KNIGHT LIGHTS: The Charlotte Knights return home tonight to open a three-game series with the Gwinnett Braves from BB&T Ballpark at 7:05 p.m. The Knights are coming off a two-game sweep of the G-Braves from Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, GA from last night. The team’s last two-game sweep came against the G-Braves from August 5-6, 2014 at BB&T Ballpark.
ABOUT LAST KNIGHT: Trayce Thompson went 3-for-6 with two doubles and three RBIs last night as the Knights beat the Gwinnett Braves 7-6 in 10 innings last night. LHP Carlos Rodon started for the Knights and allowed three runs on six hits over five innings and did not factor in the decision. Rodon, the top ranked prospect in Chicago’s system by Baseball America, walked two batters and struck-out four. The North Carolina State University product tossed 87 pitches, 56 for strikes. It was just his fifth career start at the Triple-A level. Left-handed reliever Eric Surkamp (1-0, 0.00) tossed two scoreless innings (8th and 9th) for the Knights and went on to earn the win. He walked one and struck-out two.
|KNIGHTS STARTER: Charlotte RHP Scott Carroll (0-1, 4.50) will make his second start of the 2015 regular season tonight against the Gwinnett Braves at 7:05 p.m. in the opening game of a three-game series. Carroll made his 2015 season debut on Sunday and allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits over four innings in a loss against Norfolk. Carroll last faced the G-Braves on April 19, 2014 in a road loss (4.0 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 SO). He made that start as the reigning IL Pitcher of the Week – entering that game with an impressive 3-0 mark and a 0.00 ERA. He started his award-winning week with a solid performance at Durham on Tuesday, April 8, 2014. The Kansas City, MO native pitched six innings and allowed two unearned runs over four hits en-route to his second win of the year. The Knights beat the Bulls 8-2 that day and Carroll improved to 2-0 on the season at that time. Five days later, Carroll started for the Knights in front of 10,200 fans at BB&T Ballpark in the team’s three-game series finale with the Norfolk Tides. The 29-year-old was sharp again and tossed a season-high seven shutout innings. He needed just 76 pitches to get through seven innings and allowed just three hits and one walk over that span. He entered his final 2014 start with the Knights without having allowed an earned run in 19.0 innings pitched. Carroll had his contract purchased by the White Sox on April 27 and made his Major League debut that day in a start against Tampa Bay (W, 7.1 IP, 2 R, 1 ER). It was the longest outing by a White Sox pitcher making his Major League debut since Gerry Janeski on April 10, 1970 (also 7.1 IP). Carroll spent part of the 2013 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and appeared in just 11 starts between Advanced Rookie Bristol and Double-A Birmingham.|
ROSTER MOVES: The Charlotte Knights placed catcher George Kottaras on the disabled list before today’s game and received catcher Jeremy Dowdy from Winston-Salem (A+). Kottaras appeared in two games with the Knights this year and was hitting .286 (2-for-7) with a double and an RBI. Dowdy has appeared in two games for the Winston-Salem Dash this season (0-for-6). A native of Raleigh, NC, Dowdy, 24, hit .302 (60-for-199) for Kannapolis last season in 53 games. He appeared in one game for the Charlotte Knights in 2013 (0-for-3). He was originally signed by the Chicago White Sox as a free agent on June 9, 2012. He is a 2009 graduate of Wakefield High School in Raleigh, NC.
REHABBING: Chicago White Sox RHP Jake Petricka began a Major League Rehab assignment with the Charlotte Knights last night and entered the game in the sixth inning in relief of Carlos Rodon. Petricka, 26, began the 2015 season on Chicago’s disabled list with a right forearm strain. Last night he tossed a scoreless, hitless inning – striking out one batter while tossing 16 pitches (11 for strikes). He’s expected to pitch again on Saturday.
MAGIC EIGHT BALL: CF Trayce Thompson extended his hit-streak to an International League high eight-straight games last night after recording three hits on the evening. The 24-year-old is now hitting .419 (13-for-31) through eight games on the season – which is tied for third-best in the IL so far this year. His 13 hits are tied for first in the league – with Pawtucket’s Jackie Bradley Jr. His eight-game streak is the longest current streak in the International League.
