Wood Ducks introduce new manager, debut new food selections
The Down East Wood Ducks debuted some new food selections Thursday. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News
Opening Day may be months away for the Down East Wood Ducks, but the feeling of baseball was in the air Thursday.
The third annual Hot Stove Banquet and silent auction took place at Kings Restaurant, where fans met the Down East Wood Ducks coaching staff, along with a trio of players in the Texas Rangers’ system. General Manager Wade Howell said it was a strong start to what he is hoping to be another great season at Historic Grainger Stadium.
“It’s a good way to start the year off and it’s something we’ve been preparing for since September,” Howell said. “The Hot Stove is that benchmark of getting close to returning and we’ve got plans for this upcoming year, like debuting some new concessions and trying to bring costs down on some of the old favorites.”
The third-base line concession stand will be home to several new items, including chicken and waffle sandwiches, funnel cake fries, fried Twinkies and meatball sliders. Kareem Owens, general manager of food and beverage services, said the team wanted to do something different in the franchise’s third year.
“Our rollout process was to have more State Fair concepts,” Owens said. “We wanted to be a little more creative and introduce some more exciting options for the fans while giving a bit of a carnival vibe.”
Jeffrey Springs said he enjoyed the new concessions. Springs, who pitched with the Wood Ducks in the team’s inaugural season, pitched for the Texas Rangers last year, going 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA. He said he was excited to come back to Kinston and show support.
“I had a great experience here with the community and the people definitely supported us,” Springs said. “It’s nice to be back and (the Wood Ducks) prepared me well for the major leagues.”
There will be a new voice of the Wood Ducks this season, as Matt Present will take over for Dominic Cotroneo, who accepted a position with the Salem Red Sox during the offseason. Present, who called games for the Lynchburg Hillcats last season, said his first look at Kinston — especially Grainger Stadium — was a positive one.
“For a facility that’s as old as it is, it looks new,” Present said. “I definitely like the porch in right field, which is a great addition, and overall, the stadium looks much newer than the Historic tag behind it.”
The Wood Ducks will be managed by Corey Ragsdale, who said he is excited for what 2019 will bring.
“One thing I hope to get out of our players is the right attitude and effort,” Ragsdale said. “I believe this is a strong place for the guys to build their confidence and develop their abilities. This will be a long season — 140 games in 155 days — but we’ll look to keep everyone focused and become a better team for it.
“This is a great atmosphere and I’m ready for the season.”
The Wood Ducks’ season opener will be at home April 4 against the Carolina Mudcats. The DEWDs will play their first 11 games at Grainger Stadium.