Sports on the North Carolina Coast: Baseball
While surfing and kiteboarding are sports that require an ocean to participate in, Coastal North Carolina also has a fascination with Minor League Baseball. In North Carolina, Minor League Baseball is a lifestyle. Fans eat, sleep, and breathe the sport. Whereas in many places it's common to see bumper stickers advertising someone's favorite Major League Baseball team, in North Carolina those are replaced by Minor League Baseball stickers. The area is home to two minor league teams: the Wilmington Sharks and the Morehead City Marlins. Both of these teams are members of the Coastal Plain League (CPL), a collegiate league that is based out of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
The CPL is a collegiate league, which means that many of the players are not actually from the area, but attend college around the country and come to the area to play during the summer. But while many areas have minor league teams, North Carolina takes Minor League Baseball to a whole new level. The advantage to this is that the CPL is a wooden bat league, which allows college players to practice playing with wooden bats before they make the transition to the MLB, where wooden bats are used exclusively. This also means that many Major League scouts watch players in leagues like the CPL to see just how well they could actually play for one of their MLB teams.
Of course, many Minor League players aren't as talented as their Major League counterparts, but that just allows the talent to rise to the top more noticeably. It allows fans to root for their favorite player and be proud when they make it to the major leagues, which is not a rare occurrence due to the heavy scouting that goes on in the CPL. Since 1997, over 50 players from the CPL have gone on to play in the MLB with over 750 having been drafted since 2003.
While the area's fascination with Minor League Baseball may seem strange to visitors from other states, it's easy to see the appeal when you look at just how similar Major and Minor League baseball is. Just like in the Major League, these players practice daily and push themselves to their limits to be able to play the sport that they love. Games are played anywhere from 3 to 7 days a week, and competition is cutthroat as each team competes to be the CPL champion.
Interestingly enough, the CPL as we know it today was not always what it was; in fact, the current Coastal Plain League is the second organization to have used the name. When it started in 1937, Coastal Plain was a standard Class D minor league and it remained that way until 1941 when all play was suspended because of World War II, as was the standard in that time for almost all of the nation's minor leagues. Operations resumed in 1946 and continued through 1952, when it was shut down. During the time of the old CPL, it hosted such players as Cal Ripken Sr., Ted Williams and perhaps most impressively, Babe Ruth.