STRIKE CITY: RHP Maikel Cleto has started strong this season. He continued his solid stretch on Tuesday by striking out three batters over 1.2 scoreless innings. So far this season (two appearances). Cleto, 25, has fanned seven batters in just 3.2 scoreless innings. Dating back to July 18, 2014 – Cleto has not allowed a run with the Knights over his last seven games (11.1 IP). He has allowed just four hits and has fanned 19 batters over that span. He did not allow a run in his final three appearances with the Chicago last season either (9/20-26).
CHARLOTTE LEADERBOARD: The Knights enter play tonight with the top batting average in the IL after eight games this season. Charlotte’s team mark of .294 is now 30 points higher than second place Pawtucket (.264). The Knights also lead in slugging percentage (.409), triples (5) and are in second place in total bases (114) – eight behind the PawSox. Charlotte’s 14 team stolen bases are also first in the league – while Tyler Saladino’s five rank tied for second.
KNIGHT LIGHTS: The Charlotte Knights and Gwinnett Braves will conclude their two-game series from Coolray Field at 6:35 p.m. tonight. The Knights will go for their first sweep of the season and first series sweep since a four-game sweep of the Norfolk Tides from August 22-25, 2014. The team’s last two-game sweep came against the G-Braves from August 5-6, 2014 at BB&T Ballpark.
ABOUT LAST KNIGHT: LHP Jarrett Casey (1-0, 0.00) was promoted to Charlotte just before game time last night and came on to pitch in the sixth inning after starter Chris Beck allowed one run in five frames. Casey, tossed two scoreless innings (6th and 7th) to earn his first win of the year. The Knights scored four runs over the final three innings. Infielders Tyler Saladino and Carlos Sanchez chipped in with two RBIs each.
|KNIGHTS STARTER: North Carolina State University product Carlos Rodon (1-0, 1.80), the number-three overall pick by the Chicago White Sox in last year’s Major League Baseball Draft, will make his second start of the 2015 season tonight and fifth Triple-A start of his career. In his 2015 season debut, Rodon fanned nine batters over five solid innings en-route to his first career Triple-A win. In all, Rodon allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits over five innings of work. He threw 87 pitches and walked two batters on the evening. Ranked as the number one prospect in Chicago’s organization heading into this season by Baseball America, Rodon went 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings pitched last year with Charlotte (fanned 18 batters). Last year, Rodon was promoted to the Charlotte Knights on Saturday, August 16, 2014 and ended up making three Charlotte starts last season after his Triple-A debut on Tuesday, August 19. The 22-year-old left-hander made his professional debut on July 22, 2014 for the Arizona League White Sox. He appeared in two games for the team and allowed two runs on four hits over three innings. Rodon had a successful and distinguished career at NC State. He broke the University’s all-time strikeout mark on April 11, 2014. He finished with 436 punch-outs.|
ROSTER MOVES: Just before game time yesterday, the Charlotte Knights announced four roster moves – with three players heading to the disabled list. RHPs Brad Penny and Matt Lindstrom were both placed on the DL, while outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo was also placed on the DL (retroactive to April 14). Last night’s winning pitcher, Jarrett Casey, was promoted from Double-A Birmingham and arrived in time for the game. Infielder Justin Jirschele was promoted from Winston-Salem (A+) before today’s game. Jirschele appeared in two games for the Dash this season and was 0-for-5. He hit .315 (39-for-124) with the Dash in 40 games last year and .250 (11-for-44) with the Knights in 14 games.
REHABBING: Chicago White Sox RHP Jake Petricka, who began the 2015 season on Chicago’s disabled list with a right forearm strain, will begin a Major League Rehab assignment with the Charlotte Knights tonight. Petricka, 26, spent the majority of the 2014 season with the White Sox after beginning the campaign with the Knights. The Minnesota native was recalled to Chicago from Charlotte on April 4, 2014 and never returned to the Queen City. He went on to post a 1-6 record with a 2.96 ERA and 14 saves in 67 games with the White Sox. Petricka, a second round pick of the White Sox in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, led all Major League rookies in saves and ranked third in appearances last season.
