There just isn’t enough baseball talk to go around. I know, I know, its the offseason. But still…
Sure, I watch MLB Network everyday. I listen to Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo on SiriusXM everyday to hear his baseball chatter… but I need more. I’m tired of football, basketball, and hockey. I need baseball.
This year, I have the opportunity of attending the MLB Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL. I’m thrilled! As I enter my eighth season in professional baseball in 2014 — I’ll be attending the Winter Meetings for the first time in my career. And, if there was ever a year to attend, I think this is the year.
With so many things happening this year — brand-new ballpark (BB&T Ballpark), the Triple-A National Championship Game, and much, much, more, attending this year’s meetings will be very beneficial. Also, to add to the excitement, I was chosen to moderate the International PR/Media Session in Orlando. I can’t wait!
One thing you can expect is tons of blog posts! Expect audio interviews and updates throughout the week!
Over the course of the offseason, a number of former Knights players have gone on to sign contracts with other organizations.
Here’s the latest…
Anthony Carter (2011-12) - Signed Minor League contract with San Diego
Carter, a Georgia native, was originally drafted by the White Sox in the 26th round of the 2005 draft. The hard-throwing right-hander made his way through Chicago’s system and made his Charlotte debut in 2011. Over the course of two seasons withe the Knights (74 games), Carter posted a 4-8 record with five saves and a 5.73 ERA (110 IP). All four of Carter’s Charlotte wins came during the 2012 season — when he went 4-6 with a 4.60 ERA and two saves (62.2 IP).
The 27-year-old became a free agent after the 2012 season and latched on with the Boston Red Sox on a Minor League deal during the offseason. It turned out to be a great move for Carter, who excelled all season for the PawSox in their bullpen.
Appearing in a team-high 52 games, Carter posted a 2-0 record with a 3.47 ERA and a team-best 24 saves for Pawtucket. Overall, he finished second in the IL in saves — just four behind the category leader Jairo Asencio (Norfolk). Carter also finished second in games and tied for first in games finished (40). He was a top reliever all season and was selected to the Triple-A All-Star game in July.
On November 18, Carter signed a Minor League deal with the San Diego Padres. He received an invite to Spring Training and he should have a good chance at making his Major League debut with the Pads sometime in 2014.
Dan Johnson (2012) - Signed Minor League contract with Toronto
Johnson was a superstar in 2012 with the Charlotte Knights. The former A’s and Rays slugger had an impressive year in Fort Mill. The Minnesota native hit .267 with 28 home runs and 85 RBIs in 137 games. He also walked 94 times, scored 77 runs, and ripped 127 hits.
Johnson moved around a bit in 2013. He signed a Minor League deal with the New York Yankees and hit .253 with 21 home runs and 69 RBIs in 133 games for Triple-A SWB. He appeared in three games with the Baltimore Orioles (.000 BA, 0-5) and five games with Triple-A Norfolk (.154 BA, 2-13).
Recently, Johnson inked a Minor League deal with the Toronto Blue Jays on November 15. His deal also included an invite to Spring Training. Johnson has had some important Big League at-bats during his career and will hope for a shot with the Jays.
In 12 Minor League seasons, he owns a lifetime .288 batting average with 221 home runs and 824 RBIs (1,151 games).
Jason Berken (2013) – Signed Minor League contract with San Francisco
Berken, a product of Clemson University, signed with the White Sox just days before the regular season. In fact, Berken arrived at Knights Stadium on Media Day. Still, he proved to be a key cog in the team’s rotation all season.
The former Baltimore righty started 27 games for the Knights and posted a 12-12 mark with a 3.80 ERA (161.0 IP). His 12 wins were tied for second in the IL, while his 27 starts also ranked tied for second. He also ranked tied for second in losses and third in innings pitched. He was a consistent starter for the Knights during a year when the team had its ups and downs. He tossed one complete game and finished second on the Knights in strikeouts (117).
