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Goldberg to Pitch for Team Israel…

RHP Brad Goldberg, who shined for the Knights in 43 games out of the team’s bullpen during the 2016 season, was recently named to the Team Israel roster for the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifier series. Goldberg and Team Israel will face Great Britain on Thursday, September 22 at 7:00 p.m. at MCU Park in Brooklyn, NY.

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Brad Goldberg warming up at the 2016 Sonic Automotive Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game. Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights

Goldberg, 26, represented the Charlotte Knights in Uptown Charlotte at the 2016 Sonic Automotive Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game as the team’s lone International League All-Star. (Note: Matt Davidson was named, but was promoted to Chicago, while Leury Garcia was named, but was unable to participate due to injury).

Goldberg certainly put together an All-Star campaign in the Queen City with the Knights. The Columbus, OH native strung together an impressive month of June on his way to the mid-summer classic. In eight June outings (9.2 IP), he went 1-1 with a 0.93 ERA.

Overall in 2016, he posted a 3-5 record with a team-high 10 saves and a 2.84 ERA (50.2 IP). The 6’4″ right-handed pitcher was solid for the Knights all season — especially down the stretch as the team made a late-season playoff push.

In the final full month of the season (August), Goldberg compiled a 2-1 record with three saves and a 2.19 ERA (10 games). In fact, he did not allow a run over his final eight appearances of the season (10.0 IP).

Goldberg was originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 10th round of the 2013 draft out of Ohio State University. He spent the entire 2015 campaign with the Winston-Salem Dash and posted a 1-4 record with a 2.97 ERA and 11 saves in 39 appearances (57.2 IP). He began the 2016 season with Double-A Birmingham and compiled a 1.50 ERA in four games before an April promotion to the Knights.

BROOKLYN QUALIFIER:
As for this week’s Brooklyn Qualifier, Team Israel will be one of four teams vying for one spot in the World Baseball Classic, which kicks-off in March. The four teams battling it out in Brooklyn beginning on September 22, are Israel, Brazil, Great Britain and Pakistan. The winner of Sunday’s championship game at 6 p.m. ET will travel to Seoul, South Korea, next March and compete against host Korea, The Netherlands and Chinese Taipei in Pool B of the tournament.

Final Knights Knotes: Blake Smith

With the 2016 season in the books, check back weekly for a final look back at a Charlotte Knights player who stood out for the team during their third season at BB&T Ballpark in Uptown Charlotte.

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Photo credit: Buren Foster


BLAKE SMITH – 2016 Knights
3-1, 3.53 ERA, 1 save
(75 SO in 71.1 IP)

Blake Smith had a season to remember for the Charlotte Knights. The Modesto, CA native appeared in 39 games for the club out of their bullpen in 2016 and posted a 3-1 record with one save and a 3.53 ERA over 71.1 innings pitched.

Smith, 28, started 2016 as a member of the San Diego Padres after he was selected by the club from the Chicago White Sox in the Rule 5 Draft. Smith didn’t stick with the Padres organization and was returned to Chicago on March 27, 2016 after he did not make the Padres 25-man roster out of camp. That was good news for the White Sox.

Smith was assigned to the Charlotte Knights to begin the 2016 campaign — returning to the team after spending 24 games with the club in 2015. He posted a 1-2 record and a 3.30 ERA in 30.0 innings pitched with Charlotte in 2015.

This season, the former University of Cal-Berkeley product picked up right where he left off with the Knights. After finishing the 2015 season with seven consecutive scoreless appearances (10.0 IP), Smith did not allow a run in his first appearance of the 2016 season on April 7 at Durham (2.0 IP). He continued to stay sharp throughout the season.

In seven games in July, he did not allow a run (11.1 IP). In August, he posted a 1.23 ERA in eight games (14.2 IP).

Throughout the course of the 2016 season, Smith had scoreless streaks of nine games and eight games (finished the season with eight-straight scoreless appearances). In fact, he allowed just two runs over his final 33.0 innings pitched.