7-UP: CF Trayce Thompson has been on-fire to start the 2015 season and it continued last night as he extended his hit-streak to seven-straight games. The 24-year-old is now hitting .400 (10-for-25) through seven games on the season – which is tied for third-best in the IL so far this year. His 10 hits are tied for second in the league – just three behind IL leader Jackie Bradley Jr. (Pawtucket). His current seven-game streak is the longest current streak in the IL.
KNIGHT LIGHTS: The Charlotte Knights open up a quick two-game series with the Gwinnett Braves starting tonight at 6:35 p.m. from Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, GA. Tonight’s game is the first for the Knights on the road this season and it kicks-off a five-game stretch against the G-Braves (the two teams will play a three-game series at BB&T Ballpark starting on Friday). The Knights went 28-44 on the road last season. Charlotte’s last win at Coolray Field came back on August 29, 2014 in a 7-2 win over the G-Braves. Charlotte starter Chien-Ming Wang – who is now a member of Gwinnett – earned the win. The Knights will face Wang on Saturday night at BB&T Ballpark.
ABOUT LAST KNIGHT: The Knights wrapped up their first homestand of the 2015 season last night in a 12-8 loss to the Durham Bulls. Charlotte and Durham split the two-game series – after the Knights and Tides split their four-game series. Through six games, the Knights are 3-3 on the season – which puts them in a four-way tie in the IL South Division (all four teams are currently 3-3). Last night, RHP Brad Penny (1-1, 8.68) was saddled with the loss after allowing six runs on 11 hits over 3.2 innings pitched.
KNIGHTS STARTER: RHP Chris Beck (0-0, 5.79), who is ranked as the number 11 best prospect in the Chicago White Sox system by Baseball America, toes the rubber tonight for the Knights in their first road game of the season. Beck, 24, started game two of the season back on April 10 at BB&T Ballpark and allowed three runs on four hits over 4.2 innings pitched in a no-decision. Before that, Beck last pitched for the Knights on August 31, 2014 – tossing five shutout innings against the Gwinnett Braves at BB&T Ballpark. In seven starts with the Knights last season, Beck posted a 1-3 record with a 4.05 ERA (33.1 IP, 36 H, 16 R, 15 ER, 13 BB, 28 SO). He began the 2014 campaign with the Double-A Birmingham Barons and posted a 5-8 mark with a 3.39 ERA in 20 starts before a promotion to Charlotte on June 26. He started his first career Triple-A game on June 26 against Louisville and was saddled with the loss after allowing five runs on five hits over 4.2 innings pitched. He was sent back to Birmingham the next day. He was promoted back to Charlotte on July 28. He went a combined 6-11 with a 3.54 ERA in 27 starts between both stops. He ranked among the White minor leaguers in shutouts (T-1st), ERA (4th) and IP (4th). He entered the 2014 season ranked by Baseball America as the number nine prospect in Chicago’s system and as possessing the Best Changeup in the organization. Beck was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2012 draft out of Georgia Southern University.
TRAYCE-ABILITY: CF Trayce Thompson has been on-fire to start the 2015 season. The 24-year-old is hitting .429 (9-for-21) on the season – which is good for second-best in the IL so far this year. His nine hits are third highest in the league – just two behind IL leader Jackie Bradley Jr. (Pawtucket) and he has a six-game hit-streak heading into tonight’s game. His current six-game streak is tied for the longest current streak in the IL with Dixon Machado (Toledo).
STRIKE CITY: RHP Maikel Cleto has started strong this season. He continued his solid stretch last night by striking out three batters over 1.2 scoreless innings. So far this season (two appearances), Cleto, 25, has fanned seven batters in just 3.2 scoreless innings. Dating back to July 18, 2014 – Cleto has not allowed a run with the Knights over his last seven games (11.1 IP). He has allowed just four hits and has fanned 19 batters over that span. He did not allow a run in his final three appearances with the Chicago White Sox last season either (9/20-26).
CHARLOTTE LEADERBOARD: The Knights enter play tonight with the top batting average in the IL after six games this season. Charlotte’s team mark of .296 is now 25 points higher than second place Pawtucket (.271). The Knights also lead in slugging percentage (.427), triples (5) and are in second place in total bases (88) – just one behind the PawSox.
