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Charlotte’s Offense is RED-HOT

SCRANTON/WILKINS-ANDY: Andy Wilkins launched two home runs in Thursday’s game (17 & 18) and followed that up withBF3_0187 a home run in last night’s game – his International League Leading 19th of the season. His long home run, which cleared the ballpark and landed on Mint Street, passed teammate Matt Davidson, who has 18 after his home run on Thursday. Wilkins has enjoyed hitting against the RailRiders this season. In six games against SWB in 2014, he is batting .640 (16-for-25) with 10 runs scored, four doubles, one triple, five home runs, and 11 RBIs. In 13 July games, Wilkins is hitting .407 (22-for-54) with 11 runs scored, five doubles, one triple, five home runs, and 12 RBIs. Overall for the season, the Tulsa, OK native is hitting .263 with 47 runs scored, 23 doubles, 19 home runs, and 51 RBIs in 87 games. He’s also first in the IL this season in extra-base hits (43) and HR/AB ratio (1/17.79). He is third in total bases (171) – two behind leader Steven Souza Jr. (SYR), and fourth in slugging % (.506).

Since June 30, Wilkins and Davidson have five home runs — which is tops by an IL player over that span. The Knights are 10-7 over that 17-game span and catcher Josh Phegley has a 13-game hit-streak over that span.

LUCKY #13: Josh Phegley earned his third International League All-Star selection this BF2_0067season and went 1-for-2 with a run scored in the game. The 26-year-old backstop has been on fire over his last 13 games – compiling a 13-game hit-streak – after going 3-for-4 with three RBIs last night. He is batting an International League high .466 (27-for-58) since June 30 (the start of his 13-game hit-streak). He has 13 runs scored, four home runs, and 15 RBIs over that span as well. Currently, the Indiana native, who will play in Indianapolis against the Indians next week in front of his hometown crowd, also leads all IL catchers in games caught (74), total chances (680), putouts (611), and assists (63). He has also thrown out a league-best 47% of attempted basestealers. A defensive star behind the plate, Phegley won the MiLB Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2012 with the Knights.

HOME RUN LEADERS: With a game-high six home runs on Thursday, and another homer on Friday, the Knights now have 124 home runs this season – tops in the IL and tied for the most in all of Minor League Baseball with the PCL’s Las Vegas squad. The top Major League team this season in home runs is Toronto – who has 117. Charlotte has 39 more than second place Toledo (85) in the IL. Overall, BB&T Ballpark has fared well for the long ball (74 Knights home runs have been hit there this season, while 69 opponent home runs have been hit there). So far this season, an IL-high 143 home runs combined have been hit at BB&T Ballpark – which is 49 more than at Huntington Park in Columbus (94) – the second highest home run hitting ballpark in the IL this season. The Knights have four players in the top 10 of home runs this season in the IL. Andy Wilkins is first with 19, Matt Davidson is second with 18, Josh Phegley is tied for fifth with 14, while Jordan Danks is tied for sixth  most with his 13.

All-Star Week in Durham — Day #3

Today is the day! The Triple-A All-Star Game is here!All-Star-Game-Final-2014

I’m all set up in the press box of Durham Bulls Athletic Park getting ready for tonight’s
game. From a Charlotte standpoint, three-time IL All-Star Josh Phegley is all set to play in his second Triple-A All-Star Game. It’s a great honor for him and he’s back after a promotion to Chicago last year had him out of the game. Three full seasons in the Triple-A with the Knights and three All-Star selections! He continues to be the top catcher throughout the International League and his 2014 season has been an exceptional one both at the plate and behind the plate.

From another Charlotte standpoint, there is a great reunion of sorts taking place at this year’s game. Fresno Grizzlies manager Bob Mariano is leading the PCL All-Stars against the IL All-Stars, who have the Columbus Clippers pitching coach Tony Arnold on staff as pitching coach. So, how does that relate to Charlotte baseball you say?

Bob Mariano, a former O's infielder, is managing the PCL All-Stars at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Durham.

Bob Mariano, a former O’s infielder, is managing the PCL All-Stars at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Durham.

