Once the 2014 season rolls around, BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem will not be the only such stadium in North Carolina. A new BB&T Ballpark is nearing completion in Charlotte, and it will officially open on April 11 of next year.
The similarities between the two BB&T Ballparks do not end with the name. Both the Dash and the Knights regarded these stadiums as the centerpiece of a move to downtown. Winston-Salem and Charlotte are both associated with the White Sox minor league system, too.
Scott Brown, the Knights’ General Manager of Baseball Operations, took some time to chat about the ballpark and much more. His thoughts are below.
Brian Boesch: How is BB&T Ballpark progressing?
Scott Brown: Great. It’s about 80 percent done and still on target to be significantly completed by the end of the calendar year. It might bleed into January a little bit, but we should be in our offices by February 1.
Brian: Sometimes, minor league stadiums are not ready when its debut season begins. How important was a completed stadium to you and the Knights for your Opening Day?
Scott: It’s a mammoth leap heading from Fort Mill, S.C., 15 miles north to Uptown, and we certainly didn’t want to handicap ourselves. We had the luxury of time so that the building could start while we were still occupying Knights Stadium.
It was the goal to get it done early, and I think it’s going to bode well for us and for our fans, and that’s also helped us on the marketing and sales side. People can see this structure coming out of the ground and see the grass in now and realize that this project that had been talked about for a decade-plus is coming to fruition.
Brian: The Dash’s move downtown was instrumental to the organization, and you saw how that happened when you worked in the Carolina League with Myrtle Beach. Have you been able to gauge how positively this move will affect the Knights?
Scott: It gets us to the center of the Charlotte metropolis region, so it puts us back in the middle so we can attract people from all over. Uptown Charlotte is a vibrant, growing area. A lot of people are choosing to live in the uptown area within walking distance of the ballpark. Those two things are really going to help our cause.
People are used to coming to Uptown for Panthers games, for Bobcats and soon-to-be Hornets games, for Checkers games. This completes the year-round sports cycle and makes Uptown an even bigger destination point for everybody in the region.
Brian: How much have you learned from watching other organizations build a new ballpark?
Scott: I think sometimes in this business we are “glass half full” most of the time, but I think when it comes to ballpark construction, the conversations with the people who have built ballparks recently are more about, “What went wrong?” and “What mistakes can we avoid?” So, I think we all become better as things evolve. You know there’s going to be something you missed, something that isn’t exactly the way you want it, but I think with each opening of each ballpark, they become better and better. We’ve benefitted from the knowledge and experience of others.
Brian: What are some of the neat features for fans to look for in 2014 and beyond?
Scott: It’s kind of similar to the Winston-Salem BB&T Ballpark with the skyline view. I really enjoyed that city feel to that ballpark, but also the view. In Charlotte, we’re even closer to the skyscrapers in Uptown, so it’s a tremendous view. Even when the lights are off, it’s almost like a starry sky you’re looking out to, so I think that’s one of the real benefits.
Just like BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem, we’ll have the walk-around concourse, which is more of the fad with designs now where you can stroll around the ballpark and get every vantage point. I’m really excited about our video package. We’ll have the widest screen in Minor League Baseball, along with a ribbon board.
We will also have some great club areas. We will have an upper club and a lower club, and one of the more unique features are the two dugout suites. Those are all real cool things. All of the ingredients are coming together to make a great buzz, and people are really excited about the opening.
Scott: It has been overwhelmingly positive. We wanted to keep the Knights because Charlotte is called the Queen City, and the Knights tie into the whole royalty, medieval times type of feel that we’re trying to get. We felt like it was a perfect time to freshen up our brand.
We liked our old logo, but we wanted, as we moved Uptown and started to get exposed to even more of our fans, to get it so that when you walk down the streets and saw one of our hats, you said immediately, “That’s the Charlotte Knights.” That will take some time to get to that point, but we’re real pleased we changed our color scheme.
There’s not another affiliated Minor League Baseball team that has that color scheme. We love to copy off each other and steal ideas, and, not by design, but by end result, we ended up with a unique look and something that we are really proud of.