UPDATE: ROSTER MOVES: Outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo, along with right-handed pitchers Brad Penny and Matt Lindstrom, have been placed on the disabled list. Tuiasosopo was placed on the DL retroactive to April 14. LHP Jarrett Casey, who appeared in one game with the Knights back on April 10 — was promoted back to Charlotte from Double-A Birmingham,. Casey was assigned to Birmingham on April 13. He struck-out three batters over 1.2 scoreless innings for the Knights on April 10 at BB&T Ballpark against the Norfolk Tides. Penny (1-1, 8.68) won the 2015 home opener on April 9, but was saddled with the loss in last night’s game. Tuiasosopo was hitting .357 (5-for-14) in five games.
KNIGHT LIGHTS: The Charlotte Knights open a two-game series against in-state rival – the Durham Bulls – tonight with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. from BB&T Ballpark. Both teams enter play with identical 2-2 records – in fact every team in the IL South Division opens play today with a 2-2 mark. Charlotte enters play with the highest batting average for an IL team — .282 – while Durham’s .212 is the fourth-lowest in the IL. Charlotte has scored 18 runs, while Durham has scored 12. Charlotte is tied for the league lead in home runs (3) and leads the league in triples with four.
ABOUT LAST KNIGHT: The Charlotte Knights dropped their finale against the Tides by a score of 9-2 – settling for a four-game series split with Norfolk on Sunday. RHP Scott Carroll was saddled with the loss after allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits over four innings. Norfolk RHP Zach Davies struck-out eight batters over five shutout innings en-route to the win in his Triple-A debut.
|KNIGHTS STARTER: Charlotte RHP Shawn Haviland (NR) will make his 2015 season debut tonight in the opening game of the two-game set with Durham. Tonight’s start will be his first in the International League and first at the Triple-A level since June 20, 2010 as a member of Triple-A Sacramento (Oakland). That day, Haviland started against Salt Lake and allowed five runs (two earned) on six hits over 3.1 IP. (Also of note, Haviland’s teammates in that game were former Knights Dallas McPherson, Michael Taylor, and Steve Tolleson. Coco Crisp played CF). In six professional seasons, Haviland owns a 37-49 mark with a 4.69 ERA in 787.2 innings pitched. His nine wins in 2010 with the Stockton Ports (9-6, 3.65) are a season best. Haviland, 29, is a native of Middletown, Connecticut and was signed by Chicago as a free agent on January 12, 2015. He is a graduate of Harvard University.|
IL LEADERBOARD: Infielder Tyler Saladino is hitting .462 (6-for-13) through three games so far this season – tied for the second highest in the IL. Saladino, who had Sunday’s game off, is back in the lineup today. His .462 average is tied with Norfolk’s Henry Urrutia. Saldino is also the league leader in steals with four.
ROSTER MOVES: LHP Eric Surkamp, who was optioned to the Charlotte Knights on April 11 from Chicago, is active today for the Knights. Surkamp takes the roster spot of LHP Jarrett Casey, who was assigned to Double-A Birmingham. Casey appeared in one game and allowed just one hit, while striking out three batters over 1.2 IP. Surkamp has yet to pitch this season as he began the year on Chicago’s disabled list. He was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list and optioned to Charlotte on the 11th. The 27-year-old was placed on the disabled list on April 5 (retroactive to March 27) with an upper back strain. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Surkamp went 2-0 with a 4.81 ERA (13 ER/24.1 IP) and 20 strikeouts in 35 relief appearances with the White Sox in 2014. He was 4-5 with a 4.69 ERA in 18 games (11 starts). He was the International League’s Pitcher of the Week for June 16-22 after going 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA in two starts. He struck-out a season-high 12 batters on May 30 at Toledo over just six innings of work. Surkamp, like Carlos Rodon, is a product of North Carolina State University. He was teammates with Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson while playing for the Wolfpack.
BACK IN BLACK: Slugger Dan Black returned to the Knights on Saturday in his season debut and went 2-for-3 and drove in three of Charlotte’s four runs. On Sunday, Black launched his first home run of the season – a solo shot in the seventh inning of Norfolk reliever Pat McCoy. Black was 2-for-4 on the afternoon and also added a triple. It was his first triple since June 17, 2013 as a member of the Double-A Birmingham Barons. He appeared in 48 games for the Knights last season (44 for Double-A Birmingham) and hit .267 with six home runs and 21 RBIs for the Knights.