Both Mariano and Arnold played for the Charlotte O’s in the 1980’s and both were roommates during their time in Charlotte.

Props to Bob Sutton of Times News on his great story today:
Former Burlington pitching coach uses Triple-A All-Star Game as reunion

Arnold was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 10th round of the 1981 draft. Just a year later, Arnold made his way to Charlotte and pitched for the O’s in 15 games during the 1982 season. Overall that year, he compiled a 5-6 mark with a 5.22 ERA. The following season, Arnold and Mariano were teammates on the O’s. They remained teammates for three seasons — 1983-’85.

In 1983, Arnold posted a 7-5 record with a 3.29 ERA in 44 games (two starts) for the O’s with a career-high 12 saves that season. Mariano appeared in 65 games for the O’s and hit .265 with three home runs and 28 RBIs.

In 1984, the O’s won their second Southern League Championship and both Arnold and Mariano played for the team that season. Arnold compiled a 7-5 record with a 3.14 ERA in 16 games (12 starts). He threw four complete games and had three shutouts that year.

As for Mariano, he played in a season-high 117 games for the O’s — playing both shortstop and third base. His 321 at-bats were the most he ever had in a season.

The two were back on the diamond in Charlotte in 1985 and while Mariano played just four games with the O’s that season, Arnold put together a solid season with the Bulls. He posted an 11-7 record with a 3.87 ERA with one save in 31 games (18 starts). He also had six complete games that season and two shutouts.

Toy Arnold, former Charlotte O's hurler, is the pitching coach for the IL All-Star Team.

Toy Arnold, former Charlotte O’s hurler, is the pitching coach for the IL All-Star Team.

Overall, Arnold played in Charlotte from 1982-’85 and is second all-time in Charlotte O’s franchise history in wins (30), third in games pitched (106), fourth in innings pitched (438.1), tied for sixth in saves (13), and ninth in strikeouts.

Now, the two get to spend a little time with each other before competing in the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game. Reunited in Durham, who knew? Now that’s a great story!

Arnold was in Charlotte earlier this year when his Clippers came to town to face the Knights. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him then, but hoping to talk to him and Bob at some point  today before the big game. Batting practice starts at 4:00 PM, so I am headed down to the field.

Stay tuned for some more news and notes from Durham later today and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Tommy_the_V for all of the latest!

 

Knights All-Star Catcher Josh Phegley

I had a chance to sit down with Charlotte Knights catcher Josh Phegley on a rainy Tuesday afternoon at Durham Bulls Athletic Park during the All-Star Game media session. Josh and I talked about his solid 2014 campaign, his third selection to the All-Star Game, his teammate Tyler Saladino, and more.

Take a listen: phegley_josh_full

 

All-Star Week Durham — Day #2

Day #1 is in the books and it was a great night in Durham. The Triple-A Home Run Derby event went very well. From a very amusing softball home run derby (those guys launched softballs that are still yet to come down), to Olate Dogs performing on field, to a competitive Triple-A Home Run Derby, to thrilling fireworks, and more — day #1 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park was fun for all. belt_twitter

Allan Dykstra — a Wake Forest University product — won the Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby. Currently in the New York Mets organization and playing for Triple-A Las Vegas, Dykstra made it to the finals against Francisco Pena, of Omaha. Pena did not hit a home run in the finals — meaning Dykstra needed just one to win. He got that home run and won the Triple-A Home Run Derby and the championship belt.

With the first day complete, it’s now on to day #2 for me!

Today at the ballpark, all of  the Triple-A All-Stars will be on hand to take batting practice and sign autographs for fans. I’m looking forward to watching some BP and talking to Knights catcher Josh Phegley, who is here for his third All-Star nod. After playing in the 2012 All-Star Game in Buffalo, Phegley was selected for the 2013 game in Reno, but was promoted to Chicago and did not get to go to the game. Now, he’s back and once again earning an All-Star nod. And… rightly so!Phegley_Josh

This season, the Terre Haute, IN native is hitting .264 with with 45 runs scored, 75 hits, 21 doubles, three triples, 13 home runs, and 40 RBIs over 73 games for the Knights this season. His 13 home runs and 45 runs scored are first among International League catchers this season. While his offensive numbers are superb, it’s his defensive numbers that also stand out among all catchers.

