Charlotte Knights

Chicago White Sox @ Charlotte Knights

2015 Spring Exhibition Game at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina. Chicago White Sox visit Charlotte Knights, of the International League. After the 2021 minor league re-alignment, Charlotte Knights are now in the Triple-A East League. This addition to the schedule was part of an affiliation agreement with the Charlotte Knights, their Triple-A representative. For a Chicago White Sox prospect, Charlotte is usually the final step before a call to the show. It was a genuine opportunity for Charlotte Knights players to collectively show the major league team how much of a mistake they were making to cut them from the roster. Of the current 2021 Chicago White Sox active roster, players listed below have gone through player development with the Charlotte Knights.

  • Dylan Cease – Pitcher
  • Carlos Rodón – Pitcher
  • Aaron Bummer – Pitcher
  • Matt Foster – Pitcher
  • Michael Kopech – Pitcher
  • Zack Collins – Catcher
  • Yermin Mercedes – Catcher
  • Nick Madrigal – Infielder
  • Danny Mendick – Infielder
  • Yoan Moncada – Infielder
  • Leury García – Outfielder
  • Luis Robert – Outfielder

Pitcher Garrett Crochet was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 2020 and is the first from his draftee class to reach the Major Leagues. He did not play with Charlotte Knights. In hind sight, this glorified scrimmage game was a red flag to Manager Robin Ventura and the Chicago White Sox of a struggling season to come. They finished with a less than .500 record of 76-86 in the 2015 regular season. After this game, Chicago White Sox would start on the road, as usual, to Kansas City where they played the defending the American League Champion Kansas City Royals for a 3-game series. Then, they went home to Chicago for their home opener, hosting the Minnesota Twins. A charter bus was waiting outside BB&T Ballpark to start that journey. For the Kansas City Royals, that team still smelled blood from their loss to the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 World Series. Kansas City Royals went on to a repeat appearance in the 2015 World Series and won it all this time vs the New York Mets.

BB&T Ballpark opened in March of 2014. Seating Capacity of 10,200 makes it larger than the average Minor League Park, one of the recent renovations in the Uptown Charlotte area. Across the Street is Romare Bearden Park, a 5.4-acre public park that opened in late August 2013. From here, there are numerous viewpoints to the game. You can get a good enough idea of what’s happening in BB&T Ballpark just from sitting there. People come here with no intention of going in the park; bringing a picnic blanket to do just that. After a merger in 2019, BB&T Ballpark was renamed Truist Field. Without a doubt, this ballpark, in the middle of a thriving community, is the closest venue to MLB standards in the minor leagues. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that a professional baseball team in Charlotte is viable.

Charlotte, North Carolina tends to be in the conversation when talking about MLB future expansion cities. Two additional teams would bring the total of 32 MLB teams, an advantage in scheduling that offers the option of regional play to ease travel as they did in 2020. At approximately 900,000, Charlotte is the most populous city in North Carolina. Charlotte Knights home field is not the only venue in the Uptown area. Bank of America Stadium is home to Carolina Panthers (NFL) and Spectrum Center is home to the Charlotte Hornets (NBA). The NASCAR Hall of Fame is also nearby.

Enos Sarris of “The Athletic” reported on January 25 of this year that Commissioner Rob Manfred discussed possible finalists for MLB expansion. Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, and Nashville in the United States, certainly Montreal, maybe Vancouver, in Canada,’ said Rob Manfred. He also told hosts at an FS1 show, “we think there’s places in Mexico we could go over the long haul.” MLB expansion is long overdue. The last time it happened was 1998. It’s only inevitable, only time will tell the story. Still, those Friday night lights in Uptown Charlotte will call you back for more.

Next Year is Here

Detroit Tigers @ Chicago White Sox

2012 Regular Season. Chicago White Sox host Detroit Tigers at US Cellular Field on the South Side of Chicago, their first home game of the new year. It’s a great time of year. Those up north can take a break from the long winter and breath in renewed hope for the new season. On Opening Day, everyone is in first place. Its theirs to lose. For the rest of us hopeless fans, It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Next year is here.

Recently minted 25-man rosters hit the floor running and can go from weathering the climatic shock of the beaming grapefruit or cactus hot sun to working the layers of thermals, stretching, and warming up in more ways than one. The weather during game time held near 65 degrees.

It’s Opening Day on Friday the 13th which is ironic in the baseball world of superstition. On this day, an estimated 38,676 paid. When prices at the ticket window are $75.00 for standing room only, you get in the Chicago way, or the second market. Lots of people not at work here, controlled chaos. The crowd was elbow to elbow, like a scene at your friendly neighborhood nightclub. although the drunk and obnoxious may outnumber the bouncers if something breaks out. It’s “Sweet Home Chicago” no less.

For the most part, Chicago White Sox start the season on the road before settling into the south side. The first game ever played here at US Cellular Field was also against the Detroit Tigers in the 1991 inaugural year, when it was Comiskey Park II. You won’t see that game in any Chicago White Sox highlight reels. Detroit Tigers massed 19 hits and scored 16 unanswered runs. On a good note, Chicago White Sox had some winning moments, later in the nineties, to drown that day out.

2012 was the first year without Ozzie Guillen as Chicago White Sox Manager. He and former White Sox teammate Robin Ventura have a side game of career jeopardy throughout the season. Ozzie Guillen jumped ship, as skipper, to accept the manager position with the newly rebranded Miami Marlins. White sox granted him a release from the one year remaining in his contract, within a couple of days, the news came out, leaked by Ozzie Guillen, that he would be heading for South Beach, departing before the start of the final 3-game homestand in the 2011 season with the Toronto Blue Jays Apparently it was part of a marketing campaign to stage Ozzie’s arrival in south Florida and to usher in a new era. Pitching Coach Don Cooper managed the last three games for the Chicago White Sox.