KNIGHT LIGHTS: The Charlotte Knights continue their sophomore season at BB&T Ballpark and play game three of the season tonight at 7:05 p.m. as they host the Norfolk Tides. The Knights, who took the opening game by a score of 6-3, lost last night’s game by a score of 7-6. The Tides scored four runs over the final two innings for the come-from-behind win.
|KNIGHTS STARTER: North Carolina State University product Carlos Rodon (NR), the number-three overall pick by the Chicago White Sox in last year’s Major League Baseball Draft, will make his first start of the season today and fourth
career Triple-A start today. Ranked as the number one prospect in Chicago’s organization heading into this season by Baseball America, Rodon went 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings pitched last year with Charlotte (fanned 18 batters). Last year, Rodon was promoted to the Charlotte Knights on Saturday, August 16, 2014 and ended up making three Charlotte starts last season after his Triple-A debut on Tuesday, August 19. The 22-year-old left-hander made his professional debut on July 22, 2014 for the Arizona League White Sox. He appeared in two games for the team and allowed two runs on four hits over three innings. Rodon had a successful and distinguished career at NC State. He broke the University’s all-time strikeout mark on April 11, 2014. He finished with 436 punch-outs.
ROSTER MOVE: LHP Eric Surkamp was optioned to Charlotte today (report time to be determined), so he has not yet been officially added to Charlotte’s active roster, which already sits at 25. He was activated off Chicago’s 15-day disabled list earlier today before being optioned to Charlotte. He was placed on the White Sox disabled list on April 5 (retroactive to March 27) with an upper back strain. In 18 games (11 starts) with the Charlotte Knights last season, Surkamp, 27, posted a 4-5 record with a 4.69 ERA. He was named the International League Pitcher of the Week for June 16-22 after going 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA in two starts.
MULTI-HIT PARADE: Four Charlotte Knights batters had at least two hits apiece last night. Matt Tuiasosopo, Engel Beltre, Tyler Saladino, and Leury Garcia each had two hits last night as the Knights finished with 11 hits in the 7-6 loss. It was the team’s second double-digit hit total of the season (they had 12 hits on Opening Knight).
ON THE BASE PATHS: Charlotte infielder Tyler Saladino returned to the Charlotte Knights lineup on Opening Knight and went 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs. Last night, Saladino added two more hits and three stolen bases to up his two-game season batting average .556. He has an IL-best four stolen bases over two games and tied for second in the league in hits with five. Saladino, 25, hit .310 last season with nine home runs and 43 RBIs in 82 games before suffering a torn UCL in his right elbow and undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery.
THREE BAGGERS: Charlotte center fielder Trayce Thompson legged out his first triple of the season last night – the third by a Knights player already this year. In Thursday’s opener, Matt Tuiasosopo and Tyler Saladino each tripled. Thompson, 24, legged out 11 triples over his last two seasons with Double-A Birmingham. Last season, he tripled six times, which was ranked tied for seventh in the Southern League. He had five triples in 2013 with the Barons.
ATTENDANCE FEVER: After welcoming 10,514 fans through the gates of BB&T Ballpark on Opening Knight, the club welcomed 9,385 fans last night. Through two regular season games, the defending attendance champions have welcomed 19,899 fans total. So far in 2015, the Knights have already welcomed 40,794 fans through the gates. The Queen City’s new kingdom played host to its first-ever college game on Tuesday, March 31 (8,147), an exhibition game between the Chicago White Sox and Charlotte Knights on Friday, April 3 (10,556), and a free scrimmage game between the Charlotte Knights and Davidson College on Monday, April 6 (2,192).
KNIGHT LIGHTS: The Charlotte Knights opened their second season at BB&T Ballpark in Uptown Charlotte last night with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch against the Norfolk Tides. After dropping last year’s inaugural season opener to Norfolk (8-6 in 12 innings), the Knights returned the favor and beat the Tides 6-3. The Knights used a 12-hit assault, solid defense, and good pitching to get past the Tides in 2:43.
