Over the last couple of days, a number of significant announcements have been made around Major League Baseball in regards to the new Minor League Baseball structure. These announcements have featured updates on all 120 Minor League Baseball teams under the new Player Development License (PDL). With this, you will
Over the last couple of days, a number of significant announcements have been made around Major League Baseball in regards to the new Minor League Baseball structure. These announcements have featured updates on all 120 Minor League Baseball teams under the new Player Development License (PDL). With this, you will now find new affiliates, new league names, as well as some new restructuring of classifications (changes from Single-A to Triple-A). Some teams have moved up (Jacksonville went from Double-A to Triple-A for example) and some have moved down (Wichita went from Triple-A to Double-A). Some franchises have been added (St. Paul and Sugar Land went from independent ball to affiliated ball) and some have gone to the new MLB Draft League (Trenton and State College among others). For fans of the Charlotte Knights, however, a lot has stayed the same. Let’s take a look.
AFFILIATION: The Knights will continue as the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. The two teams first began their affiliation in 1999 and that partnership will now continue for the next decade as the Knights will be Chicago’s top affiliate through the 2030 season. As the Knights enter their 23rd season as the Triple-A affiliate of the White Sox in 2021, one thing is certain -- the organization will continue to see future major league stars at Truist Field. Over the past few seasons, Uptown Charlotte has been home to current South Side stars such as Tim Anderson, Yoán Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jiménez, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert, and Nick Madrigal to name a few. This season, the Knights are excited to welcome a new crop of talented players to the Queen City.
COACHING STAFF: Staying on the diamond, the Knights recently announced their coaching staff for the 2021 season. Gastonia, NC native Wes Helms, who was tabbed as manager of the Knights in 2020, will return to Charlotte’s staff. Helms, a 1994 graduate of Ashbrook High School (Gastonia, NC), was slated to make his managerial debut with the Knights last year before the season was cancelled in June (2020) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Joining Helms in Charlotte this year will be Matt Zaleski (pitching coach), Chris Johnson (hitting coach), Cory Barton (trainer) and Shawn Powell (performance coach). Johnson is the only newcomer to the organization for 2021.
LEAGUE STRUCTURE: The 2021 season will bring one significant change, however. The International League -- a league that dates back all the way to 1884 -- is no more. The Knights, who began play as a Triple-A team in the International League in 1993 -- and have won two Governors’ Cup championships (1993 and 1999) along the way -- will now play in the newly renamed Triple-A East League. The Knights are one of 20 teams in that league and one of seven teams in the Southeast Division. The Knights will continue to be in the same league as the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays), Gwinnett Stripers (Atlanta Braves), and the Norfolk Tides (Baltimore Orioles). In addition, the Knights will now be in the same division as the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins), Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers), and the Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals). The rest of the Triple-A East League features newcomers to Charlotte’s league -- the Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs), Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals), and the St. Paul Saints (Minnesota Twins). In addition, all four teams from the old IL West -- Columbus Clippers (Cleveland), Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates), Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds), and Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers) -- will be members of the Triple-A East.
The Triple-A West League will feature the Albuquerque Isotopes (Colorado Rockies), El Paso Chihuahuas (San Diego Padres), Oklahoma City Dodgers (Los Angeles Dodgers), Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers), Sugar Land Skeeters (Houston Astros), Las Vegas Aviators (Oakland A’s), Reno Aces (Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks), Sacramento River Cats (San Francisco Giants), Salt Lake Bees (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), and the Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle Mariners).
While a schedule has not yet been announced -- and more details regarding the 2021 season are still to come -- one thing is certain, baseball will be back in Uptown Charlotte. The excitement of watching a game at Truist Field with the crack of the bat and a delicious ballpark hot dog in hand is on its way. In the meantime, stay tuned for more announcements in the coming days. There are many great things in store for fans in Uptown Charlotte this season.