Results tagged ‘ Charlotte O’s ’

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

Talking Baseball: Jeff Schaefer

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.

As part of my job as the PR/Media Relations Director with the Charlotte Knights, I get the opportunity to work with some great people. That’s why I love what I do.

Jeff Schaefer with the Charlotte O's. (No mullet... yet!)

Jeff Schaefer with the Charlotte O’s. (No mullet… yet!)

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet former Charlotte O’s/Charlotte Knights infielder Jeff Schaefer. He’s a baseball guy, I’m a baseball guy, and we talked baseball. We talked about the state of the game. We talked about what the game used to be and where it was going. We even talked about Strat-O-Matic!

Jeff loves to talk baseball. He is baseball.

Since February, 2015, Jeff has been talking baseball weekly on Saturday mornings at 11 AM on 610 AM WFNZ. He talks about the game of baseball from the Little League level to the Major League level. And why not? He worked as hard as anyone to make that transition across every level of the game. He spent parts of five seasons in the majors. Each week, I get to talk baseball with him on air and it’s a blast.

And now, among other things, he’s giving back to the Charlotte community.

“Schaef” was at BB&T Ballpark on Friday, October 16 to talk baseball. He was also on hand to look at the Diamonds Direct Luxury Lounge, which will host the first-ever “Home Plate Gala” in support of the “U Deserve A Chance Foundation” on November 7th.

Seattle Mariners days (with that famous mullet)

Seattle Mariners days (with that famous mullet)

The UDACF was first developed with the idea of leveling the playing field for underprivileged players. For many, the cost to participate at the level necessary to achieve collegiate exposure was simply beyond reach. UDACF bridges that gap and provides the disadvantaged with the necessary support to advance their dreams. With your support the UDACF looks to continue this service and take it even farther with even more players of all ages being reached.

I caught up with Jeff to talk about the game of baseball, the “U Deserve A Chance Foundation” and their big “Home Plate Gala” on November 7th.

The event will be a celebration of the game of baseball. There will be many prominent figures from around the Carolinas on hand to talk baseball. Wake Forest Head Baseball Coach Tom Walter will receive the 2015 UDACF Spirit of the Game Award. Director of USA Baseball, Rick Riccobono will deliver the keynote speech.

Talking Baseball – Episode #1: Jeff Schaefer

For more information about sponsorship opportunities and tickets, check out their website at To listen to the Schaefer Baseball Report on WFNZ online every Saturday at 11 AM, follow this link:

Interview with John Flinn

Movies such as Rocky, Taxi Driver, and King Kong were released this year. Disco was on top of the charts. And, baseball returned to Charlotte after three years away. Flinn

The year was 1976 and a new era of professional baseball was ushered into Charlotte as the Charlotte O’s, led by the Crockett Family, brought baseball back to the Queen City where it was four years prior and for over 80 years.

That first O’s team in 1976 was special. They were led by manager Jimmie Schaffer, a former major leaguer who spent parts of eight seasons in the bigs. They featured future Hall-of-Famer Eddie Murray, who went on to greatness. And, they had John Flinn.

Flinn was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2nd round of the 1973 amateur draft (January Secondary) — just three years prior to Charlotte’s first season. A native of Merced, CA, Flinn went to Monroe High School in Sepulveda, CA, and later attended Los Angeles Valley College in Los Angeles, CA.

At the age of 21, he made his way to Double-A and debuted with the Charlotte O’s. He tossed the first pitch in Charlotte O’s history and he posted a 9-8 record with a 2.86 ERA in 24 games for the team (21 starts) in 1976. It was his first season in Charlotte as he made his way through the organization en route to Baltimore.
Two years later, he made his major league debut with the Baltimore Orioles on May 6, 1978. Over the course of his four-year major league career, Flinn appeared in 42 big league games (22 with Baltimore) and posted a 5-2 record with two saves and a 4.17 ERA (69.0 IP). He appeared in 20 games with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Later in his career, Flinn made his way back to Charlotte and appeared in 13 games with the O’s in 1985. He later went on to coach.