Smith was also a key contributor in the Charlotte community. For his efforts, Smith, along with his fellow Modesto, CA native, Terance Marin, each earned co-Community Service Awards for all of their support to the Community Relations department.

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Pictured L-to-R: Knights COO Dan Rajkowski, Terance Marin, Blake Smith, and Knights Community Relations Director Lindsey Brown. Photo credit: Laura Wolff.

On September 6th, a day after the Charlotte Knights final game of the 2016 regular season, Smith had his contract purchased by the Chicago White Sox. Now, a member of Chicago’s 40-man roster, Smith will have a chance to show the fans in Chicago just what he is capable of doing. Fans in Charlotte already know.

From the South to the South Side…

When J.B. Shuck was recalled to the Chicago White Sox on August 3, it was the 29th time a player was on his way to the Windy City in 2016. Shuck is just the latest in a slew of promotions to Chicago from Charlotte this season. In fact, a total of 18 different Knights have earned a promotion to Chicago this season.

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The Knights faced the White Sox in an exhibition game at BB&T Ballpark in 2015.             Photo credit: Buren Foster.

The first player promoted to the White Sox in 2016 from the Knights was RHP Erik Johnson, who has since been traded by the organization to San Diego. At the time of his promotion, Johnson was tied for ninth all-time in franchise history with Mike Porzio in wins (20) and seventh in franchise history in strikeouts (268). He was the 2015 International League Most Valuable Pitcher.

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Erik Johnson. Photo credit: Buren Foster

Later in the month of April, catcher Kevan Smith earned his first promotion to the majors. On April 24, Smith, who was hitting .345 (10-for-29) with two home runs and six RBIs at the time of his promotion (nine games with the Knights), was recalled to take the roster spot of catcher Alex Avila, who was placed on Chicago’s DL.

Smith never made his major league debut. The Pittsburgh, PA native was in Chicago’s starting lineup on Monday, April 25, but was scratched just hours before the game due to back spasms. He has since returned to the Knights and has yet to make his debut.

Over the next five days, five more players were recalled to Chicago. RHP Miguel Gonzalez was recalled on April 25, catcher Hector Sanchez on April 26, RHP Daniel Webb on April 27, infielder Carlos Sanchez on April 28, and RHP Tommy Kahnle on April 29. In all, seven players went to Chicago in April.

In May, Johnson, Gonzalez, and Kahnle were recalled again, while RHP Scott Carroll, Matt Purke, and Shuck, also earned call-ups to the White Sox.

One month later, outfielder Jason Coats had his contract purchased on June 4 and made his major league debut that same day. Coats was sent back to Charlotte (June 7) and then back to Chicago (June 10), and is now back with Charlotte (since July 15). Four other players earned promotions in July, including shortstop Tim Anderson, RHP Michael Ynoa, RHP Chris Beck, and 3B Matt Davidson.

Davidson earned the promotion to Chicago on the same day he found out he was named as a 2016 International League All-Star. The home-run hitting third baseman, who led the IL in home runs a season ago (23), fractured his foot in his first game with the Sox and was placed on their 15-day DL. He’s currently on Chicago’s 60-day disabled list after undergoing surgery.

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Tim Anderson. Photo credit: Laura Wolff.

For Anderson, the 22-year-old earned his first promotion. The prized prospect quickly became White Sox everyday shortstop and he has shined on the South Side of Chicago.

In July, catcher Omar Narvaez, RHP Jacob Turner, and RHP Anthony Ranaudo all earned promotions. Narvaez and Turner are still playing for the White Sox, Ranaudo, has returned, but not before making headlines.

The 26-year-old right-hander started for the White Son July 23 and not only was sharp on the hill, but he even launched his first professional hit — a home run.

Here is a list of the players promoted to Chicago this season with the date(s) of their promotion in parenthesis.

