Results tagged ‘ charlotte knights ’

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.

Knights_Tides-7

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.

Knights_Tides-12

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

 

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.

Rowand Rejoins Sox…

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.aaron-roward-white-sox-tv-analyst-fill-in

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. Aaron Rowand

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.”

RIP, Tommy

Photo Credit: Buren Foster

Photo Credit: Buren Foster

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.

Photo Credit: Buren Foster

Photo Credit: Buren Foster

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.

Talking Baseball: Mike Shildt

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.head shot

Mike Shildt is a Charlotte, NC native. He grew up around the game of baseball with the Charlotte O’s. He’s worked in baseball in a number of capacities over the years. Now, he’s coming off a successful first season as a Triple-A manager in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, one of the most prolific organizations in the history of baseball. He’s doing what he loves to do.

I caught up with Mike, manager of the Memphis Redbirds, after talking baseball with him on air during an episode of the Schaefer Baseball Report, which airs on Saturdays at 11 AM on WFNZ. Jeff Schaefer and I talk baseball each week and it’s guests like Mike who make the show great.

Click here to listen to the episode with Mike

Before getting into the professional ranks, Shildt worked at the high school and collegiate levels. He has five years of college baseball coaching experience between stops at the Charlotte 49ers and his alma mater, UNC Asheville. Before making the transition to Minor League Baseball coach and eventually Minor League Baseball manager, Shildt worked three years as an associate scout for the Major League Scouting Bureau.

Since 2004, Shildt has worked in the St. Louis Cardinals organization in a number of positions. He’s worked his way up the organizational ladder and has had tons of success along the way.  Shildt_480x380_vtj51mxw_zj98vn1g

Among some of his accomplishments, he guided the Johnson City Cardinals of the Rookie-level Appalachian League to back-to-back league championships in 2010-11. He later led Double-A Springfield to their first Texas League Championship in 2012. That team was named as the Baseball America Team of the Year.

It’s always great to see someone succeed — especially someone like Mike. I’ve had the privilege and honor to get to know Mike over the last few years, thanks to my job with the Charlotte Knights. His mom Lib worked for the Charlotte O’s and handled public relations among many things for the team over the years. It’s through Lib that Mike and I got to know each other. Much like Mike, I considered Lib a great friend. She keeps up-to-date with all Charlotte Knights news and I always enjoy the notes she sends me after a Knights win — and even after a Knights loss. I always look forward to her emails. It’s nice to know she is there keeping an eye on Charlotte baseball.

Here’s episode two of “Talking Baseball” with guest, Mike Shildt

Winter League Update: October 23, 2015

While Major League Baseball is in the midst of an exciting World Series, Winter League Baseball is underway from Arizona (Arizona Fall League), the Dominican Republic (Liga de Beisbol Domincano), Mexico (Liga Mexicana del Pacifico), Puerto Rico (Liga de Profesional Roberto Clemente), Venezuela (Liga Venezuela Profesional Beisbol), and Australia (Australian Baseball League).

Hundreds of current Major Leaguers, former Major Leaguers, and up-and-coming Major Leaguers are playing baseball all across the world. Each week, I’ll take a look at some former Knights players who are playing in one of the winter leagues.

Liga de Beisbol Dominicano:

Photo credit: Buren Foster

Photo credit: Buren Foster

Charlotte Knights infielder (2013 & 2015) Leury Garcia has appeared in three games with Gigantes del Cibao so far this winter and is hitting .385 (5-for-13) with one run scored, one walk, and a .429 on-base percentage. Garcia hit .298 (104-for-349) with 57 runs scored, 19 doubles, three triples, three home runs, 31 RBIs, and 30 stolen bases. He became just the 10th Knights player in franchise history to steal 30 bases in a season and the first since 2008 (Jason Bourgeois and Jerry Owens).

Slugger Andy Wilkins (2013-14) has appeared in five games with Aguilas Cibaenas and is hitting .267 (4-for-15) with one RBI.

Wilkins had a special season in 2014. A year after hitting seven home runs for the Knights in 2013, the Tulsa, OK native smashed 30 home runs for the team in 2014. Overall, Wilkins hit .293 (144-for-491) with 30 home runs and 85 RBIs in the team’s return to Charlotte.

