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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.

New Manager in Charlotte…

Joel Skinner spent the past four years as manager of the Charlotte Knights. He’s the only Knights manager I have ever worked with. Now, as I enter my fifth season as PR Director of the Charlotte Knights, I’ll work with a new skipper.

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Joel Skinner won 285 games as Knights manager from 2012 to 2015.

On Tuesday, January 19, the Chicago White Sox released their player development staffs for the entire organization. For the first time since 2011, the Knights will have someone other than Skinner manage the team. For the first time in BB&T Ballpark history, there will be a manager other than Skinner guiding the Knights.

Julio Vinas, a native of Miami, FL, who spent the past three seasons as manager of the Double-A Birmingham Barons, will guide the Knights in 2016. Vinas, 42, guided the Barons to a 2013 Southern League Championship. A former 33rd round selection of the Chicago White Sox, Vinas has done a solid job managing in the system for the past five seasons. Now, he moves on to Uptown Charlotte.

“I’m very excited and humbled by this opportunity,” exclaimed Vinas. “I want to thank the Chicago White Sox for the opportunity to manage at the next level. I look forward to being a part of the Charlotte Knights and managing in their new ballpark in Charlotte.”

Vinas_3

Julio Vinas played 11 minor league seasons and compiled a career .264 batting average with 84 home runs and 504 RBIs.

For more information about Vinas, you can read my full press release: Vinas Named Knights Manager.

I had a chance to speak to Julio briefly on the phone on Monday and I’m really excited to work with him this season. I look forward at the possibility of introducing him to the Charlotte media in the near future in a press conference at BB&T Ballpark. Stay tuned!

As for Joel Skinner, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish him much success with the Winston-Salem Dash (A+) in 2016. I enjoyed working with him over the past four seasons. We both started with the team in 2012 and we spent two of the four years in Fort Mill, SC at Knights Stadium. The past two years at BB&T Ballpark were great and Joel was always so accommodating. I hope to make it to a game in Winston-Salem this season.

Here is the entire 2016 Knights field staff:

Manager: Julio Vinas
Pitching Coach: Richard Dotson
Hitting Coach: Andy Tomberlin
Coach: Tim Esmay
Athletic Trainer: Scott Johnson
Strength Coach: Shawn Powell

Richard Dotson
, Andy Tomberlin, and Scott Johnson are all returning to the Knights, while Tim Esmay and Shawn Powell are new to the team. I’ll have more on them in another Knight Fever blog in the near future, so stay tuned to that!

Happy New Year…

Welcome back to the Knight Fever blog. Happy-New-YearHappy New Year to you and your family!

It has been quite awhile since I last wrote in the Knight Fever blog, so there is a lot to catch up on regarding the Charlotte Knights and Chicago White Sox.

Since my last post, there’s been a lot of new things going on in my world. First and foremost, on December 26, 2015, my wife and I welcomed our baby girl into the world. In just two short weeks, I’ve realized that there’s absolutely nothing that can compare to becoming a father. It is truly is an amazing experience and I feel so fortunate and blessed each day.

As for my job as the PR Director of the Charlotte Knights, the year 2016 is here, which means baseball season is near. As I write this post, Opening Knight at BB&T Ballpark is just three months away. The 2016 season will be my 10th working in Minor League Baseball and fifth with the Charlotte Knights. While there are a number of milestones for me, there’s no doubt that this year will certainly be one of the hardest of my professional career.

On top of 144 Charlotte Knights games, the team has added five college baseball games, and will host the 2016 Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game and Home Run Derby in July. I’m thrilled to be a part of it and continue to plan for it each day.

While I love the “down time” of the offseason, there’s no better time of year than baseball season. There’s still a lot to do before April, but as I look out of the press box window here at BB&T Ballpark — and see the fresh-cut grass — I know that my 10th year is near.

In the meantime, catch me each Saturday talking baseball with former major leaguer and former Charlotte Knights infielder, Jeff Schaefer, at 11 AM on WFNZ. The Schaefer Baseball Report is live from 11 AM to 12 PM every Saturday in the Queen City.