1. RHP Erik Johnson (April 19, May 5 & May 23)
2. C Kevan Smith (April 24)
3. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (April 25 & May 9)
4. C Hector Sanchez (April 26)
5. RHP Daniel Webb (April 27)
6. INF Carlos Sanchez (April 28, July 1, July 24 & July 27)
7. RHP Tommy Kahnle (April 29, May 5, May 23 & June 3)
8. RHP Scott Carroll (May 6)
9. LHP Matt Purke (May 13),
10. OF J.B. Shuck (May 30 & August 3)
11. OF Jason Coats (June 4 & June 10)
12. SS Tim Anderson (June 10)
13. RHP Michael Ynoa (June 14)
14. RHP Chris Beck (June 21)
15. 3B Matt Davidson (June 30)
16. C Omar Narvaez (July 6)
17. RHP Jacob Turner (July 17)
18. RHP Anthony Ranaudo (July 24)

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Anthony Ranaudo. Photo credit: Laura Wolff

With the calendar turning to August, who will be the next player promoted to the White Sox. Stay tuned!

Darryl Strawberry Visits Uptown, “The Kid” Remembered…

If you know me, you know I grew up a huge New York Mets fan. Being born in Brooklyn, NY in 1981 — why not? Both of my grandfathers were Mets fans. My dad was a Mets fan. We were a Mets family. 12079663_10153289642553406_2110055952117081269_n

Being that I was born on January 8, my favorite number was 8. Then, I saw Gary Carter wear #8, and I instantly became a Gary Carter fan.

I wore #8 in Little League. I was a catcher. I may have even curled my hair like “The Kid”.

In fact, I wore #8 for my entire baseball career. It’s the only number I have ever known!386940_10150365098298406_1935850257_n

At my very first Mets game with my dad, we lucked out and had a chance to get an autograph from Gary Carter at Shea Stadium. We had box seats right behind home plate and I remember yelling to Gary as a kid to sign my program — and he did. Wow. That was awesome!

Throughout the years, I loved seeing Gary Carter (from afar) when we visited Shea Stadium. He was always my favorite. He still is today. I think about him on his birthday every year on April 8. I remember him every year on the day he died, too (February 16). He was an icon, a hero, a person I looked up to. I still do. tumblr_n3q7xqXybd1qm9rypo1_1280

And, I’m not alone.

When Gary Carter passed away, I’ll never forget some of the words that his teammates had to say about him.

“The baseball community has lost a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame person,” former teammate and current Mets third-base coach Tim Teufel said in a statement. “He was a good man and will be missed terribly.”

“We’re all older now, said Ron Darling. “We see things differently. We see things as our parents saw them. The ’60s happened before we got to the big leagues. The ’70s happens, values changed. But Gary was from ‘Leave It To Beaver’ and ‘Pleasantville.’ He was, when we played together, what most of our parents had wanted us to be. And now we see value in it. And that makes this all the sadder. I’m not saying he deserves a reward for living his life the way he did. But 57 … that’s early.”

Then, there were these  words, “I wish I could’ve lived my life like him.”

Those words were powerful. They were touching. They came from Darryl Strawberry.

I grew up rooting for Darryl Strawberry, too. In the good times and the bad. I wanted him to succeed both on and off-the-field and  I wanted him to get past his struggles. And, why not. He was so talented. Even with all of his ups and downs.
Me & Darryl
Still, I knew he was someone I wanted to meet someday to talk about how he was able to rise up through all of those struggles.

Last year at the Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game in Omaha, NE, I met Darryl. It was brief. He was busy. But I knew it wouldn’t be the last time. At least, I hoped it wasn’t.

This past offseason, I had a great opportunity to bring Darryl to BB&T Ballpark — and tried my hardest to make that happen. And, it did.

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Darryl Strawberry signed hundreds of autographs at BB&T Ballpark on April 19. Photo credit: Laura Wolff

The day was planned for Thursday, April 19th at BB&T Ballpark. Darryl was to meet fans and sign pre-game autographs. One of my best friends, Joey C., who grew up a huge Darryl Strawberry fan, made the trek to Uptown Charlotte to meet his hero. He did.

For me, I spent a few hours with Darryl. It was a real thrill for me. I even interviewed him on the Sonic Automotive Pre-Game show on the concourse in front of so many fans.

Much like the time I interviewed Wally Backman — which came just a few months after Gary Carter passed away in 2012 — I asked Darryl about his memories of “The Kid”. I’m glad I did.