Still making his home here in the Charlotte area, I had a chance to sit down with John on September 2, 2015. It was his 61st birthday and he had the chance to throw out a ceremonial first before the Charlotte Knights game. It was a perfect strike.

We chatted about that first pitch, the 1976 season, teammates, and more.

All-Star Week in Durham — Day #3

Today is the day! The Triple-A All-Star Game is here!All-Star-Game-Final-2014

I’m all set up in the press box of Durham Bulls Athletic Park getting ready for tonight’s
game. From a Charlotte standpoint, three-time IL All-Star Josh Phegley is all set to play in his second Triple-A All-Star Game. It’s a great honor for him and he’s back after a promotion to Chicago last year had him out of the game. Three full seasons in the Triple-A with the Knights and three All-Star selections! He continues to be the top catcher throughout the International League and his 2014 season has been an exceptional one both at the plate and behind the plate.

From another Charlotte standpoint, there is a great reunion of sorts taking place at this year’s game. Fresno Grizzlies manager Bob Mariano is leading the PCL All-Stars against the IL All-Stars, who have the Columbus Clippers pitching coach Tony Arnold on staff as pitching coach. So, how does that relate to Charlotte baseball you say?

Bob Mariano, a former O's infielder, is managing the PCL All-Stars at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Durham.

Bob Mariano, a former O’s infielder, is managing the PCL All-Stars at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Durham.

Both Mariano and Arnold played for the Charlotte O’s in the 1980’s and both were roommates during their time in Charlotte.

Props to Bob Sutton of Times News on his great story today:
Former Burlington pitching coach uses Triple-A All-Star Game as reunion

Arnold was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 10th round of the 1981 draft. Just a year later, Arnold made his way to Charlotte and pitched for the O’s in 15 games during the 1982 season. Overall that year, he compiled a 5-6 mark with a 5.22 ERA. The following season, Arnold and Mariano were teammates on the O’s. They remained teammates for three seasons — 1983-’85.

In 1983, Arnold posted a 7-5 record with a 3.29 ERA in 44 games (two starts) for the O’s with a career-high 12 saves that season. Mariano appeared in 65 games for the O’s and hit .265 with three home runs and 28 RBIs.

In 1984, the O’s won their second Southern League Championship and both Arnold and Mariano played for the team that season. Arnold compiled a 7-5 record with a 3.14 ERA in 16 games (12 starts). He threw four complete games and had three shutouts that year.

As for Mariano, he played in a season-high 117 games for the O’s — playing both shortstop and third base. His 321 at-bats were the most he ever had in a season.

The two were back on the diamond in Charlotte in 1985 and while Mariano played just four games with the O’s that season, Arnold put together a solid season with the Bulls. He posted an 11-7 record with a 3.87 ERA with one save in 31 games (18 starts). He also had six complete games that season and two shutouts.

Toy Arnold, former Charlotte O's hurler, is the pitching coach for the IL All-Star Team.

Toy Arnold, former Charlotte O’s hurler, is the pitching coach for the IL All-Star Team.

Overall, Arnold played in Charlotte from 1982-’85 and is second all-time in Charlotte O’s franchise history in wins (30), third in games pitched (106), fourth in innings pitched (438.1), tied for sixth in saves (13), and ninth in strikeouts.

Now, the two get to spend a little time with each other before competing in the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game. Reunited in Durham, who knew? Now that’s a great story!

Arnold was in Charlotte earlier this year when his Clippers came to town to face the Knights. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him then, but hoping to talk to him and Bob at some point  today before the big game. Batting practice starts at 4:00 PM, so I am headed down to the field.

Stay tuned for some more news and notes from Durham later today and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Tommy_the_V for all of the latest!


Become a Part of BB&T Ballpark…

On Monday, January 13, the Charlotte Knights took another step forward in the construction of BB&T Ballpark. After introducing our commemorative brick program in May, construction crews installed nearly 500 bricks on Monday. Those bricks were purchased by fans over the past few months — all with a special story of their own.


