Milestones and strong finish make Disco Turkeys’ first season a success
The Carolina Disco Turkeys were always going to be a wild and fun team to watch during their inaugural season. What team that has its base coaches wear sequin jackets, sports a peacock mascot dancing its way around the ballpark, and plays all its home games at one of the top minor league stadiums in the country wouldn’t be a cool ticket for spectators?
It took some time for the results on the field to catch up, but eventually they did.
After a bumpy start the Disco Turkeys (13-26) went 7-4 in their last 11 games, which included some of their toughest competition on the season. The Disco Turkeys capped the season off by advancing to the quarterfinals of the historic AAABA (All American Amateur Baseball Association) Tournament, going 2-2 in Johnstown, PA and finishing in the top half of the prestigious 16-team national tournament.
“We got off to a late start on a lot of fronts being a new team and trying to build a team during the coronavirus pandemic. But when things took off, they really soared,” said Greg Sullivan, president and co-owner of the Disco Turkeys. The team went viral online following their late March public launch. They were covered by news outlets around the world and received merchandise orders from all 50 states within a few weeks.
A season’s worth of highlights
Some top moments for the new independent summer collegiate franchise this season included winning its first-ever game – a 6-4 road upset of the Coastal Plain League’s High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms. Wake Forest’s Dane Stewart got the franchise’s first hit, a double, in that contest and Caldwell Community College’s Hayden Setzer followed that with the team’s first home run. Starter Chase Jessee, of Malone University, was especially sharp in that outing.
While the play early in the season was bumpy for the Disco Turkeys, the team also managed to win their first home game in dramatic fashion – a 13-12 extra-innings victory over the Martinsville Ponies in front of roughly 500 fans at Winston-Salem’s Truist Stadium. The contest went late into the evening. “We saw in that first home game that playing all of our home games at Truist Stadium and in Winston-Salem was going to be special for our players and our community,” Sullivan said. “We want to thank the Winston-Salem Dash and all of our fans for helping make those home games so memorable. Unquestionably the best home moment for us was our win over the Monarchs in front of a couple thousand fans at Truist Stadium on the July 4 Weekend.”
The team played disco music for player walk-up songs and its costumed mascot Boogie, a peacock, was up to all sorts of antics to engage fans. Boogie also would occasionally coach first base and even tried to pitch for the team only to be ejected by umpires and chased away for suspected sticky substances while warming up.
Several Disco Turkeys improved their stock
Several Disco Turkeys were in the transfer portal during at least a portion of their summer. Of those, few improved their stock as much as Disco Turkeys shortstop and reliever Austin St. Laurent.
St. Laurent batted .321 during the summer season, batting mostly in the No. 3 spot for the Disco Turkeys, and showed brilliance in the field. He received interested from several top Division 1 programs, including SEC schools, before announcing his transfer to Appalachian State to play there on scholarship next season.
Other Disco Turkeys moved up a level. Starter Colin Kennedy, of LaSalle University, was called up to the MLB Draft League, where he signed to pitch for the Trenton Thunder, a New Jersey team that was a Yankees Double-A affiliate until minor league baseball reorganized before this season.
Alex Canty left the Disco Turkeys during the season to sign a professional contract with the Alpine Cowboys of the Pecos League, where he’s since served as an everyday infielder for the independent ball club.
“There’s no doubt that we had a lot of talent,” Sullivan said. “Henry Koehler (Davidson College) looked great in the outfield, outfielder Deion Tubbs (McKendree University) reached 30 stolen bases. We also brought in pitching midseason to give us the quality and depth we needed to improve late.”
Ending on a hot streak
Sitting at 6-22 at one point in July, the team made a trip to historic Martinsville Speedway that seem to rev them up. They got to tour the track, ride at a high speed during pace car laps, and even have a light practice on the track and infield. “For whatever reason right after that was where we turned things around,” Sullivan said.
That night, the Disco Turkeys blew out the Martinsville Ponies and started its stretch of winning 7 out of 11 games to end the season. Those wins included their last two home games, over the High Point-Thomasville Locos and a semi-pro team from Greensboro called the Yard Goats. Then, after a loss to open play at Johnstown, the team rallied to win games over the Creekside Crocodiles (Youngstown, OH) and Brooklyn Cougars (Brooklyn) to advance out of pool play. The team lost to end the season against the top Johnstown team at the AAABA Tournament, Paul Carpenters Capital Advisors, but won over the 2,500-strong crowd in the process.
“We can’t say enough good things about Johnstown to end the season and our fans all season long in Winston-Salem,” Sullivan said. “The best thing is what we’ve already built now heading into the future. Coach Kirk Cabana, I know, is very excited. We’ve had multiple college coaches reach out about placing a few players with us for next season. This year has been great on and off the field, and we know it’s only going to get even better.”