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Here’s that video interview in its entirety with Darryl. Although there were some microphone issues, you can still make most of it out!

Knights Knotes: Knights @ Bulls – April 10, 2016

KNIGHT LIGHTS: The Charlotte Knights (Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox) knights knotesconclude their opening series of the 2016 season tonight with the finale of their four-game series at 5:05 p.m. from Durham, NC against the Durham Bulls (Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays). The Knights dropped the opening game of the series – and of the season – on Thursday by a score of 7-3, but charged back against the Bulls with an 8-6 win on Friday in game two. Last night, the Bulls came-from-behind to take game three by a score of 3-2. The Knights will look for a series split with a win in tonight’s game. The Knights then hit the road and head to Norfolk, VA to open a three-game series against the Tides. Opening Knight in Uptown Charlotte is set for Thursday, April 14th.

ABOUT LAST KNIGHT: Charlotte RHP Phillippe Aumont (0-1, 18.00) uncorked three wild pitches in the eighth inning, which helped lead the Durham Bulls to a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Charlotte Knights on Saturday night from Durham, NC. The Knights went to the eighth up by a score of 2-1 courtesy of solo home runs from Hector Sanchez and Jacob May, but the Bulls charged back to earn their second win in as many days. Charlotte RHP Chris Beck started and fanned seven over five innings, but did not factor in the decision.

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU: OF Jacob May launched his first career Triple-A home run last night – a solo home run – which gave the Knights a 2-1 lead over the Bulls in game three. May entered the season ranked by Baseball America as the fifth-best prospect in Chicago’s system. May was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft. He hit .275 with 37 stolen bases last season for Double-A Birmingham.

#400: C Hector Sanchez launched a solo home run last night, his first since August 20, 2015 while playing for Triple-A Sacramento. The hit was the 400th of his minor league career, which has spanned 10 seasons (including 2016), even though he is only 26 years old (signed by Giants as 16-year-old in 2007). Sanchez was signed by the White Sox as a free agent on December 22, 2015.

COATS OF ARMOR: OF Jason Coats had a three-hit night on Friday and added a single in last night’s game to extend his hit streak to nine consecutive games dating back to 9/2/15. He has reached base in 13 straight games dating back to 8/29/15. Over that span, Coats is hitting .351 (13-for-37) with four doubles and four RBIs. Coats, who had 81 RBIs last season with the Knights, is in his fourth professional season since being drafted by the White Sox in the 29th round of the 2012 draft. He has compiled at least 80 RBIs in each of his first three campaigns. He entered this season ranked by MLB.com as the number 17 prospect in the Chicago White Sox system.

TODAY’S PROBABLES: Turner_Jacob
CHA
RHP Jacob Turner (1-1, 2.00 w/TEN, 2015)
@ DUR RHP Austin Pruitt (10-7, 3.09 w/MTG, 2015)

Knights Starter: RHP Jacob Turner makes his Charlotte Knights debut tonight in the finale of the four-game series. Turner, who was claimed off waivers from the Chicago Cubs on October 27, 2015, made just two rehab starts last season for Double-A Tennessee due to inflammation in his right shoulder. Turner went 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA in those two starts last year. Turner has appeared in parts of six major league seasons since being drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the first round of the 2009 draft. In 2011, he became the youngest Detroit pitcher to make a start at Comerica Park (20 years, 69 days old). He made a career high 20 starts with the Marlins in 2013 and posted a 3-8 record with a 3.74 ERA (118.0 IP). He went 4-7 with a 5.97 ERA in 20 games (12 starts) with the Marlins in 2014.