Brian: The White Sox have to be giddy that their top three affiliates (Charlotte, Birmingham and Winston-Salem) have brand new ballparks, don’t they?
Scott: There’s no doubt. They’re so excited. Knights Stadium treated us well for 24 years. It was an adequate baseball facility, but as designs and construction have evolved, it really kind of fell behind the times. The White Sox had stuck with us and worked with us in an older ballpark, which we didn’t have a lot of the amenities that you’re looking for in professional baseball. Their patience has paid off. They’re going to be a part of this, and we expect a full contingent of White Sox folks to be on hand for Opening Night.
Brian: You probably can’t tell me what these things are, but do you have any other big announcements on the horizon?
Scott: Nothing earth-shattering, at least for the next week or two. Then, maybe after that, we might have another big announcement. We’re constantly working on it, wearing our media guys out. You know those media guys. We don’t feel like they work hard enough in the offseason, so we want to keep them occupied.
That final sarcastic jab aside, I always enjoy catching up with Scott, who is one of the hardest workers in baseball. I can assure you that the final product will be great come April 11 in Charlotte.
Good luck to our White Sox brethren in Charlotte as another BB&T Ballpark is only a few months away from completion.
Two Dash alumni have joined the White Sox 40-man roster. Infielder Carlos Sanchez and Trayce Thompson, key contributors during the Dash’s magical 2012 season, have joined the top group in Chicago’s organization.
For those who are unclear why this is so important, only the 40 players in this group can appear in the big leagues. Inclusion on a 40-man roster also promises a higher salary.
Sanchez spent his 2013 campaign with Triple-A Charlotte after a breakout 2012 throughout three levels of the system. The Venezuela native hit .241 with 28 RBIs, 50 runs scored and 16 stolen bases with the Knights. A year ago, Sanchez helped the Dash win a first-half division crown while finishing with the best qualifying batting average in the Carolina League.
Thompson was an everyday outfielder on Double-A Birmingham’s championship team this year. The former second-round pick posted a .229 average to go along with 15 homers and 73 RBIs with the Barons. He shared the CL’s home run lead (24) while spending much of the 2012 season in Winston-Salem.
Both prospects have participated in the Venezuelan Winter League with Tiburones de La Guaira this offseason, and Sanchez has been one of the club’s best hitters.
Congratulations to both Carlos and Trayce on the accomplishment! Both will be on the White Sox radar in the coming years, and this is an important step in that process.
The Arizona Fall League came to an end over the weekend, and many Dash alumni performed well during the six-week prospect showcase. Eight White Sox prospects helped the Glendale Desert Dogs to a 13-16-2 record, and seven of them have called Winston-Salem home at some point during their minor league career.
Here are those seven players’ stats from the AFL:
RHP Chris Bassitt:
1-0, 0.90 ERA, 10.0 IP, 1 R/ER, 9 K in 10 appearances
INF Micah Johnson:
.320, 6 RBI, 6 R, 3 SB in 6 games (injured in middle of season)
LHP Charlie Leesman:
0-1, 1.74 ERA, 10.1 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 6 K in 7 appearances (1 start)
RHP Stephen McCray:
2-2, 2.57 ERA, 21.0 IP, 10 R, 6 ER, 9 K in 6 starts
OF Jared Mitchell:
.304, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 12 R, 6 SB, 1.005 OPS in 20 games
INF Marcus Semien:
.156, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 9 R in 21 games
RHP Kevin Vance:
0-0, 2.13 ERA, 12.2 IP, 3R/ER, 13 K in 10 appearances
A few of these players weighed in on Twitter after wrapping up the 2013 season about two months after most minor leaguers.
2013 in the books. Thank you to everyone for the constant love and support. 2014 is gonna be a fun one
— Chris Bassitt (@C_Bass419) November 13, 2013
Arizona fall league was fun and now have a lot of great friends because of it, but it’s time to enjoy the offseason
— Stephen McCray (@McCrazy44) November 14, 2013
Spring coming around soon….time to go home and re-up. Coming back a better me in 2014.
— Jared Mitchell (@jaredCmitchell) November 15, 2013
It was quite a showing for the White Sox in the AFL. Now, the countdown to the 2014 season has begun for everyone in baseball. We will keep you posted on all of it as winter approaches. Stay tuned.
