise was established in 1993 and plays in the 4,000-seat L.P. Frans Stadium. The Texas Rangers affiliate won league championships in both 2002 and 2004.

Lowes Food company, a localized grocery store chain on the East Coast, now sponsors the team for $2 craft beer for Thirsty Tuesdays.

These alumni range from the Crawdads’ years with the Pirates (1999 to 2008) and the Chicago White Sox (1993 to 1998):

  • Jose Bautista (2002)
  • Andrew McCutchen (2006)
  • Magglio Ordonez (1993 and 1994)

Read more: 20+ Great Things to Do in Hickory (Interactive Museums, the Best Food, and More!)

Kannapolis Cannon Ballers

Atrium Health Ballpark: 210 Oak Ave, Kannapolis, NC
Class: Low-A
Affiliation: Chicago White Sox

Minor League Baseball in North Carolina Kannapolis

The Kannapolis Cannon Ballers are a newly rebranded team with a beautiful 5,000 seat stadium. The Chicago White Sox affiliate has a long history here, though.

Established initially as the Spartanburg Phillies in 1963, the team moved to Kannapolis and was the Piedmont Phillies, the Piedmont Boll Weevils, and the Kannapolis Intimidators during Dale Earnhardt Sr’s years of partial ownership.

Minor League Baseball in North Carolina Cannonballs

Some exciting names have come through Kannapolis, including some popular Phillies and World Series winners:

  • Ryan Madson (2000)
  • Brett Myers (2000)
  • Jimmy Rollins (1997)
  • Heisman Trophy Winner Ricky Williams (1996 and 1997)

Read more: Great Things to Do in Kannapolis (+ Shopping and Restaurants!)

Winston-Salem Dash

Truist Stadium: 951 Ballpark Way, Winston-Salem NC
Class: High-A
League: High-A East (South Division)
Affiliation: Chicago White Sox

The Winston-Salem Dash has a long history, going back to the Winston-Salem Twins in 1905. That name, which honors the formerly twin cities of Winston and Salem, predates the Minnesota Twins moniker by more than 50 years.

Today, they play in a 5,500-seat stadium as a Chicago White Sox affiliate.

This list of notable alumni has one guy that Red Sox fans loved and eventually hated, as well as a few other greats:

  • Wade Boggs (1977)
  • Dwight Evans (1971)
  • Chris Sale (2010)
  • Earl Weaver (1950)

Read more: The Most Fun Things to Do in Winston-Salem (Great Food, Wonderful Hotels, and More!)

Collegiate Minor League Baseball Teams in NC

Collegiate players typically fill the rosters of these Minor League Baseball teams in NC. Games are played during the summer after the NCAA season and College World Series have finished.

One collegiate team plays in the Appalachian League (Burlington) and the other five play in the Coastal Plain League.

Asheboro Zookeepers

McCrary Park: 138 Southway Rd, Asheboro, NC 27205
League: Coastal Plain League

Previously known as the Asheboro Copperheads and founded in 1999, the Zookeepers are named after the nearby NC Zoo. They play in the 1,400-seat McCrary Park, which has a long history.

The stadium was built in the late 1940s for the semi-pro McCrary Eagles. After that team disbanded, the park was used for American Legion and high school games.

The young club has a colorful history, with a few division championships and playoff appearances. There are also a few notable alumni who’ve played in the Major Leagues.

They include the following players:

  • Bill Bray (2002)
  • Trevor Richards (2015)
  • Mike Wright (2009)

Read More: 20+ Things to do in Asheboro and Randolph County

Burlington Sock Puppets

Burlington Athletic Stadium: 1450 Graham St, Burlington, NC
League: Appalachian League

The Burlington Sock Puppets play in the summer collegiate Appalachian League. Their unique nickname is a tribute to the area’s textile history.

The Sock Puppets replaced the Burlington Royals (previously the Burlington Indians) that played from 1986 to 2020. The Indians even had a stint in the Carolina League from 1958 to 1964.

Burlington Athletic Stadium, where the Sock Puppets play, holds around 3,500 fans.

This Minor League Baseball stadium is one of two in this guide (along with Wilson’s Fleming Stadium) that featured in the famous film Bull Durham.

While none of these players featured for the Sock Puppets, they did play for the Indians:

  • Luis Tiant (1963)
  • Manny Ramirez (1991)
  • Jim Thome (1990)

Read More: Excellent Day Trips from Greensboro (Within a 2-Hour Drive)

High Point-Thomasville HiToms

Historic Finch Field: 7003 Ballpark Rd, Thomasville, NC
League: Coastal Plain League

The HiToms play at the 2,000-seat stadium that houses Historic Finch Field. This version of the HiToms started playing in the 1999 season. Its name is a tribute to a previous team from the 1950s and 1968.