Bulls Starter: RHP Austin Pruitt will get the ball in tonight’s four-game series finale for the Durham Bulls. Tonight’s start will be his first at the Triple-A level for the 26-year-old right-hander. Pruitt, a native of Plano, TX, posted a 10-7 record with a 3.09 ERA in 26 games last season with Double-A Montgomery. He led Montgomery in wins, losses, complete games (2), shutouts (1), innings pitched (160.0), runs (60), and double plays (13). He was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 9th round of the 2013 draft. Among some of his accomplishments in 2013, Pruitt was named to the 2013 All-Conference USA Second Team, the 2013 ABCA South Central All-Region Second Team, the 2013 All-Silver Glove Series Team, a 2013 Semifinalist for the Gregg Olson Award for Breakout Player of the Year. He led the University of Houston pitching staff in wins (10), ERA (2.55), games started (15), innings pitched (113.2) and strikeouts (92).

LOS IS MORE: 2B Carlos Sanchez, who returned to the Knights for his fifth season with the club on Thursday (2012-pres.), launched his first home run of the season on Friday and continued with a single on Saturday. Sanchez has hit safely in all three games so far this season. Just 23 years old, Sanchez is ranked among some of the Charlotte Knights all-time franchise leaders in a number of categories. Sanchez is now fourth in hits (291), fifth in at-bats (1,052), and 11th in runs scored (134). He is just nine games (265) away from 10th place in games (Matt Davidson has 274 for 10th place) and is in a tie for fifth place with eight triples.

Knights Knotes: Knights @ Bulls – April 9, 2016

knights knotesKNIGHT LIGHTS: The Charlotte Knights (Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox) continue the 2016 regular season tonight with game three of their four-game series at 5:05 p.m. from Durham, NC against the Durham Bulls (Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays). The Knights dropped the opening game of the series – and of the season – on Friday by a score of 7-3, but charged back against the Bulls with an 8-6 win last night in game two. The two teams will play two more games in this series, before meeting again on Thursday, April 14th — the team’s third Opening Knight in Uptown Charlotte – at BB&T Ballpark in the start of a four-game set.

ABOUT LAST KNIGHT: Matt Davidson’s first inning home run set the tone, and Travis Ishikawa, Jason Coats, and Carlos Sanchez chipped in to help lead the Knights to an 8-6 win last night. The win was Charlotte’s first of the year and first against the Bulls since September 3, 2015 at BB&T Ballpark (11-7). RHP Erik Johnson, the reigning IL Most Valuable Pitcher, allowed four runs on seven hits over five innings and did not factor in the decision.davidson_military_web

WELCOME MATT: After a spring in which he hit .419 with five home runs, Matt Davidson started strong on Friday. In just his first at-bat of the game — and just his fifth of the season — the slugger launched his 44th career Knights home run to give the Knights an early 1-0 lead. Davidson finished the game 1-for-4 at the plate with the home run and two runs scored. Last season, the California native led the IL with 23 home runs. Last night’s home run was the 124th of his minor league career. He has recorded at least 20 home runs in each of the last five seasons. He also led the IL in games (141) and finished second in the IL in at-bats (528), and second in walks (62). Defensively, Davidson led all IL third baseman in fielding percentage (.971), as well as all IL third baseman in assists (281), and tied for first in double plays (24) with Syracuse third baseman Jason Martinson. Davidson was named by Baseball America as the Best Defensive 3B in the International League in 2015. Davidson is ninth in Knights franchise history in home runs (43), 10th in at-bats (1,010), and 10th in games (272). He is now just four at-bats away from moving into a tie for ninth place with Chris Clapinski. He is just one home run away from tying Josh Fields for eighth place and three way from tying Josh Phegley for seventh place.

TONIGHT’S STARTING PITCHERS:
CHA RHP Chris Beck (3-2, 3.15 w/CHA, 2015)
@ DUR RHP Jamie Schultz (9-5, 3.67 w/MTG, 2015)

Chris BeckKNIGHTS STARTING PITCHER: RHP Chris Beck gets the nod tonight for the Knights — his fourth career start against the Durham Bulls. Beck, who was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the second round of the 2012 draft, went 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts against the Bulls last year (10.0 IP). Before that, he beat the Bulls in his first career start against the club back on 7/29 at BB&T Ballpark (5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 SO). It was just his second career Triple-a start and first career Triple-A win. Overall in three games against the Bulls, Beck is 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA (15.0 IP, 12 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 14 SO). Beck made his Major League debut last season with Chicago in game two of a doubleheader against Baltimore (L, 6.0 IP, 10 H, 5, R, 4 ER, 3 SO). Beck is a product of Georgia Southern University.

