In 1988, Steve Bryant bought both the the Columbus Astros (Double-A, Southern League) franchise from the Preston group in Columbus, Georgia and the Carolina League´s Greensboro Hornets.
The following year, Bryant re-branded the Columbus Astros – they were now the Columbus Mudcats. The new name was selected by local fans participating in a contest. Examples of other suggested names were the Columbus River Rats and the Columbus Scrambled Dogs.
After the 1990 season, the Columbus Mudcats revealed that they were moving to Zebulon, North Carolina, and would rename themselves the Carolina Mudcats.
The team concluded their player development agreement with the Huoston Astros following the 1990 season, and for the 1991 season they entered into a new agreement with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
1991 – the first year of the Carolina Mudcats
1991 was, of course, a seminal year for the Carolina Mudcats, as this is when they played their very first game. Held on 11 April, 1991, the game resulted in a 1-0 loss in Greenville, South Carolina versus the Braves (Atlanta Braves).
During the spring of 1991, the Five County Stadium in Zebulon was still not finnished, so the Carolina Mudcats instead used the Fleming Stadium in Wilson, North Carolina. For their first homegame, they defeated the Greenville Braves 5-1.
On July 3, 1991, the Five County Stadiu hosted the Mudcats for the very first time, although the construction schedule was very thight, and the working crew was still installing the stadium seats on July 3. As soon as the seats were in place, the same crew had to take on the role as ushers as the crowd began pouring in through the gates. When it was time to raise the flag for the opening rendition of the National Anthem before the game, the flag pole had to be raised as well. The July 3 game drew in 7,333 spectators, and resulted in L, 6-5 vs. Greenville.
The Will Wynne Award
Steve Bryant received the 1991 Will Wynne Award at the Raleigh Hot Stove Banquet. This annual award is presented to the North Carolinan who has done the most for baseball in the state.
1992 – 1995: The Carolina Mudcats is a success
A series of notable events took place in 1993 – 1995, all culminating in the Mudcat´s 1995 Southern League Championship victory.
In May 1992, RHP Mike Zimmerman and RHP Dennis Tafoya combined on the first no-hitter in Carolina team history, during a game where the Mudcat´s defeated Chattanooga 1-0. That same month, the Mudcat´s played against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a much watched MLB exhibition game at the Five County Stadium; a game which drew in 7,412 spectators and ended in the Pirates wining with 4-1.
In the year 1993, the Mudcats broke the old attendance record for teams in the Reseach Trinagle Area by drawing a total of 328,000 people to the Five County Stadium.
In 1994, the Mudcats grabbed the Southern League first half (44-26) Eastern Division title, and defeated Greenville three games two in the Eastern Division Playoffs. Thereafter, they fell three games to one to Huntsville in the Southern Leage Championship series. That same year, 1B/OF Mark Johnson was named Southern League MVP after hitting a Southern League high 23 home runs and batting .276/.384/.515 with 107 hits, 85 RBI and 69 runs in 111 games. The following year, Jason Kendall was named Southern League MVP after finishing second in the league in batting (.326) and on-base percentage (.414).
Winning the Southern League Championship
The Carolina Mudcats captured their first Southern League Championship title in 1995, with an 89-55 record. In the Eastern Division playoffs, they defeated Orlando three games to two, and followed that up by winning three out of five against Chattanooga in the Southern League Championship series.
Some highlights from 1996 – 1999
Independence Day 1996: A franchise record 9,281 fans watch the Mudcats defeat the Knoxville Smokies 7-5 at Five County Stadium.
August 1996: 3B George Canale becomes the first Carolina Mudcats player with six hits in a game (6-for-9 with a double, two triples and 5 RBI).
1996: The Carolina Mudcats receive Baseball America´s Bob Freitas Award for for outstanding organizational achievement and success at the Double-A level.
July 1997: Chad Hermansen becomes the first Carolina Mudcats player to hit for the cycle.
1998: The Carolina Mudcats conclude their affiliation with the Pittsburgh Pirates following the 1998 season.