Here are a couple of notable alumni, including some longtime players and others who are just getting started:

  • Bobby Parnell (2003)
  • Todd Wellermeyer (1999)

Morehead City Marlins

O’Neal Field at Big Rock Stadium: 2714 Mayberry Loop Rd, Morehead City, NC
League: Coastal Plain League

The Morehead City Marlins play at the O’Neal Field at Big Rock Stadium and are just over a decade old.

The ballpark and atmosphere of this team make for an incredible experience. The 1,800-seat stadium offers excellent views for spectators.

While this summer team is still writing its history, there are a few notable names that have come out of Morehead City:

  • Shawn Armstrong (2010 and 2011)
  • Chris Taylor (2010)

Read More: 20 of the Best Things to Do in Beaufort (Boat Tours, Wild Horses, and More!)

Wilmington Sharks

Buck Hardee Field at Legion Stadium: 2149 Carolina Beach Rd, Wilmington, NC
League: Coastal Plain League

Like the Marlins in Morehead City, the Wilmington NC minor league baseball team has embraced its beach surroundings and adopted a lovable shark mascot for their minor league.

The Wilmington Sharks play on Buck Hardee Field, jokingly referred to as the Shark Tank. This team has played in every Coastal Plain League season except for 2020.

They won the Petitt Cup in the years 1998 and 1999.

MLB Alumni who once played for the Sharks include:

  • Alec Bohm (2016)
  • Tom Mastny (2002)

Read more: Things to Do with Kids in Wilmington

Wilson Tobs

Fleming Stadium: 300 Stadium St SW, Wilson, NC
League: Coastal Plain League

Minor League Baseball in North Carolina baseball mits

The current Wilson Tobs started in 1997, but Minor League Baseball has been in Wilson throughout the 20th century.

The 3,000-seat Fleming Stadium opened in 1939 and temporarily hosted the Carolina Mudcats in 1991. While the team’s full name is Wilson Tobacconists, they’ve since condensed it to the Wilson Tobs.

Major League players who once passed through Wilson include:

  • Rod Carew (1966)
  • Donn Clendenon (1959)
  • Charlie Manuel (1965 and 1966)

Read more: 15 Exciting Things to Do in Wilson (Whirligigs, Food, and More!)

Partner League Teams

So-called “Partner Leagues” operate a bit differently than the other Minor League Baseball classes and leagues. Some follow experimental rules, such as a pitch clock in the Atlantic League’s case.

Also, players who are signed by a Major League team from a Partner League are usually placed in one of the classes of Minor League Baseball.

Both of North Carolina’s Partner League teams play in the Atlantic League. This league’s cities and towns are expected to have a market at or above Triple-A standards.

Its quality of play is viewed the best among baseball’s independent leagues, which is why we should all be clamoring for a ticket each season. So, here are our teams that play in the Atlantic League.

Gastonia Honey Hunters

CaroMont Health Park: 800 W Franklin Blvd, Gastonia, NC
League: Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (South Division)

The Gastonia Honey Hunters play in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB). They are a new team with one of the most exciting names in Minor League Baseball.

The name “Honey Hunter” refers to the honey badger and one’s ability to find positive things during tough times. It also honors Ransom Hunter, the first freed enslaved person to own property in Gaston County.

Since the Honey Hunters just started in 2021, we’ll keep an eye out for the alumni who’ll make it to the Major Leagues.

Read more: Things to Do in Gastonia and Gaston County

High Point Rockers

Truist Point Ballpark: 301 North Elm St, High Point, NC
League: Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (South Division)

The High Point Rockers are a tribute to High Point’s furniture industry and started play in 2018. Previously, the team played in Connecticut as the Bridgeport Bluefish, but in 2017, it moved to a 4,500-seat stadium in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad.

Rockers players are making their way to the big leagues. We’ve included one, along with some notable alumni from the Bluefish era:

  • Mariano Duncan (1999)
  • Edgardo Alfonzo (2006)
  • Alberto Baldonado (2019)

Read More: 50+ Day Trips from Durham

Ready to Watch These Minor League Baseball Teams?

Kinston NC Down East Wood Ducks Grainger Stadium

Let us take you out to the ballgame with these interesting teams in our biggest cities and friendliest small towns. Hopefully, this guide helps you watch at least a game this season and beyond!

North Carolina has no shortage of sports fun, and Minor League Baseball is one great example!

Of course, we’d love to hear from you. Do you have a favorite MILB team in NC? Is there one that we need to add?

You can let us know in the comments section below, by email, and in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group.

Beyond Minor League Baseball in North Carolina (More Things to Do)

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