2014 MLB Postseason: Baltimore Orioles
There are a number of former Charlotte Knights players, as well as a former manager, currently with one of the eight teams playing in the 2014 Major League Baseball postseason.
Let’s take a look at the Baltimore Orioles, who are facing the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS.
Alejandro De Aza (10-11, 12*) – Outfielder
Selected by the Chicago White Sox off waivers from the Marlins on October 21, 2009, De Aza began his Knights career in 2010 and was a solid addition to the team that season. De Aza appeared in 79 games for the Knights that season and hit .302 (96-for-318) with 53 runs scored, 21 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 49 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases. The Dominican native followed up that performance with an even better one a year later.
In 2011 with Charlotte, De Aza hit an International League high .322 (124-for-485) and was named to the Topps Triple-A All-Star Team at the end of the season for his outstanding season. Overall, De Aza appeared in 99 games for the Knights and had 64 runs scored, 29 doubles, five triples, nine home runs, 37 RBIs, and 22 stolen bases. He was called up to Chicago in August and hit .329 in 54 games with 12 stolen bases and 18 extra base hits.
De Aza was traded to the Orioles on August 30, 2014 and playing in 122 games for the Sox this season. In 20 games for the Orioles during the regular season, De Aza hit .293 (24-for-82) with five doubles, three triples, three home runs and 10 RBIs. he proved to be a solid upgrade for the O’s and should help them in the playoffs.
Brian Graham (94 manager) – Director of Player Development
The Charlotte Knights were affiliated with the Cleveland Indians for just two seasons — 1993 and 1994 — and won a Governors’ Cup Championship in their first season with the Tribe (93). It was also the first season as a Triple-A affiliate for the Knights after jumping from Double-A.
Much has been made about the 1993 squad, which featured IL MVP Jim Thome, a young Manny Ramirez, slugger Sam Horn, and many other future Indians prospects. That team was led by manager Charlie Manuel. Knights Stadium drew its highest crowd ever in a season — 429,132 fans. But what about the 1994 team?
Still affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, Manuel, Thome, and Manny left for Cleveland, while a new crop came to town. At the helm of the 1994 team was Brian Graham, who led the squad to a 77-65 record — a second place finish behind Richmond (80-61). Still, the Knights made the playoffs — but lost in the semi-finals.
Graham managed just the one season in Charlotte as the Knights and Indians ended their affiliation after the 1994 season. The Knights became affiliated with the Marlins from 1995-98.
A former Minor League player, who was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the fourth round of the 1982 draft, Graham managed 1200 games at the Minor League level and has a career record of 709-491. He is currently the Director of Player Development for the Orioles and has helped put together a solid Baltimore team.
Wayne Kirby (93) – First Base Coach
Kirby spent just one season with the Knights — but it was during the club’s most historic season — and he made history.Kirby has the distinct honor of being the first Knights player — as a Triple-A franchise — to homer at Knights Stadium. He launched the Triple-A Knights’ first home run in the bottom of the first inning during the club’s home opener in 1993. He appeared in just 17 games with the club that year and hit .289 (22-for-76) with six doubles, two triples, three home runs, and seven RBIs.
Kirby, who was originally drafted by the LA Dodgers in the 1983 draft (13th round), spent parts of eight seasons in the majors from 1991-98. In fact, his longest season in the majors came during the 1993 season when he appeared in 131 games for the Tribe that year. He compiled a .269 batting average with 71 runs scored, 19 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 60 RBIs, and 17 stolen bases. A very solid season indeed. Unfortunately for Kirby, Manny Ramirez was also in the organization and he became the team’s right fielder the next season (1994) and never looked back. What about left field or center field? The Indians had Albert Belle in left field and Kenny Lofton in center.