Major league baseball play begins early every April, and fans across the United States flock to ballparks to watch their favorite teams and players. Professional baseball players today often make the game look so effortless that it's easy to forget what a tough path they've followed to get to "The Show." Few players reach the majors without first playing in the minor leagues, sometimes referred to as the "farm system" or, more recently, the "player development program." Basically, this system enables players to prepare for the big leagues by playing in progressively tougher minor leagues based around the country.
Thanks to Brian Crichton and the Triple-A Durham Bulls in Durham, NC, for their invaluable assistance with this article. Go Bulls!
Experts say minor league baseball has become more popular over the years because it's affordable, fans can see and hear all the action and the players -- young guys with big club ambitions -- really hustle.
Photo courtesy Durham Bulls
Durham Bulls Athletic Park, better known as the DBAP, draws more than half a million baseball fans each season.
In many ways, the minor leagues, which also begin play in April, mirror the majors. But there are also ways in which life in the minors is quite different. In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we'll examine the world of minor league baseball by taking a behind-the-scenes look at one of the nation's most successful minor league clubs, the Triple-A Durham Bulls. We'll explore the relationship between the North Carolina-based team and its major league "parent" -- the Tampa Bay Devil Rays -- and learn more about what it takes to run a minor league baseball team as an entertainment business -- something baseball insiders say Durham does extremely well!