ATTENDANCE FEVER: BB&T Ballpark was once again rocking last night with a sold-out crowd of 10,514 fans – the fourth largest crowd in the ballpark’s history. Although last night was the first game of the regular season, so far this year, the Knights have already welcomed 31,409 fans through the gates. The Queen City’s new kingdom played host to its first-ever college game on Tuesday, March 31 (8,147), an exhibition game between the Chicago White Sox and Charlotte Knights on Friday, April 3 (10,556), and a free scrimmage game between the Charlotte Knights and Davidson College on Monday, April 6 (2,192).
|KNIGHTS STARTER: RHP Chris Beck, who is ranked as the number 11 best prospect in the Chicago White Sox system by Baseball America, toes the rubber tonight for the Charlotte Knights who look to make it two wins in-a-row after last night’s 6-3 victory. Beck, 24, last pitched for the Knights on August 31, 2014 – tossing five shutout innings against the Gwinnett Braves at BB&T Ballpark. In seven starts with the Knights last season, Beck posted a 1-3 record with a 4.05 ERA (33.1 IP, 36 H, 16 R, 15 ER, 13 BB, 28 SO). He began the 2014 campaign with the Double-A Birmingham Barons and posted a 5-8 mark with a 3.39 ERA in 20 starts before a promotion to Charlotte on June 26. He started his first career Triple-A game on June 26 against Louisville and was saddled with the loss after allowing five runs on five hits over 4.2 innings pitched. He was sent back to Birmingham the next day. He was promoted back to Charlotte on July 28. He went a combined 6-11 with a 3.54 ERA in 27 starts between both stops. He ranked among the White minor leaguers in shutouts (T-1st), ERA (4th) and IP (4th). He entered the 2014 season ranked by Baseball America as the number nine prospect in Chicago’s system and as possessing the Best Changeup in the organization. Beck was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2012 draft out of Georgia Southern University.|
PENNY PINCHING: RHP Brad Penny (1-0, 4.76) made his Charlotte Knights debut last night and was solid in his first start since September 8, 2014 as a member of the Miami Marlins. In last night’s opener, Penny allowed three runs on seven hits over 5.2 innings to earn the win. The Oklahoma native pitched into the sixth inning for the first time since that September 8th start and walked two batters. A two-time National League All-Star, Penny tossed 78 pitches, 52 for strikes.
ANGEL IN THE BLEACHERS: Engel Beltre (pronounced Angel) launched the first Knights home run of the season in the second inning of Thursday’s contest. The solo shot came off Norfolk starter Tyler Wilson – who allowed two Knights home runs in the game (Matt Davidson also homered). Beltre, who spent most of last season on the Texas Rangers disabled list, was signed by the White Sox as a free agent on January 22, 2015. A native of Santo Domingo, DR, Beltre was originally signed by Boston on July 2, 2006.
WELCOME MATT: For the 101st time in his Minor League career – which began in 2009 – Matt Davidson homered. Charlotte’s third baseman smacked a third inning solo home run off Norfolk right-hander Tyler Wilson. Davidson, 24, launched 20 home runs last year with the Knights – with 15 of those coming off right-handers. Davidson, who finished last night’s game 1-for-3, is ranked as the 14th best prospect in Chicago’s system by Baseball America entering this season. He was acquired by the White Sox from the Arizona Diamondbacks on December 16, 2013 in exchange for pitcher Addison Reed.
BACK IN THE SADDLE: 2013 International League All-Star Tyler Saladino returned to the Charlotte Knights lineup last night for the first time since July 13, 2014 and was sharp in his first regular season game back from 2014 Tommy John surgery (underwent the surgery on August 8, 2014, which was performed by Dr. James Andrews). Last night, Saladino, 25, went 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs. He hit .310 last season with nine home runs and 43 RBIs in 82 games before suffering a torn UCL in his right elbow.
Brett Austin is a Charlotte, NC native. Over the past few days, Austin, 22, has had an opportunity to play in front of family and friends at BB&T Ballpark. And, he’s enjoyed every minute of it.
The former Providence High School standout was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the fourth round of last year’s draft out of North Carolina State University. The switch-hitting backstop was drafted just three rounds after his good buddy — number three overall pick Carlos Rodon — the top prospect in Chicago’s system.