Happy Holidays…

It’s the most wonderful time of year — according to many. My “most wonderful time of the year” is baseball season, but I admit, this is a very special time of year.

And for the Charlotte Knights, it truly is a wonderful time of year as the team volunteers around the community in November and December.

Here is a list of volunteering initiatives that the Knights took part in during the 2015 holiday season:

November 23 – Salvation Army Christmas Store
Salvation Army store volunteering
Our staff stocked shelves, sorted boxes, and more.

November 24 – Homer’s Second Annual Turkey Drive
Turkey Drive 2015The Charlotte Knights staff, along with Spectra Food Services, and U.S. Foods (Fort Mill Division), donated 100 turkeys, turkey basters, stuffing, and more around the Charlotte area for Thanksgiving.

December 1 – Bottles & Bottoms Diaper Drive
20151201_111240The Charlotte Knights partnered with Harris Teeter to provide 12,000 Luvs diapers to “Bottles N Bottoms” in conjunction with Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 1st, charities, families, business, and community centers around the world come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

December 8 – Operation Christmas Child
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December 8 – Kids First of the Carolinas Bike Drive 11227506_10153402744928406_7904592988484739448_n
The Knights donated 33 bikes (one for each sell-out crowd in 2015) to Kids First of the Carolinas. The team joined in on the Bike Drive in 2014 and donated 31 (one for each sell-out crowd in 2014).

The team’s Chief Operating Officer, Dan Rajkowski, went on-air with WBTV’s John Carter on Thursday and WBT’s John Hancock on Friday to talk about it. John Hancock is a huge supporter of this great initiative and the event was a huge success as there were a total of 589 bikes donated this year. dan_wbtv

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A GREAT job especially goes out to Knights Community Relations Director Lindsey Roycraft, who put all of these events together!

Happy Holidays!

Micah & Trayce Dealt…

On Wednesday, December 16, the Chicago White Sox completed a three-way trade with the Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers to acquire hard-hitting third baseman Todd Frazier. A native of Point Pleasant, NJ, Frazier slugged 35 home runs last season with the Reds. He also won the Home Run Derby at the 2015 All-Star Game in front of his hometown crowd of Cincinnati. BB&T Ballpark_April 3 2015

In exchange for the talented masher, the White Sox dealt three prospects — all of which went to the Dodgers. Two of the three players spent time with the Knights last season. Both 2B Micah Johnson and OF Trayce Thompson, two of the key pieces dealt on Wednesday, were Knights last year. The Dodgers also received talented RHP Frankie Montas, considered the top pitching prospect in Chicago’s system.

Let’s take a look at the two players who spent time with the Knights:
Johnson_Micah
Micah Johnson – (2014-15)
Johnson was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the ninth round of the 2012 draft out of Indiana University. The Indianapolis native climbed his way through Chicago’s system and made his way into Uptown Charlotte in 2014.

After hitting .329 with the Double-A Birmingham Barons in 2014, Johnson hit .275 with the Knights in 65 games that season. A year after swiping a combined 84 bases in 2013, Johnson combined to steal 22 in 2014 — 12 with the Knights.

In 2015, Johnson competed for Chicago’s second base job in Spring Training — and won it. After beating out Carlos Sanchez, Johnson started the season in Chicago and hit .270 with the club before being sent to Charlotte in mid-May.

From May 15 to September 7, Johnson excelled with the Charlotte Knights in 78 games. The soon-to-be 25-year-old hit .315 (98-for-311) with Charlotte. He scored 54 runs, while hitting 17 doubles, three triples, and eight home runs. Johnson swiped 28 bases — finishing second on the Knights behind Leury Garcia’s 30.

Johnson compiled a four-hit game with the Knights on July 7, while accumulating a total of 13 games with three hits or more. He had a terrific month of July, compiling a .378 batting average with eight doubles, three triples, four home runs, and 14 RBIs. He was recalled to Chicago after Charlotte’s season concluded.