BULLS STARTING PITCHER: RHP Jamie Schultz gets the nod in game three of the four-game series tonight from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, NC. Schultz, a native of Albany, NY, was a 14th round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2013 draft out of High Point University (High Point, NC). Last season, the 24-year-old righty compiled a 9-5 record with a 3.67 ERA in 27 games for Double-A Montgomery. He struck-out 168 batters in 135.0 IP and was a Mid-Season Southern League All-Star. This will be his first career Triple-A start tonight.

CHARLOTTE’S WEBB: RHP Daniel Webb earned his first win of the season last night after allowing one run on three hits over two innings of work out of the bullpen. The Paducah, KY native went 2-1 with a 3.81 ERA last season in 18 games with the Knights. The 2016 season is his third with Charlotte. He was 1-1 with a 2.96 ERA in 21 games with the club in 2014.

GETTING ISHI WIT IT
: 1B Travis Ishikawa ripped four hits last night with the Knights and finished the game 4-for-5 with two runs scored, one double, and one RBI. The 32-year-old last had a four-hit game on April 18, 2011 when he was a member of the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies. Ishikawa was signed by the Chicago White Sox as a free agent on February 9. He last played for the Knights in 2013 – appearing in 34 games for the club during their final season at Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, SC.

LOS IS MORE: 2B Carlos Sanchez, who returned to the Knights for his fifth season with the club on Thursday (2012-pres.), launched his first home run of the season last night. Sanchez went 2-for-5 with two runs scored. Just 23 years old, Sanchez is ranked among some of the Charlotte Knights all-time franchise leaders in a number of categories. Sanchez is now fourth in hits (290), fifth in at-bats (1,048), and 11th in runs scored (134). He is also just nine games away from 10th place in games (Matt Davidson has 273 for 10th place) and is in a tie for fifth place with eight triples.

COATS OF ARMOR: OF Jason Coats added a three-hit night last evening in Durham. Coats, who had 81 RBIs last season with the Knights, also led the way in that department last night as he drove in three runs. The TCU standout, who is in his fourth professional season since being drafted by the White Sox in the 29th round of the 2012 draft, has compiled at least 80 RBIs in each of his first three campaigns. He entered this season ranked by MLB.com as the number 17 prospect in the Chicago White Sox system.Jason Coats_Charlotte Knights 2015

OPENING DAY ROSTER ANNOUNCED: The Charlotte Knights Opening Day roster was officially announced on Thursday and features 12 players who have worn a Knights jersey previously (11 from last season). Those players are Chris Beck, Scott Carroll, Erik Johnson, Terance Marin, Blake Smith, Daniel Webb, and position players Jason Coats, Matt Davidson, Leury Garcia, Carlos Sanchez, and Kevan Smith. 1B Travis Ishikawa appeared in 34 games with the Knights in 2013.

NEW MANAGER FOR 2016: Julio Vinas began his first season at the helm of the Knights – and first as a Triple-A manager – on Thursday. Last night, Charlotte’s skipper earned his first career Triple-A victory – and the 277th of his managerial career. Vinas, a native of Miami, FL is now in his sixth overall season as a manager in Chicago’s system. He spent the last three years as manager of Birmingham and guided the club to a SL Championship in 2013.

Remembering Bill Whitby…

Last week, I found out some very sad news. Bill Whitby_1

Bill Whitby, who pitched for the Charlotte Hornets from 1963-1965, passed away at the age of 72. I was informed of the news from his wife of 50 years, Donelle, who I had the opportunity to meet — along with Bill — in 2014 when the Knights held a tribute to the Charlotte Hornets at BB&T Ballpark. I’m so glad I met both of them.

The 2014 season was a special one for the Knights. It was the first year at BB&T Ballpark in Uptown Charlotte. After 25 years across the state line in Fort Mill, SC, the Knights moved back home to Charlotte, NC.

That season was special on so many levels.