On Monday, April 6, Rodon and Austin took part in a scrimmage game as the Charlotte Knights played host to the Davidson College Wildcats. Both Rodon — who started on the hill — and Austin — who started behind the plate — played for Davidson. It was like old times for the two, who were battery mates in college.
I had a chance to catch up with Brett after Monday’s game. We talked about playing in front of family and friends, his experiences at Spring Training, and more.
The White Sox added another Soto to their organization on Monday when they completed a trade with the Cincinnati Reds for infielder Neftali Soto in exchange for cash. The South Siders already have catcher Geovany Soto in camp as a non-roster invitee.
Originally drafted by the Reds in the 3rd round of the 2007 draft, Neftali Soto, 26, has spent parts of eight seasons at the Minor League level. The Puerto Rican native made his Major League debut on May 18, 2013. He appeared in 13 games with the Reds in 2013 and 21 games for the team a year later.
Over the course of his eight-year Minor League career, Soto has compiled a .274 batting average with 179 doubles, 14 triples, 107 home runs, and 439 RBIs. The 6’1″ right-handed hitter spent the past four seasons playing in the International League with the Louisville Bats. In four years with the Bats, he compiled a .270 batting average with 32 home runs and 158 RBIs.
Last season in 75 games with the Bats, he hit .302 with 23 doubles, two home runs, and 34 games.
In eight games against the Knights last season with Louisville, Soto hit .250 (7-for-28) with three runs scored, three doubles, and seven RBIs.
Soto appeared in four games with the Reds this spring and hit .286 (2-for-7).
It’s not every day that you get to be a part of something special. Working in baseball however, provides me with some extra-special opportunities. It’s one of the reasons I love what I do!
About a month or so ago, I received a call from Molly Grantham of WBTV News. Molly does a lot of great work with people who are battling cancer. When we spoke, she filled me in on a story that was near and dear to my heart — and to my co-workers. She told me former Knights player Richie Grayum was recently diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. That hit home for me and our organization.
I met Richie back in 2013 at Knights Stadium. We talked baseball on Father’s Day at Knights Stadium. He threw out a first pitch and I interviewed him for our pre-game show. It was nice to meet someone who played for the Knights and still lived in the community years after his playing days with the Knights came to an end. I didn’t know at that time just how many lives he touched though.
A few months later, I got back in touch with Richie and invited him to Knights Stadium for our final-ever game in Fort Mill. It was a bittersweet moment for many. After 25 years in Fort Mill and 24 at Knights Stadium, the Knights were moving to Uptown Charlotte in 2014. For Richie, Knights Stadium was a place full of memories. He hit the first home run there in 1990 and he was a big part of the first-ever Knights team to play at “The Castle”. He returned to the Knights for the 1992 season and hit 23 home runs for the Knights over two seasons (229 games).
Remembering all of that, I knew I wanted to do what I could to honor Richie. Molly and I talked about the possibilities. She then put me in touch with one of Richie’s co-workers, Kim Wisch, who was the one who was so instrumental in this entire event. Kim and I talked about some of the things we could do. And then it just continued to grow — and grow — and grow.
Kim and I picked a day. We talked frequently. We both had ideas but even with all of the planning, we had no idea what to expect. Kim made and distributed t-shirts with Richie’s baseball card on it. She worked with Richie’s wife Denise to figure out a way to bring Richie to the ballpark as a surprise. They convinced him he was getting a tour of the ballpark. It worked!
Kim contacted family and friends — spreading the word to many people who knew Richie. In all, over 300 of his friends, family members, co-workers, and supporters, came out to BB&T Ballpark on Saturday, March 21 for a pep rally for Richie.
Saturday first started out as a day for season ticket holders to pick up their tickets, take a few swings on the field for a special batting practice session, enjoy complimentary food, and to just enjoy a nice day at the ballpark as the season quickly approaches.
For the Grayum family — especially Richie — the day turned out to be much, much more.
Kim and her crew arrived around 12:30 PM and we set up a spot inside the ballpark to greet all of Richie’s supporters as they arrived. One-by-one, family and friends made their way to the ballpark. They picked up a Richie shirt, put it on, and then went to section 103 and 104 to wait for their hero. After a pep talk from Knights GM Scotty Brown, Richie’s supporters stayed in their seats in anticipation.