Overall with Chicago in 2015, Johnson hit .230 (23-for-100) in 36 games. Trayce Thompson

Trayce Thompson – (2015)
Thompson, a native of Los Angeles, will return to his roots after Wednesday’s trade to the Dodgers.

Originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the second round of the 2009 draft, Thompson made his Charlotte Knights debut in 2015 and was an International League All-Star. He hit .260 with 13 home runs and 39 RBIs in 104 games with the Knights on his way to his first big league promotion. He was among the Knights team leaders in a number of categories, including doubles, which he finished second on the team (23).

Thompson was promoted to the White Sox on August 3 and he excelled in the field and at the plate. He hit .295 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in 44 games with the South Siders.

At the time of his promotion to Chicago, the 24-year-old was tied for first among International League outfielders in games played (103), and ranked first in the IL in total chances (249), and putouts (243).

Now, Thompson returns home. He officially takes his talents back to California, where his dad was a star basketball player and his brother is currently a star on the Golden State Warriors.

On behalf of the Charlotte Knights organization, I wish both former Knights — Trayce Thompson and Micah Johnson — as well as Frankie Montas — good luck in Los Angeles!

Talking Baseball – Winter Meetings

Throughout the offseason, keep an eye out for my new series titled “Talking Baseball”. I’ll spend a few minutes each week talking to current and former baseball players about the game of baseball and much more. screen-shot-2015-12-07-at-10-29-28-am

Welcome to the sixth edition of Talking Baseball. This edition is special as it was recorded on the final day of the Winter Meetings in Nashville, TN. It was a great week for members of the Charlotte Knights front office staff, who had a terrific opportunity at a learning experience like no other.

The Winter Meetings are different for everyone. For myself, I enjoy the opportunity to be in the media room and listen to press conferences. I enjoy seeing people that I work with from throughout the year, including GMs, Scouts, PR Directors, and many others. Of course, there are also meetings that I attend.

For Matt Millward, Philip Norvell, and Ryan Petrere, there is much more to the Winter Meetings. The trio of Charlotte Knights staff members spent most of their days in seminars, meetings, and walking the Trade Show floor to find new items and ideas to bring back to Charlotte. I thought it would be interesting to hear from them.

Matt Millward is the Charlotte Knights Director of Ticket Sales. Matt is one of the hardest working people you will ever meet in MiLB. His ideas are innovative and he always gives 110%.

Interesting Fact about Matt: Matt and I both interned with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in 2009. Matt was a big reason for me getting the job with the Charlotte Knights in 2012. We are both Penn State University graduates!

Philip Norvell is the Charlotte Knights Promotions Manager.He spent the 2015 season as the team’s Community Relations Associate and recently moved on to handle all of the team’s promotional nights.

Interesting Fact about Philip: Nicknames are “Uncle Phil” or “Dr. Phil” or sometimes “Philly Cheesesteak”… okay, I just made that last one up (I actually made all of them up).

Ryan Petrere is the newest member of the Charlotte Knights front office staff. Ryan is the team’s Merchandise Manager and handles everything related to the team’s store — the Armor Shoppe.

Interesting Fact about Ryan: His last name is Petrere, which rhymes with canary. That’s all I got, he’s new!

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LISTEN to Talking Baseball – Edition #6:

Winter Meetings — Media Room Press Conferences

One of my favorite things at the Winter Meetings is being a part of all the excitement from the Media Room. I’m fortunate to work for the White Sox, who have been so good to me over the years. This year — much like two years ago — the team allowed me a credential to be in the media room. I love it!

When I was in high school, I always wanted to be a sports reporter –specifically a baseball beat writer. My job now affords me the opportunity to do a lot of writing. I get to write this blog, along with press releases, game recaps, and more.

Without getting into too much detail about the media room, I wanted to make this more of a photo blog today. Here are some of my photos from the past two days in the media room. Enjoy!

2015 Winter Meetings — Mr. Belding

12316200_10153384555108406_7557303806839560443_nWelcome back to my Knight Fever blog. While there is a lot of baseball related topics that I want to report on from my days here in Nashville, I’d like to first start off with something that took place on Tuesday in the Trade Show.

