The Burlington Royals are Alamance County’s Minor League Baseball Team. As their nickname suggests, the Royals are the Appalachian League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The “Appy League”, as it is known in scouting circles, is the lowest level of off-complex minor league baseball. A large majority of the players who suit up for Burlington will never play Major League Baseball, yet some of the biggest names in the game have honed their skills at Burlington Athletic Stadium.

Burlington Athletic Stadium. Credit: MattKrause  

History of Baseball in Alamance County

 Burlington has a rich history of baseball, which is outlined in Don Bolden’s Remembering Alamance County: Tales of Railroads, Textiles, and Baseball[1]. Mr. Bolden’s book discusses how Alamance County’s textile industry was a hotbed for semipro baseball in the 1920s and 30s. The first true professional baseball team in Alamance County history was the Burlington Bees, a member of the Carolina League from 1947 to 1972. The franchise played home games at the “Ball Park”; an Elon College recreational facility located amongst a settlement of African-Americans[2], which is where The Station at Mill Point currently sits. The team eventually moved to their current home, which was previously known as Fairchild Stadium.

In 1986, professional baseball returned to Alamance County in the form of the Burlington Indians, the franchise that has evolved into the Royals.[3] The Cleveland Indians held a farm club in Burlington for 21 years, with Kansas City taking over as the parent club in 2007.  

Burlington Indians/Royals Alumni

All-Burlington Indians Team. Credit MattKrause

In the 27 seasons of rookie league baseball in Burlington, the team has produced a surprisingly large number of Major League ballplayers.  Only about 1% of players who ever play rookie ball make it to the majors, according to Ira Rosen’s The American Game: A Celebration of Minor League Baseball. Some of the most well known players in the modern game have suited up for Burlington. Four of the most famous Burlington Indians are memorialized in a unique way. Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, CC Sabathia, and Bartolo Colon are honored with a mural in the men’s bathroom where each urinal is a “locker” of the player. Burlington is the only place in the minors where it is acceptable to relieve oneself in a player’s locker. 

Ramirez played for Burlington in 1991, amassing a .326 average with 19 home runs and 63 RBI in 58 games. The 63 RBI is a Burlington franchise record that Ramirez holds to this day. He went on to have a controversial 19 year MLB career, marred by attitude problems and two performance-enhancing drug suspensions. Nonetheless, Ramirez hit .312 with 555 home runs playing for the Indians, Red Sox, Dodgers, White Sox, and Rays.

Thome, widely considered one of the friendliest players in baseball, was a Burlington Indian for 33 games in 1990. He hit 12 home runs and 77 RBI for Burlington, and held a .343 average when he was promoted to Class A Kinston. Thome has hit 612 homers in his major league career, with 2,326 hits and a .277 average over 22 seasons for the Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Twins, and Orioles.

Sabathia, the current ace pitcher of the New York Yankees, made five starts as a 17-year old for the Indians in 1998. In 18 innings, he gave up 9 earned runs with 35 strikeouts and a 4.50 ERA. Now, the 6-time All Star has a career ERA of 3.51 with 2,207 strikeouts for the Indians, Brewers, and Yankees.

Colon, another controversial player currently suspended for PED use, played for Burlington in 1994. In 12 starts, Colon struck out 84 and had an ERA of 3.14. The journeyman pitcher won the 2005 AL Cy Young award with the Angels.

In addition to the “urinal four”, several other Burlington Royals players have made it to the pros.

Richie Sexson, a first baseman, played for the 1993 Indians. He had only one home run and five RBI over 40 games, amassing a .186 average, yet he played 12 seasons of Major League ball and hit 306 home runs.

Jaret Wright, a pitcher, made four starts for the 1994 Indians. He pitched 11 MLB seasons for the Indians, Yankees, Padres, Braves, and Orioles.

Mike Bacsik, who is fourth on the all-time Burlington WHIP list from 1996, had a fairly uneventful journeyman MLB career. However, he will go down in history for serving up Barry Bonds’ record-breaking home run in 2007 while pitching for the Washington Nationals.

Salvador Perez is the first former Burlington Royal to play for Kansas City. A catcher, he played for the 2008 Royals.

Burlington Athletic Stadium

Burlington Athletic Stadium. Credit: MattKrause


Burlington Athletic Stadium, formerly known as Fairchild Stadium, has been the home of the Indians/Royals franchise since its inception in 1986.  The ballpark was originally built in Danville, VA, but was physically moved to Burlington in 1958[4].

Up to 3,500 fans can attend a game at the field, which is called “the second best ballpark in the Appalachian League” by Brian Merzbach’s

The special urinal mural helped earn Burlington the #400 spot on Sporting News’ 2006 “best sports cities” list. [5]

While many exciting games have taken place over the years, one game put Burlington Athletic Stadium on the map. The Bluefield Orioles-Burlington Indians game, which began on June 24, 1988, lasted 27 innings (8 hours 16 minutes). The Orioles’ 3-2 win gained press in the New York Times for its longevity. In the piece, Indians manager Mike Bucci is said to have asked the umpiring crew about curfews, only to find out there were none. On the Royals’ official website, it mentions that the play-by-play broadcast, handled solo by Richard Musterer, is the longest continuous broadcast in baseball history. [6]

Current State of the Franchise 

On August 29, 2012, the Kansas City Royals re-upped their Player Development Contract with Burlington Baseball Club, meaning that the Royals will have a farm team in Alamance County through at least the 2014 season.

During the six years in which the Royals have had a presence in Burlington, several top players have passed through the franchise. 

The 2012 Baseball America Top 10 prospects list for Kansas City featured four current or former Burlington Royals[7]. The #2 overall prospect, outfielder Bubba Starling, played for Burlington in 2012. As the Royals’ first pick in the 2011 draft, Starling was the most-hyped Burlington player in some time. His season in Alamance County did not disappoint, as he hit .275 with 10 home runs and 33 RBI.

While Kansas City rebuilds, more and more Burlington Royals will reach the majors and make an impact on Major League Baseball.



[1] Don Bolden: Remembering Alamance County: Tales of Railroads, Textiles, and Baseball

[2] Carole Watterson Troxler and William Murray Vincent: Shuttle & Plow: A History of Alamance County, North Carolina

[3] Don Bolden: Remembering Alamance County: Tales of Railroads, Textiles, and Baseball

[4] From Burlington Royals Website

[5] “Pulaski ranks among ‘Best Sports Cities’”

[6] From Burlington Royals Website

[7] From Baseball America Website