The day turned out to be a big success as media members from all across the Charlotte area were on hand for the big event. There were many stories that came out of Monday’s event.

The Knights invited a few people out that had a special story to share about their brick.

Tim Powitz spent two seasons as an intern in the Knights merchandise department. A big baseball fan, Tim was ready to propose to his girlfriend and used that opportunity to buy a brick to propose. His story is a special one and he was happy to share that with everyone on Monday.

Tim proposed to his girlfriend with a replica brick and she said yes! The two were married in late December and he had a chance to see his brick on Monday.

Knights TV talks to Tim Powitz

Mike Shildt, who is the current manager of the Springfield Cardinals (Double-A St. Louis Cardinals), was on hand for the event. Mike had a brick donated to him and he had a chance to see it go into the ground.

mike shildt

Shildt grew up in the Charlotte area. Shildt’s mom Lib worked in the front office of the Charlotte O’s and he also worked for the Charlotte O’s as a kid.

I had the opportunity to talk to Mike about his days with the O’s, his brick, and his expectations of the 2014 season as he gets set to manage the Springfield Cardinals.

Knights TV talks to Mike Shildt

Brett Honeycutt, a Charlotte native, was also invited out to see his brick go into the ground. Brett dedicated his brick to his dad, who always took him to games at Crockett Park. It was nice to talk to Brett and hear some of his stories of attending games at Crockett Park. It certainly brings up many memories of Charlotte Baseball history.

Knights TV talks to Brett Honeycutt

Betsy Gload is the wife of former Knights standout and Major League star Ross Gload. Betsy also saw her brick on Monday. She dedicated a brick to her husband Ross.

Monday’s installation was the first of two installations before Opening Day. We are still selling bricks and fans can become a part of BB&T Ballpark just in time for Opening Day too. Any fan who orders a brick by February 9, will have that brick installed for Opening Day.

For more information about BB&T Ballpark Legacy Bricks, log on to

Charlotte Baseball Family Mourns the loss of Drungo Hazewood…

Just last night I wrote a story about former Knights hurler Frank Castillo, who passed away at the age of 44.

You can read that story here: Drungo Hazewood

Castillo Passes Away.

I was very saddened to learn of Frank’s drowning.

Today, the sadness for the Charlotte baseball family continues as the news of the passing of former Charlotte O’s slugger Drungo Hazewood has been confirmed. Much like Frank, I never had a chance to meet Drungo — but I heard a lot about him. Less than a year ago, I found out that he was battling cancer — and I wanted to do something to help. So, I did one of the things I love to do… I wrote a blog.

Here is that blog from August 22, 2012:

Drungo Hazewood Needs Your Help

As I said in my recent blog about Frank Castillo, I have spent a lot of the year looking back to the history of the Charlotte Knights from 1990-present day. I have taken a big look at the history of Knights Stadium — the 24 years of memories. During the offseason, with help from Matt Spezialetti and Tim Doohan, we revamped the media guide and broke down the Knights and O’s records. Hazewood’s name is very prominent on that list.

He is the all-time Charlotte O’s leader in games played (505), at-bats (1,688), runs scored (278), walks (307), and strikeouts (554). The other categories, well, Hazewood is close to the top. He’s second all-time in hits (just two away from Jesus Alfaro’s 422), third in triples (just four away from John Denman’s 18), second in home runs (just three away from Tom Dodd’s 82), second in RBIs (thiry-one away from Tom Dodd’s 279), and second in stolen bases (28 away from John Denman’s 111).

As the Knights make the move back to Charlotte in 2014, one can’t help but think of Drungo who  patrolled the Charlotte outfield from 1979-82.

For more on Drungo Hazewood, please take a look at the Sacramento Bee — his hometown newspaper:

Hometown Report: Local Legend Hazewood Dies at 53

My thoughts and prayers go out to Drungo’s family and friends. At just 53 years old, Drungo was taken away too soon. Thanks for the great Charlotte baseball memories.