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
Our staff stocked shelves, sorted boxes, and more.
November 24 – Homer’s Second Annual Turkey Drive
The 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
The 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
December 8 – Kids First of the Carolinas Bike Drive
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.
A GREAT job especially goes out to Knights Community Relations Director Lindsey Roycraft, who put all of these events together!
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.
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:
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 – (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!
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.
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!
LISTEN to Talking Baseball – Edition #6:
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!
Welcome 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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
Recently, the Chicago White Sox announced that Aaron Rowand would rejoin the organization as a minor league instructor. Rowand, who was the center fielder on Chicago’s 2005 World Series Championship winning team, will work as the organization’s minor league outfield and baserunning instructor. He replaces Doug Sisson.
Rowand was originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 1998 draft out of Cal-State Fullerton (sandwich pick between the 1st & 2nd round). He played 11 seasons in the bigs, including five with the White Sox. Rowand also spent time with the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies.
In 1,358 career major league games, Rowand compiled a career batting average of .273 with 1,193 hits, 136 home runs, and 536 RBIs. He was a National League All-Star in 2007 while playing for the Phillies.
A native of Portland, OR, Rowand was a solid defensive outfielder and earned a Rawlings Gold Glove Award for his efforts in 2007. He led the National League in assists and fielding percentage that season while roaming the outfield in the City of Brotherly Love.
I’ll always remember watching Rowand crashing into the wall at Citizens Bank Park in 2006 against the New York Mets. I was watching that game live. That was one of the finest catches you will ever see!
Rowand is also a former Charlotte Knights center fielder, who hit .295 with 16 home runs and 48 RBIs in 82 games with the club in 2001. He also appeared in 32 games with the Knights in 2003.
Over the course of his career, he won two World Series Championships (2005 with Chicago and 2010 with San Francisco).
Here’s what Rowand had to say about his new position (excerpt from the Chicago White Sox press release):
“This is a great opportunity for me to give back to the organization, which gave me my professional start,” said Rowand. “As everyone knows, I have a deep passion and loyalty to the White Sox, so I’m excited to help the organization anyway I can. I feel like I have a lot to offer the players coming up through the system, and I can’t wait to get started in spring training.”
Throughout the offseason, keep an eye out for my new series titled “Talking Baseball”. I’ll spend a few minutes each week talking to former baseball players about the game of baseball and much more.
On November 7, 2015, the U Deserve A Chance Foundation held their first-ever Home Plate Gala at BB&T Ballpark. Throughout the night, I had a chance to interview some of the many baseball personalities who were on hand for this special event. Overall, the event was a huge success and the first of many for the organization.
My final interview of the night was with 1993 Cy Young Award-winner Jack McDowell, who currently resides in the Charlotte area. McDowell put together a terrific Major League Baseball career as a pitcher for 12 seasons.
A product of Stanford University, McDowell earned co-Freshman of the Year in 1985, 2nd team All-American in 1986, and 3rd team All-American in 1987. That same year (1987), he led Stanford to a College World Series Championship.
Also in 1987, McDowell was taken by the Chicago White Sox in the first round of the 1987 draft (fifth overall). NOTE: The first pick in the draft was Ken Griffey Jr. and Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio was selected 22nd overall.
Back to McDowell, however, who went on to have a successful big league career. He won a total of 127 games, including a career-high 22 in 1993 en route to winning the American League Cy Young Award. That season, “Black Jack” posted a 22-10 mark with a 3.37 ERA in 34 starts. He tossed 10 complete games and led the league in shutouts with four.
The 6’5″ right-hander pitched for eight seasons with the Chicago White Sox and compiled 91 wins over that span. He helped lead Chicago to a solid 94-68 record in 1993 and a postseason berth. The team played for the American League Championship (lost to the Toronto Blue Jays).
Over a three-year span (1991-93), McDowell won 59 games, including back-to-back 20-win seasons (1992-93). He pitched over 250 innings in each of those three seasons and was an American League All-Star in each of those three campaigns.
Later in his career, McDowell spent time with the New York Yankees (1995), Cleveland Indians (1996-97), and Anaheim Angels (1998-99). Injuries over the course of his career began to take a toll and McDowell retired from baseball after the 1999 season. He finished with a career mark of 127-87 with a 3.85 ERA in 277 games (275 starts). He led the American League in complete games three times (1991, 1992, & 1995), games started twice (1991 & 1994), and wins once (1993).
