Founded in 1978
Zebulon, North Carolina
|Minor league affiliations|
|League||Carolina League (1978-present)|
|Major league affiliations|
|Current||Milwaukee Brewers (2017-present)|
|Minor league titles|
|Nickname||Carolina Mudcats (2012-present)|
|Mascot||Muddy the Mudcat, Mini Muddy, Rally Cat|
|Ballpark||Five County Stadium (2012-present)|
|General Manager||Joe Kremer|
The Carolina Mudcats are a Minor League Baseball team based in Zebulon, North Carolina. They are members of the Carolina League and are the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. They play their home games at Five County Stadium.
The franchise originated in 1978 as the Kinston Eagles of Kinston, North Carolina. In 2012 they relocated to Zebulon amid a series of purchases and moves, and took up the name of the previous Carolina Mudcats team.
Montreal withdrew from Kinston following the 1974 season. With no major league sponsor and very little fan support, Kinston likewise withdrew from the Carolina League. By 1978, the Carolina League decided to expand back to twelve teams due to a renewed fan interest in baseball as well as the introduction of two new major league teams. Former airline pilot Ray Kuhlman brought minor league baseball back to Kinston by investing in one of the new Carolina League franchises. The Kinston Eagles flew unaffiliated their first season back in the circuit in 1978. By the next campaign, they were associated with the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto stayed with Kinston for seven years, and the team eventually took on the Blue Jays name. Kinston did not win any championships during the Blue Jays years. Kuhlman and his wife ran the team themselves and saw steady annual increases in attendance each year.
Following the 1985 season, the Blue Jays dropped Kinston as a franchise, and professional baseball in the city seemed to be in doubt once again. There was talk of moving the franchise to Charles County, Maryland, but the city remained in the Carolina League with an independent ball club that took on the Eagles name. The 1986 season proved to be disappointing in the standings and at the gate, and talk of a move was renewed, but ownership secured an affiliation with the Cleveland Indians during the off season. For twenty-five years, Cleveland and the KTribe, as they came to be known, enjoyed a successful partnership which produced seventeen playoff appearances and five Carolina League championships (1988, 1991, 1995, 2004, and 2006). The value of the team rose along with its onfield success. In 1983, Kuhlman sold the team for $100,000. The franchise was sold again in 1985 for $225,000, and changed hands again in 1989 for $750,000. The team's value in 1992 was estimated at $1.5 million. Six figure attendance totals became the norm throughout the 1990s and into the new century.
In 2007, the Indians won the Southern Division crown for both halves of the year, but they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the wild card team, the Salem Avalanche. It was the seventh season in a row that the Indians made the postseason, which was a new Carolina League record formerly held by the Burlington Bees (1945-1950). Kinston's player development contract with Cleveland ended following the 2011 season.
In 2012, the Indians moved the franchise to Zebulon, North Carolina, as part of a complicated series of moves and purchases by Pensacola businessman Quint Studer. Studer purchased the existing Carolina Mudcats of the Southern League, relocating them to Pensacola as the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. To seal this purchase, Studer had to facilitate the move of the Kinston team to Zebulon, where they took up the Mudcats name and branding.
The Mudcats name and branding has existed in Zebulon, North Carolina since 1991, but was launched in Columbus, Georgia, two years prior as the Columbus Mudcats. In Zebulon, the Double-A franchise was first affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates; its affiliation eventually passed to the Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, and Cincinnati Reds with whom the franchise was affiliated when it was moved to Pensacola. The Class A Mudcats' initial affiliation with Cleveland was inherited from the predecessor Kinston Indians' established relationship with the Cleveland club.
Baseball Hall of Fame alumni