Former White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura was enjoying retirement life with his family in his oceanfront property in California when Owner Jerry Reinsdorf and President Kenny Williams came knocking on his door, during the off-season, to pre-emptively offer him the job as Chicago White Sox Manager. Meanwhile, the party at South Beach would take a hard turn when Ozzie Guillen made comments favorable to Fidel Castro during 2012 spring camp that infuriated the Cuban-American community in South Florida. In Chicago, he would probably get a little shade at most. In Miami, its equal to hugging the third rail. That was the beginning of the end for the Miami Marlins. A sequence of controversial moves from the front office led to a mid-season free agency yard sale and Ozzie Guillen’s dismissal of his duties when the season ended. Robin Ventura was busy with the growing pains of his new position while steering his team to a record of 85-77. After constant pushback for his laid-back demeanor and the upcoming losing seasons, he eventually saw the writing on the wall and ended his tenure in 2016.     

So, what is the name of that park on the south side? Like other naming rights arrangements, it’s a series of shameless bids focused on the highest bidder as opposed to the ring tone of a pronoun mounted over the main entrance. From 2003 to 2016, the name was US Cellular Field. Now, it’s come down to the current “Guaranteed Rate Field.” Maybe it was a good payout but the red arrow on the logo that points down is not good optics, the most out-of-touch signage. But, the good people at Miami Marlins organization said “hold my beer,” securing naming rights this year with loanDepot. They have dropped big money to enter the world of baseball. They will also be sponsoring award presentations and are the official mortgage company of Major League Baseball.   

Opening day this year is on April 8th to start a 3-game home stand against the Kansas City Royals. They started on the road again for a 4-game set with Anaheim Angels. Chicago White Sox come into the 2021 season as an off-season winner. They were busy on the hot stove making additions to put them in the post season conversation. And, there’s another familiar face at the manager position in Tony LaRussa to keep things controversial as usual. Sometimes, bad guys wear black.

Crosstown Journal

2016 Regular Season and both the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs are home. It’s a rare occasion, during the regular season schedule, that Major League Baseball is played both on the north side and the south side on the same day. It may happen once or twice a season. Growing up in Chicago, I took it for granted and never tried to go to the ballparks. I had to be a tourist to think of it.

This time, its a Thursday in September and the Chicago White Sox play at 1:10PM in the last of a 4-game series with Cleveland Indians here at U.S. Cellular Field. White Sox would leave town after the game for a 3-game set in Kansas City. At 8:05PM, the Chicago Cubs were just starting their homestand, as they played the Milwaukee Brewers, the first of a 4-game series.

A huge contrast between the two contests for many reasons; the biggest one being that the energy was mostly on the north side, as the city was anticipating the Cubs to clinch a spot in the post season and fans were putting all their marbles on a World Series win. Over on the south side, White Sox were basically playing for pride, as 15 games remained in the regular season. The math would not add to anything more for the 2016 White Sox.

Game 1 at US Cellular Field: A day game with a free Jose Abreu t-shirt promotion for the first 10,000. In his third season, Jose Abreu was just grabbing a seat to the rebuild that took place on the south side. He went 2 for 3 in this one with an RBI and a run scored. That was the other glaring contrast; alow turn-out. It’s a problem the White Sox have had for some time, placing between 25-30 in attendance the last few years. Many reasons why that is. It’s also part of a bigger problem the MLB has. Still, it’s a source for grief from Cub fans who remind everyone that White Sox are second in the second city. Needless to say, I arrived in the third inning from out of town and was still able to get a t-shirt, glad that it worked in my favor.

Speaking of rivalries, the feud between White Sox teammates Adam Eaton and Todd Frazier was brewing. It would tip over in an on-field incident one day last year at Citi Field, when they were playing for Washington Nationals and New York Mets respectively. Chicago native Jason Kipnis was patrolling second base for the Cleveland Indians. He was traded this year to Chicago Cubs and is now playing for his boyhood team.  Chicago White Sox beat Cleveland Indians 2-1 in a walk off win. Cleveland Indians would eventually clinch the AL Central title on September 27.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train system makes it really easy to get from one game to the other. Of the color code system identifying the routes, you only need to remember the red line. It takes you door to door without having to switch trains. Of course, you will need to change trains when traveling from one of the airports (blue line for O’Hare, orange line for Midway). Considering the time of day, it’s the best way to get from 35th Street to Addison Avenue.

Game 2 at Wrigley Field: Arriving with enough time to take in the scene. Wrigleyville is landlocked and you will not find huge parking lots or multi-level garages; plan accordingly. If it’s your first-time visiting Wrigley, you can get a free personalized certificate to make it official (concession is usually located behind home plate). Within a short period the seats, the standing room, the roof tops, and the streets were shoulder to shoulder, waiting for some one to yell play ball. A Cub win or a St. Louis Cardinals loss in San Francisco would turn this place into an all-night party. Milwaukee Brewers beat Chicago Cubs 5-4 but San Francisco Giants won at 12:49AM eastern standard time.

Ironic that two storied franchises were in Chicago unbeknownst of their opponent across town. The Chicago Cubs faced the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series and won. Besides the historical significance for the two teams, it was a hard-fought contest that made 2016 iconic. The only thing that would top that in Chicago would be a Crosstown World Series. The last time it happened was 1906, during the dead-ball era. They called it the “Chicago Panic” and it was the biggest event in Chicago since the 1893 World’s Fair. It’s September and both teams are going into the post season in 2020. If it happens, we can call it the “Chicago-Pandemic.”