Behind the plate this year, Phegley is leading nearly every category among IL catchers. And, why not? He is a 2012 MiLB Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner!

Phegley is first in the following defensive categories: games caught (72), total chances (664), putouts (597), and assists (61). Phegley also leads the IL in throwing out attempted basestealers. He’s thrown out 32 of 69 basestealers, which is good for 46%. The next closest catcher is James McCann of Toledo, who has thrown out 40%.

As the day goes on, look for some photos, interviews, and more from today’s media session.

All-Star Week in Durham – Day #1

I’m all set up in the Durham Bulls press box as All-Star week is upon us!credential_twitter It’s All-Star week around baseball and I’m here in Durham, NC for the Triple-A All-Star Game. Of course, it would be nice to be in Minnesota for the Major League All-Star Game, but I’m happy to be a part of this year’s Triple-A Game. Who needs the majors when you have the minors! I’ve been working in Minor League Baseball for eight years now and every year brings new adventures! I’m very excited for the experiences and memories I will make this week!

I’m here to help out my  good pals Scott Carter and Matt Sutor, who do a great job for the Durham Bulls.  It helps that their ballpark is just a bit over two hours away from ours in Charlotte, but nonetheless, I was interested in making this trip even if it was 10 hours away! With the entire league off until Thursday, I needed to see some baseball anyways! I’m also helping out MLB Network’s coverage on Wednesday

Tonight is the Home Run Derby, and while there aren’t any Charlotte participants in this year’s game, I’m eager to watch some long home runs here in Durham. Hoping to see a few hit the Bull too!

This is such a unique ballpark. Being a fan of the classic movie — Bull Durham — it’s really fun to be at this park with so many references and  familiar faces — including their mascot race! It’s fun to see the Bull Durham characters come to life! Our Royalty Racers — King Meck, Queen Charlotte, and Jerry the Jester were made by the same company. There’s an FYI for you in case you were interested!Sale_Chris (media 2)

It’s my third trip here this season, as I made the trek earlier this year when Chicago White Star — and current Major League All-Star Chris Sale made a rehab appearance there for the Knights. In fact, that was a great trip. My dad was in town visiting from PA and he took the trip with me. Always nice when you can spend a few hours with the person who made me the huge baseball fan I am today!

We made the drive twice — since rain washed away Sale’s first attempt at a rehab start. After driving all the way there, the game was postponed and a doubleheader was in the cards for the next day! We were back the next day to see Sale put on a show! He struck-out 11 Bulls over just four innings of work. He was absolutely brilliant! He was activated just days later and back in Chicago to pitch for the Sale_Chris - (rehab 2)White Sox. He’s an All-Star this year and has continued to pitch extremely well.

As for today and the rest of this week, keep an eye out for photos, interviews, blogs, and more from Durham from yours truly. This is a great experience and I’m going to make the most out of it.

As for the Knights, catcher Josh Phegley is here and will play on Wednesday. Charlotte’s backstop is leading the International League in nearly every defensive category for catchers — and is tops among IL catchers in home runs with 13. He’s had an amazing year and continues to do everything right for the Knights. He has a bright future ahead of him!

While Phegley is here, it is unfortunate that Knights shortstop Tyler Saladino is not here. He was elected to the game by the fans and was scheduled to start at SS. He has had a career year — hitting .310 through 82 games this season for the Knights. Unfortunately, an injury is holding him back from this year’s game. With a few days rest, the hope is to have him ready to go and back on the field for the Knights this week. He has been a true MVP for the Knights this season. Between his offensive numbers, his defensive ability, and the fact he can be plugged into just about any position on the diamond, Saladino has been a true asset to the Knights.durham_twitter

Stay tuned for more news and notes from Durham. NC as I continue to live out another one of my dreams. I get to watch baseball everyday — and even when baseball is not on our schedule — I’m watching baseball. Not too shabby!

