In 2014, Minor League Baseball's national spotlight is going to shine brightly upon the state of North Carolina.
Earlier this year, the Durham Bulls were announced as hosts of the Triple-A All-Star Game, and on Tuesday, it was revealed that the Charlotte Knights' brand-new home of BB&T Ballpark will be the site of the 2014 Triple-A National Championship Game. This annual contest, scheduled to be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network on Sept. 16, pits the winner of the International and Pacific Coast Leagues in a winner-take-all battle for Triple-A supremacy.
The National Championship Game was established in 2006 and through 2010 it was staged at Oklahoma City's Bricktown Ballpark. Since then the event has taken place in a different Triple-A city each year, and Charlotte was a logical choice for 2014. The Knights play their first game at BB&T Ballpark on April 11, and the championship offers the International League franchise the opportunity to close out the 2014 campaign in front of a national TV audience.
"Charlotte made a lot of sense [as the host city], because of all the excitement down there for the new stadium," said International League president Randy Mobley. "There are only two national events at this level, and this gives us the opportunity to showcase Triple-A baseball in a state-of-the-art venue with what should be a sold-out crowd come game day. I guess I'm going to have to resort to the cliché: It's a home run for us."
"We actively sought this game out and are thrilled to have it in our stadium for year one," said Knights general manager Scott Brown. "I think we'll have the feeling at the end of the season that everything went by too quickly, so let's have another party before it's all said and done with. That party will be the Triple-A National Championship Game ... a chance to flex our muscles and show our stuff."
In much the same way that Major League Baseball's All-Star Game alternates between American and National League host cities, the Triple-A All-Star Game alternates between International and Pacific Coast League sites from year-to-year. But this criteria do not apply to the Championship Game, as 2014 will mark the third straight season that an International League city has hosted the event.
"We've been more lenient with [league-to-league alternation] as this event continues to grow and get its legs," said Mobley. "We just want to showcase the classification and Minor League Baseball in the best way possible."
And in 2014, that "best way possible" is going to revolve around North Carolina's most populous metropolis.
"I think [the national TV audience] is going to come away with an image of Charlotte as a place they had perhaps not seen before," said Brown. "This a thriving, vibrant, wonderful place to live, work and do business. We want to showcase this ballpark as one of the cornerstones of a great community."
The Pacific Coast League has won five of the eight Triple-A Baseball National Championship Games played thus far, including the past two. The 2013 iteration took place at Lehigh Valley's Coca-Cola Park with the Omaha Storm Chasers defeating the Durham Bulls, 2-1.