1999: The Carolina Mudcats becomes affiliated with the Colorado Rockies.
Some highlights from 2000-2005
2003: The Carolina Mudcats win their second Southern League Championship
The main hightlight from this period is, of course, the Souther League Championship victory. The Carolina Mudcats defeated Tennessee 3-1 in the Eastern Division playoffs, and went on to defeat Huntsville three games to two to win the Southern League Championship.
Other highlights from the period
- 2000: OF Juan Pierre wins the Southern League Batting Championship after hitting .326/.376/.380 with 143 hits over 107 games. In the 2000 season, Pierre also scored 63 runs, stole 46 bases and totaled 33 walks against only 26 strikeouts.
- 2000: With 172 strikeouts in a season, RHP Shawn Chacon breaks the old Carolina Mudcat record.
- 2003: The Carolina Mudcats became affiliated with the Florida Marlins, after concluding their affiliation with the Coloradio Rockies after the 2002 season. In May that year, LHP Dontrelle Willis was promoted to the Florida Marlins.
- 2003: OF Chris Aguila wins the Southern League Batting Championship, with 320/.384/.499 with 108 hits over 93 games.
- 2005: In July, RHP Nic Ungs pitches the Mudcat´s the first complete game, nine-inning no-hitter. Ungs struck out seven, walked five and induced 13 groundball outs.
- 2005: In this year, eight Mudcats were promted directly to major leagues: Jeremy Hermida, Chris Resop, Scott Olsen, Logan Kensing, Yorman Bazardo, Robert Andino, Jason Vargas and Josh Johnson. Also, Chad Bentz was recalled to the Marlins.
Some highlights from 2006 – 2011
2006: RHP Anibal Sanchez is promoted to the Florida Marlins and makes his MLB debute.
2007: OF Jai Miller hits three home runs in one game. It was a game started on July 24 but finnished on July 25, due to a rain suspension.
2008: The Mudcat´s makes it to the North Division Playoffs, and falls three games to two to Mississippi in the Southern League Championship series.
2008: 1B Gaby Sanchez named Southern League MVP after hitting a Southern League high 42 doubles and batting .314/.404/.513 with 150 hits, 17 home runs, 92 RBI, 69 walks and 70 runs in 133 games.
2009: After concluding their Florid Marlins aggrement following the previous season, the Mudcat´s commence their affiliation with the Cincinnati Reds.
2009: LHP Travis Wood is crowned Southern League Most Outstanding Pitcher after finishing the 2009 season as the league leader in earned run average (1.21), WHIP (0.97), average against (.189), highest SO/9ip ratio (7.79) and fewest baserunners/9ip ratio (9.08).
2010: OF Dave Sappelt is crowned Southern League MVP after batting a league best .361 with 119 hits, nine home runs and 62 RBI in just 89 games. Sappelt also finished his MVP season with a .416 OBP, .548 SLG and .964 OPS.
2011: Neftali Soto breaks the Mudcat´s record for home runs in a single year, by hitting his 30th home run of the season on August 29.
2012: Big changes taking place
In 2012, Mudcats franchise changed classification from Double-A to Class-A Advanced, and shifted from the Southern Leage to the Carolina League.
This was a part of a wider series of deals, where Bryant sold his Double-A franchise to an investment group in Pensacola, FL, purchased the Carolina League´s Kingston Indians, and moved the Kingston franchise to Zebulon, NC where they were turned into the Carolina Mudcats. The Double-A version of the Mudcats were renamed Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
2012 was also the year when the Carolina Mudcats became affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, and on April 3, 2012, the new Mudcat teams played an MLB exhibition game at Five County Stadium. The Cleveland Indians won 13-0.
The first Caroline Leage era game for the Carolina Mudcats took place on April 6, against Winston-Salem Dash. The Mudcats won 11-2.
Some highlights from 2013 – 2017
2013: RHP Cody Anderson was named Carolina League Pitcher of the Year.
2014: LHP Ryan Merritt leads the Carolina League in wins (13) and innings pitched (160.1).
