Commentary

Shaffer: Sizzling hot Durham Bulls ground crew shimmies into spotlight (with video)

jshaffer@newsobserver.comAugust 31, 2014 

— Last Saturday, the Durham Bulls introduced the world to the rump-shaking soul of their infield – a quartet of brazenly ridiculous men sporting dark shades and golf shirts tucked inside khaki shorts, waving their hind ends like middle-aged dads at a Y Princess dance.

Within days, the hysteria spread nationwide. More than a million eyeballs trained on a 1-minute video starring the Bulls’ hip-wiggling grounds crew, affectionately nicknamed the Diamond Cutters.

From California to New York to someplace where Portuguese is spoken, fans gushed over footage of the dudes busting choreographed moves to a Taylor Swift song. They garnered more than 50,000 Facebook likes and 60,000 shares, all for enlivening a minor league baseball game.

They made The Sporting News.

“Dayum!” raved one admirer.

“White boys got some butts!” another cheered. “Had to watch twice!”

“This is going to be used next time I’m out drankin,” promised a third.

Even a casual Durham Bulls fan knows the Diamond Cutters, a mainstay of home games for the last three years – the brainchild of marketing director Scott Carter, who dances second from the left.

Their repertoire includes a version of Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie,” which they perform in black evening jackets. You’ve seen them rolling their arms to “Proud Mary” and jabbing their fingers in the air to “Thrift Shop” – bonus entertainment that always comes at the end of the 6th inning.

“We’ve been doing ‘Single Ladies’ for a long time,” said Carter, 34. “That really slays.”

But the Cutters’ version of “Shake It Off” brings the foursome to a new level of notoriety, placing them alongside Nuke LaLoosh in Bulls’ folklore.

“It’s been pretty insane,” Carter said. “You wake up and you’ve got a text message saying, ‘You were on Good Morning America.’ ”

But now that they’ve jumped beyond local spectacle, I think it’s time to dig deeper. As their fame has skyrocketed, this plucky correpondent has ferreted out some juicy celebrity details.

Item! None of the Diamond Cutters are actual groundskeepers. They may drag those mats behind them, smoothing out the infield dirt, but in real life, they work either in marketing or ticket sales.

Item! Carter imported the idea from California, where he worked for the class AAA Fresno Grizzlies and performed as a member of the Drag Kings –widely considered the first dancing grounds crew in the minor leagues.

Item! Along with Carter, the Cutters’ real names are Tim Campbell, Paul Friedlander and Tyler Churchill. But they’re better known by their stage handles: Meat, Stick, Big Time Timmy Jim and The Kid.

Carter explains the newfound attention as a perfect storm. Swift’s song is catchy to the point of earworm annoyance, and it had only just been released when the Cutters decided to offer a parody.

But to my mind, their performance deserves applause not just because it encourages unashamed abandon, or because it spreads the Bulls’ brand beyond the Southeast.

The true achievement in their work comes in the words of this Facebook post, a note of vindication from a long-suffering zealot for the national pastime.

“See?” came a cry from the wilderness. “Baseball can be fun.”

jshaffer@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4818

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