On April 18, the team paid tribute to the Charlotte O’s. Over 20 former players made their way to the Queen City to see the new ballpark — and each other. It was a historic way to cap-off the first homestand in the ballpark’s inaugural season. I can never thank the Crockett family and Lib Shildt enough for everything they did to put together that tremendous event.

It was the first of two historic nights at the ballpark.

Months later — thanks to the tireless efforts of Char McEwen and her husbHornets Tribute Nightand Tim — BB&T Ballpark welcomed over 20 former Charlotte Hornets players and their families.

The date was August 5, 2014 and among the former Hornets on hand for the event were Charlie Manuel, Minnie Mendoza, Gene Verble, and Bill Whitby.

A week before the big event, I welcomed a few of the former Hornets to the ballpark to meet the media. It was a day I will never forget.

I continued to do my research and look for newspaper articles featuring some of the former Hornets who were coming out to the ballpark. I love baseball history, and I enjoyed reading stories from the early 1960’s about the stars of baseball in the Queen City.

During my research, I found a few articles that caught my eye.

I read about Gene Verble. I read about Minnie Mendoza. I read about Tony Oliva. And then I read about Bill Whitby — a 19-year-old pitcher with the Charlotte Hornets in 1963. Just 19 years old and already at Double-A.

Whitby was signed by the Minnesota Twins as a free agent at the young age of 17. The Virginia native appeared in three games for the Hornets in 1963. Then, as a 20-year-old, his career took off. whitby_1

In 1964, Whitby posted an 11-9 record with a 3.38 ERA in 29 games (28 starts) with the Hornets. His hard-work that season in Charlotte paid off as he earned a promotion to the majors in June. The Victoria High School (Virginia) product made his major league debut on June 17, 1964 against the Cleveland Indians. He allowed one run on two hits over 1.1 innings pitched.

Four days later, the young hurler pitched a perfect 1.2 innings against a tough Detroit Tigers lineup. He retired Norm Cash (double play), future National Baseball Hall-of-Famer Al Kaline, Bill Freehan, and Don Demeter in order. After two more appearances that season with the Twins, however, Whitby was back in Charlotte the following year.

In 1965, Whitby compiled a 10-8 record with a 2.61 ERA for the Hornets in 25 games (24 starts). It was an impressive year for the right-handed pitcher on the mound. He even tossed a no-hitter against Asheville that season. whitby_1_1

Among some of the notable articles I found during my research, was the “no-hitter” article. Whitby tossed the no-no on August 11, 1965.

I also found articles about Bill and Donelle — who was “Miss Hornet”.

I brought those articles out to show the Whitbys and the former Hornets who attended the media session that day in July (2014). It brought back a lot of memories for them. I enjoyed hearing their stories that day. I really enjoyed meeting them.

A week later, Bill and Donelle were back at BB&T Ballpark, along with the former Hornets and their families for the tribute night. It was such a special day to see all of the former Hornets on the field in Hornets caps once again. Bill Whitby

Bill, along with a few other former Hornets, appeared on the pre-game show that day. They spoke to Mike Pacheco about their time with the Hornets and continued to share stories.

When all was said and done, everyone in attendance (Knights players, Hornets, their families, and all of the fans) enjoyed seeing the former players back on the baseball diamond. It brought back so many memories for so many people. It really was a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

I’m truly grateful to have had the chance to meet Bill and Donelle. My thoughts and prayers go out to Donelle and the entire Whitby family during this time.

Thank you for all of your contributions to Charlotte baseball history. You will be missed by so many, Bill. whitby family

 

Vinas Meets the Media…

On Monday, February 15, Julio Vinas made his way into the Uptown Charlotte area for the first time as manager of the Charlotte Knights. 12717170_10153521649123406_2294403225992671431_n

Officially announced as Charlotte’s new skipper for the 2016 season back on January 19, Vinas got his first glimpse at the city he will call home from April to September. And although it was a cold, damp day in the Queen City, that didn’t matter much to the Miami native, who is ready to get the season started.