2015: This was the year when the Carolina Mudcats became affiliated with the Atlanta Braves, but also the year when a serious accident occurred that shook the team and their fans. After winning nine games in a row, the Carolina Mudcats boarded a bus to go from Salem, VA to Myrtle Beach, SC. Before reaching its destination, the bus was involved in an accident were several players sustained injuries and were placed on the disabled list. The ensuing series in Myrtle Beach was postponed. After resuming the season, the Mudcats lost 12 straight games.
2016: This was not a very good season for the Mudcats, and they finnished it 52-87, with a .374 winning percentage.
2017: The Carolina Mudcats became affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers.
2017: On May 3, 3B Lucas Erceg successfully carried out the hidden-ball trick against the outfielder Kyle Tucker of the Buies Creek Astros.
2017: On June 20, INF Jake Gatewood won the 2017 Carolina League All-Star Classic Home Run Derby. He homered 13 times in both the first and second rounds, and won the All-Star Game Home Run Derby with a final round total of 15 home runs.
2017: In October, Steve Bryant sold the Carolina Mudcats to Milwaukee Brewers.
2018: Under new ownership
As mentioned above, 2017 was the year when long-time owner Steve Bryant sold the Carolina Mudcats franchise to the Milwaukee Brewers, so the 2018 season was the first one under the new ownership.
Setting a new record
Carolina Mudcats batters combined to total a Carolina League and franchise record 1,311 strikeouts during the 2018 season.
A few examples of notable Mudcat player achievement from the 2018 season:
- OF Ryan Aguilar and INF/OF Weston Wilson earned back-to-back Player of the Week award honors for the weeks ending on April 22 and April 29 respectively.
- LHP Cam Roegner was recognized as a mid-season All-Star for the first time in his career, and was later promoted to Double-A Biloxi.
- LHP Cam Roegner was named the Carolina League’s Pitcher of the Week for the week ending on May 12, 2018.
- INF Keston Hiura was named the Carolina League’s Player of the Month for May.
- The Mudcats place four players on the 2018 Carolina League Southern Division All-Star team: LHP Cam Roegner, RHP Marcos Diplan, INF Tucker Neuhaus, and C Max McDowell.
- RHP Victor Diaz was named the Carolina League’s Pitcher of the Week for the week ending on July 1.
- INF/OF Weston Wilson was named the Carolina League’s Player of the Month for July
- OF/C Cooper Hummel finished the 2018 season as the Carolina League’s leader in on-base percentage (.397)
2019: The Micro Brews & Pescados de Carolina
This was the season when two new team identities were introduced, as alternate identities for the club.
- Micro Brews (a homage to the Milwaukee Brewers)
- Pescados de Carolina (as part of MiLB´s Copa de la Diversión initiative to celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture)
Some other highlights from the year
- The Mudcats placed seven players to the Carolina League´s Southern Division mid-season All-Star Team.
- Catcher Mario Feliciano was named the 2019 Carolina League Most Valuable Player.
- Starter Noah Zavolas was named the 2019 Carolina League Pitcher of the Year.
- Carolina batters combined to total 1,412 strikeouts, which was a new Carolina League and franchise record.
- The Carolina offense combined to total 107 hit-by-pitches, which was a new Carolina League and franchise record.
2020: No season
The 2020 season was called due to the Covid19 pandemic.
2021: Move to the Single-A East league
After the cancelled 2020 season, baseball returned in 2021 and the Carolina Mudcats transitioned to the Single-A level and Single-A East league.
The Mudcats´ victory against Lynchburg on July 10 marked manager Joe Ayrault´s 800th career win. (The 2021 season was his fifth season as manager for the Carolina Mudcats, his 12th as manager in Milwaukee´s system, and his 15th year as a skipper in MiLB.)
In August, Joey Wiemer got a Single-A Player of the Week Award and was promoted to High-A Wisconsin.
In September, Noah Campbell played all nine positions against the Fayetteville Woodpeckers in the final game of the season.