Most recently, McDowell spent time in the Los Angeles Dodgers system as a manager. He guided the organization’s Rookie League affiliates, the Ogden Raptors in 2014, and the Arizona League Dodgers in 2015.
I sat down and spoke to “Black Jack” about the Home Plate Gala, his remarkable career as a pitcher, his chance to manage, and his days as a musician with his band stickfigure.
Here’s episode five of “Talking Baseball” with guest, Jack McDowell.
Throughout the offseason, keep an eye out for my new series titled “Talking Baseball”. I’ll spend a few minutes each week talking to former baseball players about the game of baseball and much more.
Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 14th round of the 1998 draft, John Wayne Ennis (The Duke) spent parts of 13 seasons at the Minor League level — including parts of three seasons in the Majors. The Montrose, CO native even spent a season playing in the Korean Baseball Organization (2008 with Samsung).
Ennis spent parts of six seasons with the organization that drafted him (Atlanta) and made his Major League debut on April 10, 2002 with the Braves at the age of 22 (4.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 SO). He later spent parts of four years in Detroit’s organization (2003-2006).
The talented right-handed pitcher eventually made his way to the Philadelphia Phillies organization and made three appearances for the Phils in 2007.
Ennis is someone who I am familiar with from my time working in Philadelphia’s organization. He pitched in parts of three seasons for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Triple-A affiliate) from 2008-2010. He also spent time with the Reading Phillies (Double-A affiliate) in 2010. I worked for the IronPigs in both 2008 & 2009, and later became the PR Director for the R-Phils in 2010.
Overall, he appeared in 16 Major League games with three different teams over his career — Atlanta, Detroit, and Philadelphia.
Now, the 6’5″ former right-handed pitcher makes his home in the Charlotte area. He’s still around the game, working with Carolinas Baseball Center (CBC) as a coach and instructor.
I caught up with John on Saturday, November 7 at the U Deserve A Chance Foundation’s first-ever Home Plate Gala, which took place at BB&T Ballpark. The event featured notable baseball personalities from in and around the Charlotte area, including all levels of the game. It was all for a great cause.
John and I spoke about the Home Plate Gala, the U Deserve A Chance Foundation, his time in the Philadelphia organization during a successful time for the franchise, his “The Duke” nickname, and more.
Here’s episode four of “Talking Baseball” with guest, John Ennis.
Tragic. Devastating. Heartbreaking.
Those are just some of the thoughts and words I have after hearing about the sudden passing of former Charlotte Knights right-handed pitcher Tommy Hanson.
At just 29 years old, the talented, hard-throwing pitcher had so much more to give the world. And, after seeing the outpouring of thoughts and prayers today, it’s obvious that Tommy touched so many lives throughout the game — and throughout his short time on earth.
As a Public Relations Director, I keep my relationship with players professional. I work with them during the season to set up interviews with the media and I try to help them out with anything they may need. While I wish I could somehow stay in touch with every player I have come into contact with over my nine years working in professional baseball, it’s unfortunate that it doesn’t work that way. Players come and go each year, and we lose touch.
Tommy’s time with the Knights was short. He appeared in 10 games in 2014 with the club after signing a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox on April 7, 2014. He was officially assigned to the Knights on April 19 and made his Knights debut on April 20.
I remember the day he made his debut for the Knights. The team was in Gwinnett County, GA playing the G-Braves. Hanson, a standout with the Braves, who still lived in the Atlanta area, was ready to face his former ‘mates. I wanted to drive down to Coolray Field that day to be there and see what that would be like. Hanson was very well-liked in the Braves organization. Very respected for his accomplishments.
The Oklahoma native won 45 games for Atlanta over four seasons (2009-12). He finished third in the National League Cy Young Award voting in 2009 after posting an 11-4 record with a 2.89 ERA in 21 starts as a rookie. In fact, he won at least 10 games in each of his four seasons, including 13 in 2012.
Over his last three seasons, however, he appeared in just 15 games at the major league level. He went 4-3 with a 5.42 ERA for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2013.
After that, it was on to the Knights in 2014 and the San Francisco Giants minor league system last year (San Jose & Sacramento). Still, Tommy was pitching and making an impact on those who he came in contact with.
Once rated as the number four prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America (2009), Hanson will always be remembered around the game by so many.
On behalf of the Charlotte Knights organization, my thoughts and prayers go out to Tommy’s family and friends at this time. RIP, Tommy. Thanks for your contributions to Charlotte Knights baseball.