I was reunited with Mr. Belding!

Back in 2010, I was working for the Reading Phillies, the Double-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. I spent two season with Reading as their PR Director and had an opportunity to do many things.

In back-to-back seasons, we welcomed Mr. Belding to the ballpark — the principal from one of my all-time favorite TV shows — Saved By the Bell. To say that I was a big fan of the show growing up would be an understatement. I watched every episode over and over again. I pretty much grew up with that show. Okay, yes, I wanted to be Zack Morris. I wanted to have the “Zack Morris” phone and date Kelly Kapowski.

When we brought Mr. Belding in to FirstEnergy Stadium in 2010, I couldn’t wait to meet him. Of course I wanted to take a photo with him, but I was excited to interview him and get a chance to see someone who I grew up watching. Mr. Belding

Meeting him in 2010 and seeing the reaction from fans was priceless. He met thousands of people. Signed thousands of autographs. He was great to have around for the day. So great in fact, that we brought him back for the 2011 season.

His first appearance in Reading was special. He sang karaoke with fans and even spent time with our players. Matt Rizzotti even hit a home run for him!

Over four years later, I had an opportunity to see Mr. Belding again. While we have stayed in touch over the years through Twitter, it was great to see him in person. We talked at the Winter Meetings Trade Show for a while. We spoke a lot about his time in Reading, having Matt Rizzotti hit a home run for him, and much more. Mr. Belding has a great memory!

So now, who knows… maybe we’ll see Mr. Belding in Charlotte in 2016 (fingers crossed). If you would like to see him at BB&T Ballpark in 2016, send me a Tweet to @Tommy_the_V or email me at tommyv@charlotteknights.

Hey, hey, hey… what is going on here!

2015 Winter Meetings

The 2015 Winter Meetings in Nashville are underway and I’m one of the many Minor League Baseball front office members on hand to take part in the week’s festivities. 073.bwm15

While there is a lot to do — I am looking forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces around the game. With the 2016 season set to be my 10th working in a professional baseball front office, it seems like there are more and more people I know each year.

I attended my first Winter Meetings two years ago when they were held in Orlando, FL. They were at Disney World — which was great! I didn’t see Mickey or Minnie, but I did get a chance to see many great people around MLB and MiLB.

Overall, my first experience was a good one. I was there in part for a joint announcement between the Chicago White Sox and Charlotte Knights. We announced our six-year extension of our Player Development Contract with Chicago, which runs through 2020. It was also the December before moving into BB&T Ballpark, so things were also very busy back home in Uptown.

With two more seasons now under my belt, it’s exciting for me to be back at the Winter Meetings. It’s also my first opportunity to see Nashville, which is a beautiful city.

Our staff made out 6+ hour drive on Sunday and arrived in Music City around 5:30 PM on Sunday night. We’re staying with thousands of other baseball people at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, which is amazing. This place has everything!

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Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Upon arriving, I made sure to take a walk around the hotel and see where everything would be for the week. I immediately looked for the media area, which I am fortunate to have access to — thanks to the White Sox. It’s nice to be able to sit down in the media work room and get some work done. That’s a big part of why I am here. Another reason I am here is that I have an opportunity to speak on Wednesday as part of the Bob Freitas Workshop Series.

bob freitas

Winter Meetings

While I enjoy speaking — and talking baseball — I must admit, I am nervous. Talking baseball on the radio is fun. Talking in front of a crowd — not so much.

I’m looking forward to Wednesday at 11:15 a.m. as I’ll be speaking about how a Minor League Baseball team stays relevant in a Major League market. Being a baseball PR Director in the City of Charlotte is tough at times. It’s a crowded market. There’s the NFL, the NBA, NASCAR, and much more. In my speech, I plan to show that while it’s not easy to compete for coverage, there is a way to maximize coverage. There’s still enough to go around.

I’ll have blogs, photos, and tons more throughout the week. Stay tuned for updates!

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