(Uptown Charlotte, NC) - Former Charlotte Knights slugger and future National Baseball Hall-of-Famer Jim Thome will throw out a ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day, Friday, April 11 at BB&T Ballpark as the Knights officially return home to Charlotte. Thome will be among a slew of Charlotte celebrities throwing out a first pitch prior to the team's first game in Charlotte since the 1988 season. A full list of Opening Day festivities will be released later this week.
As a Knight, Thome made his mark at Knights Stadium during the club's first year as a Triple-A International League team (Charlotte was affiliated with the Cleveland Indians at the time). Thome, who was 22 years old in 1993, hit a league-best .332 with 25 home runs and 102 RBIs and was named the International League's Most Valuable Player at the end of that season. His solid hitting helped the Knights win a franchise record 86 games and notch their first Governor's Cup Championship in team history.
"That year in Triple-A kind of kick-started my career," said Thome, when asked about his time with the Knights. "Obviously, Charlotte, I have fond memories -- I met a lot of great people there and to go back is an honor."
It will be Thome's first time back with the Knights since 2007 when he appeared in five games on a Major League rehab assignment with the club. All five of those games were played on the road.
Over his 22-year Major League career, Thome batted .276 with 612 home runs, 1,699 RBIs, 1,583 runs scored and 1,747 walks in 2,543 games. He played for Cleveland (1991-2002, '11), Philadelphia (2003-05, '12), the White Sox (2006-09), Los Angeles-NL (2009), Minnesota (2010-11) and Baltimore (2012). His 612 homers are the fourth-highest total in major-league history by a left-handed hitter, trailing only Barry Bonds (762), Babe Ruth (714) and Ken Griffey Jr. (630).
On April 11, 2013, the Knights named Thome to the All Knights Stadium Team, a compilation of the best players in Knights franchise history. The announcement was made during an on-field ceremony before the 2013 home opener.
Thome is currently working for the Chicago White Sox as a special assistant to senior vice president/general manager Rick Hahn. His role includes consulting with Hahn and assistant general manager Buddy Bell, working with the White Sox major league staff and players, and visiting White Sox minor-league affiliates throughout the summer, evaluating player performance.
The inaugural season at BB&T Ballpark kicks-off April 11th with the official introduction of the 2014 Knights team and a player autograph session from Romare Bearden Park at noon on Opening Day. Friday's party features: stilt walkers, face painters, jugglers, strolling magicians, members of the Carolina Renaissance Faire, and music from Mo' Money, Coconut Groove, and 20 Ride. The Budweiser Clydesdales will also be on hand for the day's festivities and there will be art tents for kids with Discovery Place and the Gantt Museum represented. BB&T Ballpark gates open at 5:00 p.m. and first pitch of the team's first game in Uptown Charlotte is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
Season tickets, as well as group tickets, 18-game partial season ticket plans and single-game tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by phone at 704-357-8071, online at charlotteknights.com, or in person at the BB&T Ballpark Ticket Office. Uptown Knights are Better Than Ever!