Berken, who has appeared in 110 career Major League games, recently signed a Minor League contract with the Giants. The Green Bay, WI native will look to make his way back to the show this season. The Giants always seem to do a good job finding and working with pitchers (Ryan Vogelsong is a prime example).
That’s it for today’s blog post, but check back soon. A number of other former Knights have latched on with new teams. Stay tuned…
Each year, the Charlotte Knights front office staff does its best to make sure to reach out to the community. Lindsey Roycraft, the team’s community relations director, always has tons of ways for the staff to help out in the community. She does an amazing job of giving back — whether it is with donations or just spending time in the community volunteering.
During the holidays, the team continues their traditions and steps up its community efforts. Last year, the Knights were guest bartenders to raise money for the Salvation Army. Each year, the team holds a canned food drive and staff members even volunteer at the Men’s Shelter and Classroom Central.
For the past two weeks, the Knights partnered with Strayer University on a food drive to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank. There were five drop-off locations in the area and fans had the opportunity to help us out by donating non-perishable food items.
On Tuesday, November 26, the Knights collected the final items and brought them in for donation. In all, we collected and dropped off 300 pounds of food this holiday season.
Also on Tuesday — keeping with tradition, members of the Knights front office and Ovations — prepared, cooked, and served food to around 200 men at the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte. Throughout the offseason, the Knights crew visits the shelter on a number of occassions. The team also makes monetary donations as well.
On a personal not, it’s always a great day for me. It’s very rewarding to be able to be in a position to give back. I feel very fortunate to have that opportunity.
Going to the Men’s Shelter is a great example. It feels good to serve someone food and then see the smile on their face. I always make sure to sign up when I know we are going. Even if it is just for a couple of hours, it feels great to be able to give something back.
Stay tuned for more community efforts throughout the offseason. We’ll be back at the Men’s Shelter again in December and I’m sure there will be a few more exciting community efforts leading up to Christmas.
As for me, I’m very thankful for the things that I have (family, friends, and more). I’m also looking forward to going to the Winter Meetings in Orlando… but I’ll save that for my next blog update…
Welcome back to the Knight Fever blog!
Today is a special day on a number of levels. First, I sent out a press release about the Knights new partnership with the DoubleTree by Hilton Charlotte. The stunning Uptown Charlotte hotel signed on with the Knights to become the host hotel. It’s exciting!
So what does that mean?
It means Homer the Dragon gets to answer phone calls!
Okay — seriously — it means all of the visiting teams in the International League will stay there when they come to Charlotte. It also means they will enjoy delicious cookies too!
On Wednesday, I made the trip to the beautiful hotel with Homer the Dragon, to take a look at what the players will have when they check in. Homer felt right at home — answering phones, posing with fans for numerous pictures, and eating some of those delicious cookies!
It was a lot of fun to walk around the hotel. I’m very excited about our partnership! The official host hotel of the Charlotte Knights beginning in 2014 will be the DoubleTree by Hilton Charlotte. Here is my official release: Knights Announce Host Hotel.
On a personal note, two years ago today, I stepped foot in Knights Stadium for the first time ever. In fact, two years and a day ago, I stepped foot into Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina — for the first time ever too!
Today (November 21) is the two year anniversary of when I was hired by the Charlotte Knights. Two years ago today, I walked into Fort Mill, sat down for an interview, and was later offered the job as Director of PR/Media Relations. It was a day I’ll never forget.
For those of you that don’t know, I was born in Brooklyn, NY and grew up there for a good part of my life. Then, my family moved to the Poconos. I ended up spending a lot of years in Pennsylvania. I lived in the Poconos, Hazleton, State College, Allentown, Bethlehem, and Kutztown. It sounds like that Johnny Cash song — “I’ve been everywhere man…” — but just in PA, NY, & probably NJ. It was time to move on and the Carolinas have always been somewhere I could see myself living!