Vinas, 43, met the media during a 3:45 PM press conference in the Diamonds Direct Luxury Lounge at BB&T Ballpark and talked about the ballpark, his vision for the upcoming season, and more. He also had a chance to tour his new home, try on his new jersey, and take a look at his new office.

The former White Sox farmhand, who enters his sixth season as a manager in Chicago’s system, led the Birmingham Barons to a Southern League championship in 2013. On Monday, he stressed to the media that he wants to win this season.

“I know the White Sox want us to have a competitive team out here and win this year, so that’s what we’re going to try and do – win a championship for Charlotte. It deserves one. It was a great year for football; hopefully, it’ll be a great year for baseball as well,” exclaimed Vinas.

For more details from Monday’s press conference, check back on Tuesday for a blog from Knights Media Relations assistant Tom Liguori and a podcast interview with Julio from Knights broadcaster Mike Pacheco.

Here are a few photos I took from today’s press conference.

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Phillippe Aumont Signed…

Recently, the Chicago White Sox announced their list of players who will each receive a non-roster invitation to spring training. With that, the club also announced the signings of a number of players to minor league contracts. Let’s take an in-depth look at one of those recent signings. phillippe

RHP Phillippe Aumont, who was originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the first round (11th overall) of the 2007 draft, was one of those players signed. Aumont, 27, is a native of Gatineau, Quebec, Canada and has pitched in the majors over parts of four seasons — all with the Philadelphia Phillies (2012-15).

Aumont appeared in two minor league seasons with the Seattle Mariners organization before being dealt to the Phillies organization as part of the blockbuster trade that brought Cliff Lee to the City of Brotherly Love. That trade, which also featured Seattle prospects J.C. Ramirez and Tyson Gillies, took place on December 16, 2009. All three players began the 2010 season with the Reading Phillies (Double-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies). I remember it well since I was the team’s PR Director that season.

The Canadian native made his way to the majors over the course of a four-year stretch from 2012-2015. He compiled a 1-6 mark with two saves and a 6.80 ERA in 46 big league games with the Phillies.

Philadelphia Phillies Photo Day

(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Last season, the 6’7″ right-hander was converted back to a starting pitcher after moving to the bullpen full-time in 2011. The moved paid off for him at the Triple-A level with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

As a starter last season with the ‘Pigs, Aumont posted a 3-4 record with a 2.55 ERA (10 starts). He beat the Knights in a start on May 23rd in Allentown (W, 5.0 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 SO). Overall, Aumont posted a 3-4 record with a 2.35 ERA in 14 games for the ‘Pigs to earn a promotion to Philadelphia.

After appearing in one game with the Phillies last season, however, the team designated him for assignment. Four days later, he elected free agency.

Aumont later joined Team Canada and pitched in the Pan Am games. He pitched 13 scoreless innings for his native country and helped lead the team to win the gold.

On July 28, 2015, Aumont signed with the Toronto Blue Jays organization and was assigned to Triple-A Buffalo, where he made five appearances.  He was later released by the Jays on August 20.

Now, Aumont will get a chance to shine in the White Sox organization. The 27-year-old brings with him a career 20-38 record and a 3.99 ERA over 256 games at the minor league level.

Jordan Danks Signs With Rangers…

Outfielder Jordan Danks, the all-time hits leader in Charlotte Knights franchise history, recently signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers. Danks, Jordan (2)

The Austin, TX native spent the entire 2015 season in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. He appeared in four games with the Phillies (0-for-4). He hit .257 (105-for-408) with six home runs and 46 RBIs with their Triple-A club, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Danks holds the Knights franchise record for hits with 449 and is also the all-time Knights franchise leader in games played (463), runs scored (250), triples (12), walks (215), and at-bats (1,682). He ranks second all-time in doubles (95) and RBIs (221). He is also fourth all-time in home runs (52).

Only Danks and Joe Borchard have compiled 1,600+, at-bats, 400+ games played, 400+ hits, and 200+ runs scored in Knights franchise history. Danks broke the all-time Knights hits record on August 1, 2014 during the resumption of the July 31st suspended game at BB&T Ballpark.