The Heath is On…

RHP Deunte Heath (5-1, 2.39) will make his eighth start of the season today (July 6) as he takes the mound in the opening game against SWB from PNC Field in Moosic, PA.Heath_Deunte Heath has won back-to-back-to-back starts and four-straight decisions dating back to 6/9 vs. Columbus. Since June 9, Heath is 4-0 with a 1.73 ERA in five starts (26.1 IP).

In his first start of this season, Heath threw five scoreless innings on 4/23 vs. Durham and earned his first win of the year. It was his first start for the Knights since July 25, 2013 when he started in game two of a doubleheader against the Indianapolis Indians at Knights Stadium. In his only start of last season, Heath allowed one unearned run on two hits over 2.2 innings. Heath ranks third all-time in Knights franchise history in games (117) is second in strikeouts all-time with 294.

ALL-TIME KNIGHTS ERA LEADERS
(Min. 180 IP)

1.) John Salles – 2.83
2.) Deunte Heath – 3.01 *
3.) Steve Trachsel – 3.06
4.) Carlos Torres – 3.07
5.) Dylan Axelrod – 3.22 *
6.) Charlie Leesman – 3.24*
* = active

Heath All-Time vs. SWB
2013: 
0-0, 0.00, 2.0 IP, 2 H, 3 SO – 1 G
2012: 0-0, 0.00, 6.0 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 7 SO – 4 G
2011: 1-1, 3.86, 9.1 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 4 ER, HR, 5 BB, 11 SO – 3 G

Total: 1-1, 2.08, 17.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 8 BB, 21 SO – 8 G

Surkamp was Superb on Monday!

It was 12 days since Eric Surkamp last took the hill for the Charlotte Knights. On Monday, the 26-year-old left-hander looked as smooth as ever.

Photo credit: Mike Feifel

Photo credit: Mike Feifel

Surkamp tossed seven shutout innings, Josh Phegley, Matt Davidson, and Andy Wilkins all hit solo home runs in the fourth inning, and the Charlotte Knights beat the Lehigh Valley IronPigs 5-1 on Monday in game one of their four-game series from Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA.

“It was a good feeling to be back out there,” said Surkamp after the game. “I felt fresh and everything felt good.”

Making his 10th start of the season, Surkamp (3-4, 4.88) tossed a season-high seven innings and did not allow a run. The N.C. State product gave up just three hits and struck-out eight batters. His 77 strikeouts on the season are second in the International League behind Rochester’s Trevor May (78).

In all, the 6’5” lefty went seven innings for the first time since August 30, 2013 with Fresno (Triple-A). He threw seven innings or more on seven occasions last season.

Surkamp, 26, was originally selected in the sixth round of the 2008 draft by the San Francisco Giants. He made his Major League debut on August 27, 2011 for the Giants and allowed one run over six innings pitched in a start against the Houston Astros. He appeared in six games that season with the Giants and posted a 2-2 record with a 5.74 ERA. Surkamp missed the entire 2012 season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. He is a product of NC State University (2006-08).

ERIC SURKAMP — POST-GAME AUDIO, JUNE 16, 2014:

Taylored for Charlotte…

OF Michael Taylor, who was ranked by Baseball America as the third-best prospect in the taylorPhiladelphia Phillies organization, and 29th best prospect in all of Major League Baseball heading into the 2010 season, was acquired by the Chicago White Sox on Saturday in a trade with the Oakland A’s. Chicago sent Kannapolis RHP Jacob Sanchez to Oakland’s organization.

Taylor will officially be added to Charlotte’s roster on Monday when the team is in Lehigh Valley – where Taylor played his home games in 2009. With the Knights at 25 active players, a corresponding move will need to be made on Monday. 

I worked for the IronPigs in 2008 and 2009. I knew all about Michael Taylor in 2009 as he was tearing up the Eastern League as a member of the Reading Philies — a team I would work for in 2010 and 2011. I’ll never forget the day he was called up to Lehigh Valley. There were a TON of media members interested in talking to Michael. He couldn’t be nicer! And, throughout the season he handled all of the attention very well.

At the time of his promotion, he was hitting .333 with 15 home runs and 65 RBIs for the R-Phils and deserved that promotion. He didn’t slow down with the ‘Pigs either.