In fact, here’s a fun story… I was always a huge Hootie and the Blowfish fan. Loved them! The first concert I ever saw was Hootie and the Blowfish at Hershey Park in 1996. I’ll never forget it.
Being that they were from South Carolina, it always sounded like an awesome place to be. They made me want to move to South Carolina one day. They definitely made me want to travel to SC to see them in concert too. This past August — I got to do that! I saw Hootie and the Blowfish in concert in Charleston — it was amazing! Charleston is a great spot too!
Anyways — back to my interview — on November 21.
Once I came out of the interview, I knew this was where I wanted to be. Vice President of Marketing Mark Smith (he interviewed me) and the rest of the staff were so kind.
While it was far away from my family and friends, I knew it was a place that I could thrive in. It was a struggling franchise on the cusp of greatness. A new ballpark in its future — and tons of hope for something great! How could I pass that up?
In the two years since, a lot has happened in my life — but I wouldn’t change it for a second! I’m very excited to see what the next two years will bring. As Thanksgiving nears, I’m very thankful for all that I have in my life.
Through the good times and the bad…
On Tuesday, November 5, the Charlotte Knights announced that the 2014 Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game will be coming to Charlotte on September 16, 2014. It’s an exciting event for the Knights, our fans, and the city of Charlotte. I can’t wait!
You can read more about that historic day in my last blog post: Triple-A National Championship Coming to Charlotte, or in my press release: Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game Awarded to Charlotte.
During the day, I had the pleasure of talking with International League President Randy Mobley, who was on hand for the event. Randy was representing Triple-A Baseball and has been the International League President since 1991.
I was lucky enough to meet Randy during my time with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and I have been a huge fan of his ever since. It’s always very exciting when Randy is in town and I always feel very fortunate to know him on a personal level.
I talked to Randy for a few minutes about what the Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game means to the Charlotte area. We also talked about the progress of BB&T Ballpark.
Here’s my brief interview with International League President Randy Mobley:
It seems like everyday something big is happening with the Charlotte Knights — and it’s not even baseball season!
On Tuesday, November 5, the Charlotte Knights held a press conference at BB&T Ballpark to make a major announcement. In the past couple of weeks, the team has already announced that it will have the widest videoboard in Minor League Baseball, a new logo set, and will play host to a USA Baseball Game against Chinese Taipei.
While there will be a number of other key announcements coming up in the next few weeks, the announcement on Tuesday was one that is important on so many levels. Tuesday’s announcement will put the Knights and the city of Charlotte on a national stage.
At 12:00 PM, the Knights announced that the 2014 Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game will be played at BB&T Ballpark on Tuesday, September 16, 2014.
Tuesday’s press conference had local media members, representatives from the Charlotte Knights, including owner Don Beaver, President & CEO of Minor League Baseball Pat O’Conner, International League President Randy Mobley, as well as executives from around the Charlotte area.
Most of the spectators found the setting for Tuesday’s press conference “breathtaking”. For many, it was the first chance to see the ballpark. For others, it was another nice glimpse into the future of baseball in Uptown Charlotte.
With seats now in, and sod being laid down in the outfield, BB&T Ballpark has really taken shape.
I talked to Charlotte Knights Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer Dan Rajkowski for Knights TV after the exciting announcement.
Listen to the audio:
The World Series is over. The calendar has turned to November. The clocks have been turned back. The weather has cooled down quite a bit. Still, baseball is in the air — and in Uptown Charlotte, baseball becomes more real by the minute!
Seats at BB&T Ballpark — the future home of the Charlotte Knights — are now in. There are seats down the right field line and seats down the left field line. Take your pick! Both will give fans a stunning view of the beautiful Charlotte skyline.
Last week, Charlotte Knights Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer Dan Rajkowski sat down with WBTV’s Steve Crump in the brand-new seats at BB&T Ballpark. Steve’s story will air at 6:00 PM on Tuesday, November 5 on WBTV. Dan and Steve also walked the concourse on the 3rd base side, before sitting in the seats for the first time.
