The Fayetteville SwampDogs take fun seriously. Just ask Darrell Handelsman director of operations He takes everything seriously — especially his commitment to the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community.
The season opens May 27, and the SwampDogs are ready to show their guests a good time. They are so dedicated to the idea that their logo really says it all — Fayetteville SwampDogs Where Baseball Is Fun
!“Every single night we look at it like we are hosting a party at our house,” said Handelsman. “Like any good host you want people to leave feeling like they had a good time, with a smile on their face and wanting to know when the next party is. That is kind of the goal of what we do. Everything is geared to fun, affordable, family entertainment. That is a staple of what we do.”
And they do it quite well.
For the past 10 years, the SwampDogs have worked hard to provide good, clean fun to the community and their efforts have been met with bigger and bigger game attendance every season. According to Handelsman, last year, they averaged 2,200 people at each home game. The game over the 4th of July holiday pulled in 5,300 spectators.
Handelsman looks a for a variety of ways to draw people to the games and one of the big draws is the giveaway nights. The season hasn’t even started yet and there are already 22 giveaways scheduled. On a giveaway night, admission includes not only your ticket but whatever freebie the SwampDogs are throwing into the mix. It could be anything from a SwampDogs bauble head doll (they are on their sixth edition) to a beer stein, a reusable shopping bag, a magnet or who knows what else.
“On Father’s Day we are doing a bib apron giveaway for all dads in attendance,” said Handelsman. “What is more all-American than going to see a baseball game with your dad?”
Perhaps it is the theme nights that keep the fans coming back.
Every Tuesday is Two for Tuesdays. General admission tickets are two for the price of one – so are the hot-dogs. Wednesday is Ladies Night. The ﬁ rst 200 ladies to come through the doors receive a free rose. The PA announcer will be female on Wednesdays, too. Thirsty Thursdays gets you $1 sodas, and Hawaiian Shirt Fridays (if you are brave enough to actually show up in a Hawaiian shirt) gets you a coupon for a free frozen treat.
“Our biggest night of the year is our July 3rd ﬁ reworks show,” said Handelsman. “That will be a big one. And we are doing the 3-D glasses for that as well. Basically anything that gets people excited we will try to do.”
That’s right folks. The SwampDogs are having 3-D ﬁ reworks, and not just on the 4th of July, but on May 29 as well. “As if our ﬁ reworks shows weren’t’ spectacular enough,” said Handelsman. “For the ﬁrst two shows this year we are giving out 3-D glasses to go with our 3-D ﬁ reworks show. We’ve never done that before.”
The beer deck has been expanded by about 1,500 square feet and they are adding wine to the beverage list.
For the kids, there will be pony-pulled carriage rides in the parking lot. A few changes have also been added to the kid’s area of the park
.“We’ve added a new facade to our kid’s area entry way,” said Handelsman. “So that when the kids come in it makes them feel even a little more special. Little improvements are kind of our way of saluting our fans and saying ‘Thank you.’ To be here for 10 years is a great honor, and something we are very proud of.”
Additionally, the SwampDogs offer a children’s baseball camp each year. This year’s Chevy Youth Baseball Clinic will be held June 19 and 20 from 8 a.m. to noon. There is no fee, but registration is required a week prior to the event. For more information, visit the team’s Web site.
Those are just a few of the things going on inside the ball park this year, but it is only part of what the SwampDogs are about. They are a community team, and they go to great lengths to do their part to make their community better.
“One thing we are really proud about is our charitable involvement, which really sets us apart,” said Handelsman. “For the last four years we have done a Striking Out Cancer Night. Our players wear pink jerseys and we auction them (the jerseys, not the players) off. Last year we raised almost $7,000 for Friends of Cancer with the Cape Fear Valley Hospital. That money all stays local — which is neat. We are partnering with the hospital again this year. That is really near and dear to us.”
The Karen Chandler Trust is another local organization that beneﬁ ts from the kind heartedness of the SwampDogs. People pledge money for every strike out that the SwampDogs get during a home game and the money is donated to the Karen Chandler Trust. Last year this raised close to $4,000 — and it all stayed in the community to help local citizens who are battling cancer.
Spare change for the Special Olympics also receives support from the team. Plastic containers are placed at every concession stand and folks are asked to drop their spare change into the receptacle, with the cash going straight to the local Special Olympics. In the four or ﬁ ve years that this has been in place Handelsman says that almost $12,000 has been raised to help local athletes compete in the Special Olympics.
ERA Strother Real Estate is partnering with the SwampDogs this year to sponsor a bowling tournament called Strikes for MD.
“We have some lofty goals to help raise money for MDA,” said Handelsman. “That is our new thing. Between those four charities we have a lot of good work to do. We’ve done some neat things that I think set us apart and we hope will put us in a different light in people’s minds. We feel like it is our responsibility to give back to the community and be good corporate citizens. It is not about winning and losing baseball games. It is about seeing kids with a smile on their face and giving back to our community. We really, truly feel passionate about it. That is the message we try to convey when we talk to people. We are trying to have a positive effect on the community.”
First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. For more info check out www.goswampdogs.com