From 100 yards to 100 miles to 100 percent, we have plenty to discuss on the blog.
- Winston-Salem State football will play for its third consecutive CIAA championship this weekend, and the 100 yards at Bowman Gray Stadium will have a different look for the game. Led by groundskeeper Doug Tanis, the Dash will give the grass, which is dormant (and, thus, brown), a green paint job in advance of the contest. The Dash did the same thing prior to the Rams’ national semifinal a year ago.
- White Sox television play-by-play broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson is a finalist for the Ford Frick Award, which is the highest honor for a baseball broadcaster. Ed Sherman of the Chicago Tribune wrote a great feature about Harrelson, who admits that he may have to wait his turn before becoming a legitimate contender.
- The most fascinating part of this article? Hawk lives in South Bend, Ind., during the baseball season. Thus, he commutes approximately 100 miles to and from U.S. Cellular Field every day. Crazy stuff.
- This year’s installment of the Arizona Fall League is two days away from being 100 percent over. The Glendale Desert Dogs features a handful of Dash alumni, but they will not be heading to the AFL title game on Saturday. We will have a full update on these alumni once the season concludes.
- By the way, one ticket to that championship game is gone. The Surprise Saguaros, with prospects from the Brewers, Indians, Orioles, Rangers and Red Sox, will play either Mesa or Salt River in three days, and the game will air on MLB Network.
It’s 15 days until the best holiday of the year (outside of Opening Day, of course!). Enjoy the rest of your day!
The Dash’s 2014 schedule was made public Tuesday, and the 140-game journey will be an exciting one. However, all schedules feature some games that soar above the rest. Here are the top five games of the upcoming slate, which begins in 154 days.
1. Opening Day – April 3 vs. Wilmington
For the first time in BB&T Ballpark history, the Dash will begin their season at home. Winston-Salem meets the Wilmington Blue Rocks in the first of a four-game set on Thursday, April 3. This franchise has not begun a season with a home game since the Warthogs kicked off the 2007 campaign with a seven-game homestand.
Opening Day is always special in the Triad, but it will be even more unique to see the season begin here at BB&T Ballpark. Over the last two seasons, the Dash suffered consecutive nine-run defeats at Carolina to begin the season. This year, the club will enjoy a fresh start in the friendly confides of BB&T Ballpark.
2. Fourth of July game – July 4 vs. Wilmington
The Blue Rocks will be back in town for the other landmark game of the Dash’s schedule. The Fourth of July always attracts one of the best crowds of the season, and this year’s game promises to be huge because it lands on a Friday night.
In 2013, the Dash set a BB&T Ballpark record with a crowd of 7,576 on July 4. Can Winston-Salem top this impressive number next summer? If one game can draw that type of crowd, it is this one. You will not want to miss it.
3. The champs come to town – April 18 vs. Salem
The Salem Red Sox climbed to the top of the Carolina League in 2013 with a strong second-half surge. Winston will have quite a say in how Salem’s repeat bid begins. The Dash and Sox will meet 11 times in the first 27 days of the campaign.
Salem’s first trip to Winston comes in the form of a four-game wraparound weekend set from April 18-21. This series also includes Easter Sunday, so it should be a jam-packed four days as the Dash attempt to reclaim their hold on the Southern Division’s top spot.
4. Southern Division rivalry week begins – July 7 vs. Myrtle Beach
Since Winston-Salem’s nickname change prior to the 2009 season, the two best teams in the Southern Division have been the Dash and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Myrtle is the only CL club that has qualified for the postseason in three straight seasons.
From July 7-18, the Dash will host the Pelicans seven times, while the full month of July features 10 battles between two squads that always seem to be contenders. The second half race will start to take shape when the Birds and Dash get comfortable with each other in the Triad in July.
5. First-half finale – June 15 at Potomac
Over the last five seasons, Winston-Salem has claimed three first-half division crowns, while last year’s Dash bunch had a chance at the title until the second-to-last day of the half.