(Photo: Dan Rajkowski & Steve Crump, pictured, right).
I’m looking forward to seeing the story on Tuesday night. It should be a nice inside look at the new home of the Charlotte Knights. Can’t wait!
Earlier today (Monday, November 4), groundscrew members laid sod on the field at BB&T Ballpark for the first time. With the field work in full swing, the ballpark is really starting to take shape.
Check out this photo, via our BB&T Ballpark webcam.
Before you know it, the words “Play Ball” will be shouted by the home plate umpire on Opening Day (April 11, 2014). There are still a number of upcoming milestones, but seeing the seats and sod in are two of my favorites!
As for major announcements, the Knights unveiled their new logo late last month. It has been an exciting time to see our transition to a new logo and colors. Merchandise sales are strong and I have talked to many fans that really like the new look.
We have one more major announcement coming this week (Tuesday, November 5). A press conference will be held at the ballpark site and this is one that should be very exciting for everyone involved. I can’t wait to announce it to our fans. Keep an eye out on Tuesday afternoon for the big announcement.
(Charlotte, NC) — John Farrell, a former starting pitcher who appeared in 15 games for the Charlotte Knights in 1994, became the first former Knights player to manage a Major League team to a World Series championship on Wednesday night. Farrell’s Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 in game six of the 2013 World Series from Fenway Park in Boston, MA.
A former second-round pick of the Cleveland Indians in the 1984 draft, Farrell posted a 4-7 record with a 5.61 ERA in 14 starts for the Charlotte Knights in 1994. At the time, the Knights were the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.
Overall, the New Jersey native won 36 games over his eight-year Major League career. He won a season-high 14 games for the Indians in 1988.
Farrell began his managerial career in 2011 with the Toronto Blue Jays. The former Cleveland hurler guided the Blue Jays to a 154-170 mark over two seasons (2011-12). The 2013 season marked his first year with the Red Sox. Farrell led the Sox to a 97-65 record during the 2013 regular season en route to an American League pennant. Boston finished the 2012 season in last place in the America League East after compiling a 69-93 record under manager Bobby Valentine.
Farrell is the second person with ties to the Charlotte Knights to lead a team to a World Series victory as manager. 1993 Charlotte Knights manager Charlie Manuel led the Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series win in 2008 over the Tampa Bay Rays.
The World Series winning Red Sox roster also featured three more former Charlotte Knights. Boston pitching coach Juan Nieves spent three seasons as the pitching coach of the Knights (2005-07). The 2013 season marked his first season with the Red Sox after spending the previous five seasons as the bullpen coach of the Chicago White Sox (2008-2012).
Starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Jake Peavy also have ties to the Charlotte Knights. Dempster went 3-1 with a 3.27 ERA in five starts for the Charlotte Knights in 1998. At the time, the Knights were the Triple-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins.
Peavy appeared in four games for the Knights in 2009 and four more in 2011 — both during Major League Rehab assignments. In 2009, Peavy posted a 1-1 record and a 2.93 ERA for the Knights. Two seasons later, he was back on a ML Rehab stint and went 1-1 with a 3.65 ERA (four starts).
The Knights will open BB&T Ballpark on Friday night, April 11 at 7:05 p.m. against the Norfolk Tides. Season tickets for the 2014 inaugural season at BB&T Ballpark are on sale now and can be purchased by phone at (980) 207-0079, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or in person by stopping by the Knights Uptown Offices located at Packard Place, 222 South Church Street, 3rd floor, between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday. For more information about Charlotte Knights Baseball, log on to http://www.charlotteknights.com.
It has been over 13 months since the Charlotte Knights broke ground on BB&T Ballpark! Yes, that’s right, it has been one year and one month since construction crews took the first step in building the team’s new Uptown Charlotte home.
I think back to the groundbreaking ceremony often. It feels like just yesterday that the Knights held that ceremony at the site of their new ballpark. It was September 14, 2012. Time flies when you are having fun!
