Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Suns, Mudcats Know Thy Enemy; the Teams Play 30 Times This Season, Breeding Familiarity and Rivalry

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Suns, Mudcats Know Thy Enemy; the Teams Play 30 Times This Season, Breeding Familiarity and Rivalry

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF ELLIOTT

There isn't any truth to the rumor that the Suns and Carolina Mudcats have rented apartments for each other in Jacksonville and Zebulon, N.C. But they might as well have, considering that they play 30 games against each other this season, the last time coming tonight at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

Even though the two teams are in opposite divisions, the Suns will meet the Mudcats 10 more times than any other Southern League opponent because the trips between Jacksonville and Zebulon are shorter, which help the clubs save money.

"We've made a lot of trips up there to Zebulon the last two years," said Suns catcher A.J. Ellis, referring to the 25 games that the two teams played against each other last year. "Plus I spent two summers up there in Raleigh [a 20-minute drive from Zebulon] during the college summer ball program.

"We've grown accustomed to playing up there, and Carolina has probably grown accustomed to us. That's OK because I like Raleigh, where we stay when we play up there. The park is nice, the atmosphere is good for playing ball. It's a nice city."

But Mudcats third baseman Lee Mitchell said it's better to play in Jacksonville, if nothing else than for the fans' support.

"They have great fans here who really get into the games, especially that Thursday night crowd," he said. "At our place, sometimes it's so quiet, you can hear the lights buzzing. You don't get that here with all the fans they've got. That just makes for a better atmosphere for playing baseball."

Second baseman Eric Riggs is the most qualified player to compare the two cities. He played with the Suns in three different seasons before joining the Florida Marlins' organization this year and being assigned to the Mudcats.

"I like coming here because my parents have a place out at the beach here, so I'm able to get away from the downtown area and enjoy it out there with them," he said. "I've got my 3-year-old son with me for this trip, and we're having a great time at the beach. …

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