If Winston wants to clinch a playoff spot in June, the squad may need to go through Potomac, who was the best team on the circuit in the regular season a year ago. Meaningful baseball is the best kind of baseball, and we are hoping for some in Woodbridge next June.
For a printable version of the Dash’s 2014 schedule, click here. Hope you have a happy Halloween tonight! Enjoy the candy.
The World Series may come to an end tonight, but there is still plenty of news in the baseball world. Here are some of the top stories.
BASSITT, SEMIEN NAMED AFL ALL-STARS
Minor League Baseball holds many All-Star Games each year, but none are more exclusive than the Arizona Fall League’s showcase. The AFL itself is an exclusive collection of the game’s top prospects. Thus, the annual “Fall Stars Game” features the best of the best within the minor leagues.
Both Chris Bassitt and Marcus Semien will represent the White Sox in this prestigious exhibition, which can be seen Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT on MLB Network. Earlier this week, we discussed the success of former Winston-Salem players in the AFL. Bassitt and Semien have been two of the breakout White Sox prospects of 2013, so it is fitting that they receive this opportunity.
Bassitt has surrendered just one run in six relief appearances this fall. The former Akron Zip was a starter throughout the minor league season, amassing an 11-4 record with a 3.08 earned run average. He was a Carolina League All-Star and a Southern League champion.
Semien had a similar level of success at the top of the Chicago organization. Following a strong 2012 showing in Winston-Salem, Semien hit .290 with 15 homers and 49 RBIs en route to the Southern League’s Most Valuable Player Award while with Double-A Birmingham. He also earned promotions to Triple-A and the big leagues, where he held his own against the game’s best competition.
WHITE SOX SIGN CUBAN STAR ABREU
The White Sox front office stated that they were going to reload the big league roster following the club’s disappointing season. Before the true free agency period, the Sox have already added a huge piece to the present and the future.
Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu has joined the White Sox thanks to a six-year, $68 million deal, the club announced Tuesday. Abreu shined in the World Baseball Classic earlier this year and in Cuba since 2007, but fans should be most excited about executive vice president Ken Williams’ quote about the 26-year-old.
“Well, he’s the only player that I’ve seen work out and then play in a game that I wanted to give a standing ovation to.”
Williams expounded upon these comments in that same piece from whitesox.com.
“It was the most professional exhibition of hitting and really defensive work the way he went about things. It was professional. It was focused. It was geared to not just impress, but impress the right way,” Williams said. “One of the things that we did not want to entertain was a guy who was just one dimensional. This guy is a hitter.”
The White Sox have a long way to go to rebound from a 99-loss campaign, but this is an important first step.
CRAZY BASEBALL STORIES
- San Diego State University’s baseball team played an exhibition game in Halloween costumes, and many national outlets picked up the story. Check out the crazy video, which includes Buddy the Elf with a plus glove at third base.
- The Cardinals had some trouble getting to Boston yesterday in advance of Game 6 of the World Series. A mechanical issue on the team’s plane brought about a seven-hour delay; therefore, the Cards arrived at their hotel around midnight EDT.
You can read the entire account of the long travel day, including some funny tweets and comments from team members, here.
The Dash’s 2014 schedule has been released, and we will break down some of the biggest games of the season tomorrow on the blog. Talk to you then.
The Arizona Fall League is in full swing, and the White Sox are having a very strong showing. Eight Chicago farmhands, seven of whom have played in Winston-Salem at some point in their minor league careers, are in the AFL, and most of them boast strong numbers for the Glendale Desert Dogs, who are a half-game out of first place 14 games into the season.
Reigning AFL Pitcher of the Week Stephen McCray has been one of the breakout performers on the showcase circuit. Through three starts, the former Tennessee Volunteer has yet to allow a run over 10 and two-thirds innings. He has only surrendered three hits and issued four walks.