Hundreds of people turned out to be a part of history that day, as the Knights officially broke ground, which signified that the team was moving back home.
The Knights spent 25 years in Fort Mill (24 in Knights Stadium). Now, the Charlotte Knights are moving back to Charlotte.
Here’s a quick history lesson for you… The Charlotte O’s became the Charlotte Knights in 1988 and the club played their only season in Charlotte as the “Knights” that season. The team then moved across the state line to Fort Mill, South Carolina and played at a temporary facility in 1989 as they waited for their castle to be built. They opened Knights Castle in 1990 and played 24 seasons there (through the 2013 season).
How’s that for a history lesson?
Over the past 13 months, the Knights have held numerous press conferences and construction crews have worked tirelessly. A ballpark brick program was introduced, a logo for BB&T Ballpark was unveiled, season tickets and suites were put on sale, and many people have anxiously taken a tour of the site.
Over the past few months, things have really picked up — and visually — the ballpark has really taken shape. It looks like a ballpark!
Remember when the ballpark site looked like this?
That photo was taken on October 3, 2012. At that point, the site had a road between it, as well as the Virginia Paper Company Building in the middle of it. That building was demolished and the road was ripped up. It was a fun process to watch the two “sites” become one.
In fact, if you haven’t been watching the process, I urge you to log-on to our website http://www.charlotteknights.com and check out our 24/7 BB&T Ballpark webcam.
You can also use this link here to watch progress of our new home:
Last week, the Knights announced plans to install the widest videoboard in all of Minor League Baseball. The announcement was made at Romare Bearden Park and it included representatives from Toshiba and TSE. Both will be major partners of the Knights on the videoboard project.
You can read all about the videoboard project here:
Widest Videoboard in BB&T Ballpark to be Installed at BB&T Ballpark.
Check out the rendering of the videoboard (pictured, right).
The press conference received great media attention and the excitement for Opening Day (April 11, 2014) continues to build each day. Local media members, as well as national media members covered the event and the reaction from the fans has been very positive. Who doesn’t want to be able to see everything going on from a mammoth videoboard?
This week, construction crews took a few more majors step in the process of building the ballpark.
What is one thing every ballpark needs… SEATS!
Beginning on Monday, October 14, crews started to install seat frames for all of the seats at the ballpark. Before you know it, BB&T Ballpark will be filled with seats and season ticket holders will have a chance to pick their seats in January. Seating capacity for BB&T Ballpark is over 10,000!
For more information about 2014 BB&T Ballpark season tickets, check out this link:
One other development over this past week has been the field. You can see from the latest photo (below center) that there is now red clay on the pitcher’s mound and basepaths. If you build it…
Groundskeepers took over possession of the field on Monday (October 14) and have been working on building it ever since. There is a lot that goes into the building of a professional baseball field. I can’t wait to see grass on it!
As I was writing this blog, one other update to report. As of 5:00 PM on October 17, the field lights at BB&T Ballpark were turned on for the first time. This has been a week of milestones at BB&T Ballpark. It gets more exciting by the day. Stay tuned for more updates over the next few months. The Knights are coming home!
Yes, I know, I’m a day late and probably a dollar short on my predictions. If it means anything though, I did make my predictions to a few of my fellow Charlotte Knights staff members on Thursday morning. After watching the first two games on Thursday, I’m even going to stick with my predictions — how about that?!!
BRAVES vs. DODGERS: This might be the easiest one of all of the postseason matchups to predict. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Dodgers will win this series. They have been unstoppable — even without Matt Kemp and a healthy Andre Ethier. Their pitching is remarkable and Yasiel Puig is a SUPERSTAR! Even when Clayton Kershaw is not on his game, he’s still the best pitcher in the league! Word is that Don Mattingly was close to being fired before the team turned things around halfway through the year. Now, Mattingly looks like a genius. Good for him. He deserves it. Remember, Mattingly retired from baseball just before the New York Yankees went on their incredible postseason run.
