Esports in a Baseball Park–The DBAP Gaming Challenge Launches This Week

When thinking about gaming in the US, your thoughts may first wander to the coastal hubs like New York or California. Few people would immediately think of North Carolina as a key part of esports tradition. However, the Major League Gaming Pro Circuit made regular trips to the state capital, Raleigh, each year. My hometown saw epic matches between top League of Legends, Call of Duty, and Halo teams.


This weekend, a new tradition in North Carolina esports begins. 10 minutes away from my office sits the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home to the minor league baseball franchise of the same name. However, this weekend gamers will flood the stadium to compete in a wide array of titles from fighting games to first-person shooters. I spoke to Event Director, Ross Ledford, to find out what competitors can expect at the DBAP Gaming Challenge.

Passion for Games

It may seem strange for a baseball team to be hosting an esports tournament, but Ledford explained how a love for gaming permeates the Bulls organization. “The idea for the event came from the MC for the Durham Bulls, Jatovi McDuffie.  He was a long-time gamer and wanted an event that incorporated gaming with the Durham Bulls.”

Leading the event, Russ and his fellow Event Director, Michael Everett are veteran tournament organizers in the southeast. Everett created the Carolina Games Summit, a yearly event which features gaming tournaments alongside panels and other events. While in college at North Carolina State University, Ledford  hosted “the largest collegiate esports event to-date, ‘Clash of the Carolinas’. In the past nine months alone,” he added, “Mike and I have hosted 85 tournaments and have been involved with events that have a combined attendance of over 30,000 unique visitors.”

Take Me Out to the LAN Party

Over the weekend, the event staff are anticipating over 2,000 spectators and competitors to attend the Gaming Challenge. The entire stadium has been converted to accommodate computers, fighting game setups, and monitors for spectators. Gameplay will also be shown on the stadium’s massive screen. The bulk of the tournament will take place in the indoor sections of the park but, if weather permits, the organizers do intend to have feature matches outside in the stadium.


Four games headline the event with a combined prize pool of over $5,000. Those games are Rocket League, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Super Smash Bros. Melee, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Both Smash games will also have a prize for doubles, and Ledford confirmed that all games will have prize support. The full list of games will include:

  • Rocket League
  • Super Smash Bros.: Melee
  • Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
  • Overwatch
  • Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • League of Legends
  • Halo 5
  • Lawbreakers
  • Street Fighter V
  • NBA 2K18
  • MLB: The Show 17
  • Madden 18
  • Marvel vs Capcom Infinite
  • Mortal Kombat X
  • Tekken 7
  • Injustice 2

Veteran fighting game players should be aware that the event’s $12 entry fee covers every game you wish to enter. There’s no additional fee for Smashers to enter doubles either. Ledford explained that “this way everyone can attend the event and participate in all the events they want to, and are not limited by entry fees.”


Essentially, the DBAP Gaming Challenge appears to be an entry point for residents of the Triangle to discover the world of esports. In addition to the tournaments there will be live music, free-to-play arcades, a cosplay contest, and much more. Local game studios like Bosskey will also be on hand providing support, giveaways, and prizing. According to Ledford, “The event is meant for all levels of esports athletes. Carolina Games Summit and AEL (Amateur Esports League) strive to provide high-quality tournaments in a fun and accepting environment.  With this mentality, we try to have our events be open to all skill levels and hope to foster the growth of esports into something great.”

Russ’s answers to my questions oozed with a passion for growing esports in the Southeast. Having found an enthusiastic partner in the Durham Bulls, this event is merely the beginning. “There are talks about leagues, continued events, and much more, so stay tuned,” he said.

To register, or find more details, visit the DBAP gaming website. Thanks again to Russ for taking the time to answer my questions, and be sure to get out and support your local esports scene this weekend!

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