The rest of the Dash-turned-Desert Dog contingent has also thrived in Arizona. Check out these stats:
Chris Bassitt – 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 5.0 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 3 K
Micah Johnson – .320, 6 RBI, 6 R, 3 SB, .899 OPS
Charlie Leesman – 0-1, 2.08 ERA, 4.1 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 K
Stephen McCray – 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 10.2 IP, 3 H, 5 K
Jared Mitchell – .308, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 7 R, 1.011 OPS
Marcus Semien – .156, 3 RBI, 3 R, 5 BB
Kevin Vance – 0-0, 1.50 ERA, 6.0 IP, 1 R, 5 H, 6 K
The only former Winston-Salem player to struggle so far in Arizona has been Semien, who was arguably the biggest breakout performer within the White Sox farm system in 2013. In other words, Semien will be just fine, and Chicago’s front office should be thrilled about the results thus far.
Fans can follow along with these players and the rest of the highly-touted prospects in the AFL here.
Have a great weekend, and enjoy the World Series. It is incredible to think that Xander Bogaerts was in Winston-Salem for the All-Star Game 16 months ago. Should be quite a series.
October is a time for reflection in the baseball world. Fans and organizations can look back at what happened this past season and how the system looks moving forward.
The 2013 season was a productive one for many White Sox prospects, and MiLB.com honored some of these players on their Organizational All-Star team. One player represented each position, and five of them played in Winston-Salem for part or all of this season:
Catcher – Kevan Smith
Second baseman – Micah Johnson
Third baseman – Chris Curley
Outfielder (1 of 3) – Adam Heisler
Relief pitcher – Daniel Webb
Four other alumni appeared on the All-Star team:
First baseman – Dan Black
Shortstop – Marcus Semien
Left-handed starter – Spencer Arroyo
Right-handed starter – Erik Johnson
In other words, nine of the 12 players on this All-Star team have played in Winston-Salem, and two of the remaining three thrived at lower levels and are on track to play at BB&T Ballpark soon.
So, what did the 2013 season do for these All-Stars and others in Chicago’s system? TopProspectAlert.com released their offseason Top 20 White Sox prospect list, and half of them have played in Winston-Salem during their professional careers.
Erik Johnson headlines this list as the Sox top prospect, and he joins Micah Johnson (3), Courtney Hawkins (4), Marcus Semien (5) and Scott Snodgress (6) as a Dash alumni quintet in the top six. Only Tim Anderson, the White Sox first-round selection this year and a player on the Dash’s radar for 2014, is among the six best prospects in the system without a trip to Winston.
You can view the entire list here, which features six Dash alumni in the top 10.
More prospect rankings will be published throughout the offseason, but it is always fun to take a look as they are released.
Previous Top 10 Moments:
#10: Dash clinch winning record
#9: Comeback in Delaware
#8: 17 runs in six innings
#7: Buckner sets RBIs record
#6: Attendance record on July 4
#5: Beck, Blough toss gems
#4: Four alumni jump to MLB
#3: Curley named CL’s MVP
#2: DeMichele’s walk-off slam
Moment #1 – May 16
BB&T Ballpark’s millionth fan
Baseball is an incredibly difficult game to predict. Constants are almost impossible to find. However, when you do find one, it is very special.
The Dash have found a constant since the move into BB&T Ballpark in 2010–the fans. Sure, the fanbase is not directly involved in the game, but it is very much part of the Dash experience.
Four years ago, many fans in Winston-Salem believed that something special was possible with the move downtown, but few could have predicted the type of success the Dash have enjoyed at the gate. No Class A-Advanced team has drawn a higher attendance than Winston-Salem since the start of the 2010 season.
All of this great work set the table for a special night in mid-May. The Dash stormed to the brink of BB&T Ballpark’s one millionth fan, and May 16 became the landmark day. On this night, BB&T Ballpark became the quickest High-A facility to surpass one million fans.
In honor of this incredible accomplishment, the Dash offered one lucky fan the opportunity to win one million dollars with an on-field game of chance. Alisa Keegan had a chance to win the money, a car from Flow Auto or two Dash tickets for life, and she won the tickets.
The moment and the game itself was special, but this top moment of 2013 was four years in the making. Every season, BB&T Ballpark has welcomed more than 300,000 fans, and this special night celebrated the Dash’s success. One million fans in less than four full seasons. That’s incredibly impressive, and the Dash have all of you to thank.
We appreciate you following along with our Dash Top 10 this month. Stay tuned to the Dash Board blog for much more tomorrow, including information on some Dash players honored as All-Stars.