Wilkins, who was drafted by the White Sox in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, was selected off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays on March 29, 2015 — just days before the season. He appeared in 21 games for Triple-A Buffalo and hit .264 (19-for-72). He was later purchased by the Los Angeles Dodgers from the Blue Jays on May 3 and finished the 2015 campaign with Triple-A Oklahoma City. Wilkins hit .249 with 18 home runs and 70 RBIs. Most recently, Wilkins was claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles on September 6, 2015.

RHP Hector Noesi made his first start of the winter season on October 18 and earned the win after allowing just one run on five hits over 5.2 innings pitched. Noesi walked one and struck-out one batter. The 6’3″ Dominican native compiled a 4-4 record with a 3.32 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) with the Knights in 2015.

RHP Parker Frazier started for Gigantes del Cibao on October 16 and allowed two unearned runs on three hits over four innings in a no-decision. Frazier posted a 0-1 mark with a 5.08 ERA in 15 games with the Charlotte Knights in 2014.

RHP Jairo Asencio is currently tied for the league lead with two saves. Asencio has allowed just two hits over four scoreless innings while pitching for Tigres del Licey. Asencio was 0-0 with nine saves and a 5.03 ERA in 17 games in 2015 with the Charlotte Knights.

Former Knights in the Postseason: Clayton Richard

LHP Clayton Richard has become a key contributor to the Chicago Cubs out of their bullpen during the 2015 Major League Baseball postseason. Richard, who was acquired by the Cubs from the Pirates on July 3, 2015, appeared in two games during Chicago’s NLDS matchup against the Cardinals and didn’t allow a run (0.2 IP).

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 18:  Pitcher Brooks Raley #43 poses during Chicago Cubs photo day on February 18, 2013 at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Currently, Richard and the Cubs are competing against the National League East-winning New York Mets in the NLCS and are down 3-0 in the series. Richard has appeared in all three games out of the ‘pen and has allowed just two hits over two scoreless innings.

Originally a starter, Richard has become a solid left-handed pitcher for the Cubs during the playoffs.

It’s fitting for Richard to perform well in Chicago, since he’s been there before.

The Lafayette, IN native was originally drafted by the the Chicago White Sox in the eighth round of the 2005 draft and made his way through the White Sox system over the next three seasons.

Richard eventually made his way to Fort Mill, SC to pitch for the Charlotte Knights in 2008, before a promotion to the South Side was in his cards later that year.

He excelled during his time with the Knights.

Appearing in seven games with the club in 2008, Richard posted an impressive 6-0 record with a 2.45 ERA over 44.0 innings pitched. During that 2008 campaign, he worked his way up to Charlotte after compiling a 6-6 record with a 2.47 ERA over 83.2 innings pitched with the Double-A Birmingham Barons.

At 24 years old, Richard made his Triple-A debut for the Charlotte Knights on June 12, 2008 in Norfolk and went seven solid innings for the win (7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO). He continued to dominate Triple-A hitters over his short stint with the Knights — winning his first six starts. After those six games, he was 6-0 with a 2.37 ERA. 

Richard’s dominating run led to a promotion to the White Sox and his major league debut on July 23. On that day, the University of Michigan product tossed four innings and allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits in a no-decision.

He returned to the Knights and made one more start with the team on August 8 — allowing two runs over six innings in a no-decision.

The following season, Richard was a key piece in the trade deadline deal that brought RHP Jake Peavy to Chicago from San Diego. In five season with the Padres (2009-2013), Richard went 40-39 with a 4.16 ERA in 108 games (107 starts). He became a free agent after the 2013 season.

After undergoing surgery in February (2014), Richard signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 1 and finished up the campaign with four games pitched over two levels (Double-A & Triple-A).

Richard signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates on December 3, 2014 and pitched for both Bradenton (A+) and Indianapolis (Triple-A) in 2015, before finding a role in Chicago’s bullpen. Now, the 32-year-old left-hander has found a role in Chicago’s ‘pen and has excelled in the process.