Right on cue — around 1:30 PM — the Grayum family arrived at BB&T Ballpark. Richie still had no idea.
We immediately ushered Richie to sections 103 and 104 and what he saw next was certainly a shock! Over 300 of his friends were on hand to support him. This #Rally4Richie was like no other.
Richie made his way down to the field. He addressed the crowd, thanked them, and spoke from the heart. I then walked over and presented him with a replica jersey from his 1990 season. It was a perfect fit!
We then walked him over to home plate where he stepped into the batter’s box. He took some swings at home plate behind hundreds of cheers and did extremely well. There were many ooohs and ahhs after he lined balls into the outfield. He made it look easy.
After he was done, he was embraced by his family. There was still one more surprise though.
Throughout the week, Kim emailed us video messages from some of his former teammates and friends. He watched them as they played on the videoboard. Each one was touching and heartfelt.
Media members from WBTV and NBC Charlotte then interviewed Richie. He talked about the overwhelming support and much more. One thing he said really stuck with me, “Love your family, love your friends and appreciate life as it comes. You’re never promised another day.”
Great words from a great man.
Thanks to all who came out on Saturday in support of Richie. Thank you Molly Grantham, Kim Wisch, and of course Richie, Denise, and the Grayum family. We’re all here for you Richie. We support you every step of the way!
I’ll be talking to Richie on ESPN 730 AM on Sunday morning from 7 AM to 8 AM. Hope you can tune in here: http://espn730.com/
Michael Taylor quietly retired from baseball.
The five-time Minor League Player of the Week, two-time Oakland A’s organizational All-Star (2012 & 2013), two-time Mid-Season All-Star (2008 & 2009), 2009 Topps Double-A All-Star, and 2009 Eastern League Rookie of the Year, hung up his cleats on Monday, March 9, 2015.
I first met Taylor in the summer of 2009. At that point, Taylor was an up-and-coming prospect — one of the game’s brightest stars.
I knew a lot about him by the time he made his way to the Lehigh Valley on July 16, 2009. I worked for the IronPigs in 2008 and 2009 — and he had a terrific 2008 season — combining to hit .346 with 19 home runs and 88 RBIs in 132 games between Lakewood and Clearwater.
When he made his way to East Allentown in 2009, Taylor was tearing up the Eastern League as a member of the Reading Philies — a team I would actually go on to 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. There was a lot of attention on him too.
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 (The “Michael Cycle”). 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.
He spent parts of five seasons in the A’s system — mostly playing for Triple-A Sacramento. He put together some solid numbers with Sacramento — and earned a promotion to Oakland in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He appeared in 11 games for the A’s in 2011 — the most at the Major League level before a trade brought him to the White Sox system in June (2014).
At the time of the 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. He was immediately assigned to Charlotte and joined the Knights at a familiar spot — Coca-Cola Park in the Lehigh Valley. It was a great story — and I couldn’t pass up the chance to take the trip.
Taylor was once again a story in Phillies country as he appeared on the IronPigs TV pre-game show and talked to some of the local media. When I re-introduced myself to Michael on June 16, 2014, it was nearly five years to the day we first met. His attitude, his demeanor, his smile — never changed.
When Taylor was added to the Knights, he brought a new energy to a team that was going through its struggles. He immediately hit — and the Knights began to win games. He had 14 hits over his first 13 games and hit safely in 10 of those 13 games. More importantly, Charlotte won 17 of their next 30 games and had a .500 month of June (15-15) and an 18-11 month of July. The Knights went 10-15 in April and 8-22 in May.
Taylor finished the year by hitting .306 for the Knights in 64 games and the White Sox awarded him with a promotion to the majors in September. He went on to appear in 11 games for the South Siders.
Re-signed by the White Sox this offseason, Taylor received an invite to Spring Training. On Monday, however, he decided it was time to call it a career.
While Taylor will ultimately walk away from the game at just 29 years old, his impact on fans, coaches, teammates, and anyone he ever came across throughout his career, will never be forgotten. Good luck Michael in your future endeavors.