That season with the IronPigs, Taylor appeared in 30 games and hit .282 with five home runs and 19 RBIs. He hit-for-the-cycle on August 12, 2009. He went 5-for-5 with two doubles, a triple, a home run, four RBIs, and two runs scored that day. Taylor hit a remarkable .320 with 20 home runs, 84 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases combined with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2009. At the end of the year, he was named the Eastern League’s Rookie of the Year.

Originally drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round of the 2007 draft, Taylor hit a remarkable .320 with 20 home runs, 84 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases combined with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2009. A season, later, Taylor was traded twice.

On December 16, 2009, he was traded by the Phillies with Travis d’Arnaud and Kyle Drabek to the Toronto Blue Jays for Roy Halladay and cash. He was then traded by the Blue Jays to the Oakland A’s for Brett Wallace on the same day.

At the time of Saturday’s trade, Taylor was playing for Triple-A Sacramento and was hitting .243 (53-for-218) with five home runs and 31 RBIs over 59 games. Taylor has 102 career home runs at the Minor League level along with a .289 batting average (eight seasons).

Animal Day at BB&T Ballpark

On Sunday, June 8th, the Charlotte Knights welcomed animals to BB&T Ballpark for the first time ever. While not all animals were welcome this time, the Knights did welcome dogs and a legendary professional wrestler who made his name as an “Animal”. For nearly five decades, this “Animal” made headlines in the wrestling ring and even starred in a major motion picture — Ed Wood. His name is George “the Animal” Steele — but it’s easier to just call him by his real name Jim Myers. I found that out in my interview with him. George Twitter

Tommy V interviews the “Animal” for Knights TV

Animal Day at BB&T Ballpark was a big success. Hundreds of dogs lined the concourse and seating bowl with their owners to watch the Charlotte Knights host the Columbus Clippers. While there was rain — and a rain delay — that didn’t stop fans from parading their pups around Charlotte’s new kingdom!

As for the “Animal” of the day, George “the Animal” Steele was superb! He met members of the media, he met the players and coaches, and then took a seat on the concourse where he signed hundreds of autographs for hours!

The “Animal” who was known for eating turnbuckles, took a bite out of his first pitch on Sunday. It was an interesting sight to see as “the Animal” made his way to the pitcher’s mound, took a bite out of the ball, and then through his “flutter” pitch. The ball made its way to the catcher — well, not all of it.

George “the Animal” Steele’s first pitch

Here is a story from David Sentendrey of FOX 46, who came out to cover the Animal Day at BB&T Ballpark. He talked to fans, dogs, and even George “the Animal” Steele.

FOX 46 interviews George “the Animal” Steele 

All and all, it was a great day at BB&T Ballpark. Even with the rainy afternoon, 9,410 fans came out to BB&T Ballpark and hundreds of dogs went along for the ride. Thank you George “the Animal” Steele for a fun day at BB&T Ballpark!

DSC09382 DSC09388DSC09307DSC09422

Hill to the Knights, Leesman to the DL

The Chicago White Sox have acquired RHP Shawn Hill from the Toronto organization and the 33-year-old has been assigned to the Charlotte Knights. Hill takes the roster spot of LHP Charlie Leesman, who was placed on the disabled list effective today. Details of the trade have not been disclosed.

hill

Hill, 33, was playing for Double-A New Hampshire and made his last start for the Fisher Cats on June 7. In three starts with New Hampshire, Hill was 0-2 with a 5.59 ERA (17.2 IP). A native of Mississauga, ON, Canada, Hill began the season with Triple-A Buffalo and posted a 2-1 record with a 4.85 ERA in six games (four starts). He faced the Knights back on May 12 and allowed five runs on nine hits over five innings.

Originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, Hill made his Major League debut on June 29, 2004 with the Expos. In parts of seven seasons at the Major League level, Hill owns a 10-18 mark with a 4.69 ERA in 45 games (44 starts).

Leesman is 2-6 with a 3.95 ERA in 12 games for the Knights this season. He started for the Knights on June 10 and allowed eight runs (seven earned) over three innings.

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