There’s just something special about this team that I don’t think the Braves can stop. In closing, I do believe that Dan Uggla should have been on the postseason roster — but hey, don’t get me started!
PIRATES vs. CARDINALS: Oh, the mighty Cardinals. It seems like no matter who their manager is, or who their star player is, they continue to play great baseball year in and year out. Many people had Carlos Beltran washed up years ago — but Mr. Postseason continues to lead his team to victories. It is amazing though. As a Mets fan, I still remember him striking out (looking) to send the Mets home. Maybe he’s been a Cardinal all along — just kidding.
Anyways, facing Adam Wainwright is never an easy task, so I’m not surprised the Pirates lost game one. I still believe that the Pirates have a chance to beat the Cardinals. It won’t be easy, but my gut says the Pirates make this a series and beat the Cardinals in five games. Raise the Jolly Roger!
RED SOX vs. RAYS: The Red Sox look tough to beat. The Rays haven’t had a home game in awhile. While the Rays have a solid pitching staff and good young hitters, I believe the Red Sox will be too much for the Rays to overcome. Anything the Red Sox do — even if they lose this series, is a big plus from where they were last year. I’ll say the Sox win this series in four games.
TIGERS vs. A’S: The Tigers are a very good team — I know that — but, I keep seeing that Tigers team that was no-hit by Henderson Alvarez on the final day of the season. I keep seeing the Miguel Cabrera, who hit .278 (20-for-72) with one home run and seven RBIs in 21 September games. There’s something different with Justin Verlander too — but, I still would have started him in game one — it’s Justin Verlander. Jim Leyland is a winner, so I can’t doubt him. Just saying…
The A’s are always an exciting bunch. Coco Crisp had a tremendous year — so did Brandon Moss — so did Josh Donaldson! Those three players were very impressive. Add the excitement of Yoenis Cespedes, and the A’s will come out fighting! I like the A’s in this series.
I’ll be back later this month with my predictions for the next round. It would be crazy to see the Dodgers vs. the A’s in the World Series. Not saying that’s my prediction — but how about two of Cuba’s finest squaring off in the World Series? That would be pretty cool. Maybe former Knights hurler Livan Hernandez could throw out the first pitch of game one!
Jason Grilli won nine games for the Charlotte Knights in 2004. Grilli is currently a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are set to play the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Wild Card game tonight (October 1) in Pittsburgh.
Overall in 2004, Grilli finished the year with a 9-9 record and a 4.83 ERA in 25 games (all starts). His 25 starts tied Josh Stewart for the most on the team. His nine wins were tied for second-best behind Felix Diaz (10). Grilli led the club in innings pitched (152.2) and finished second in strikeouts (101).
2013 has been a breakout year for @GrillCheese49, who was able to get past a forearm injury earlier this season. In all, he struck-out 74 batters in 50.0 innings and was a staple in the ninth inning for the Pirates. Despite missing six weeks with the injury, Grilli posted a 0-2 record with 33 saves and a 2.70 ERA in 54 games this season.
While Grilli enjoyed a solid year, so did his Pirates, who will play in the postseason for the first time in 21 years. Led by manager Clint Hurdle, the Pirates posted a 94-68 record during the regular season. Now, the Pirates will look to win the one-game Wild Card against the Reds. The one-game, winner-take-all matchup, features Pirates starter Francisco Liriano (16-8, 3.02) against Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto (5-2, 2.82).
My gut says the Pirates will win this game. Liriano has been great this year and he should be able to continue that tonight. The Reds are tough competition, but I’m sticking with the Pirates.
As for Grilli, it will be nice to root for a former Charlotte Knights player in the postseason. I’d love to see Grilli come on in the ninth inning with the Pirates ahead by a score of 4-2, and close things out. I’m not a Pirates fan, but I’m a baseball fan and what they have done this year is good for the game of baseball. They have a beautiful ballpark and die-hard fans. 21 years is too long to wait!