Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 11- Kannapolis Intimidators

I have to once again tip my cap to Will MacNeil (@RFWill149) for this pickup. During the Oakland Athletics Fan Fest he and I had talked at length about scooping up this cap as it is the only cap inspired by someone outside of the baseball realm. Within about a week after I had gotten back to Eugene, Oregon to wrap up my studies at the University of Oregon Will had messaged me on Facebook, letting me know he ha scooped it up for me. Very rarely in my life has someone ever done so much for me with something as seemingly insignificant as giving me a hat.

The Intimidators franchise moved to Kannapolis in 1995 from Spartanburg, South Carolina, where they had been a Class A-affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies in the South Atlantic League. With all new teams, debate raged in Kannapolis over what to name the team, with team officials finally decided to call the team the Piedmont Phillies for the 1995 season until they could figure out a suitable replacement.

A name-the-team contest in the fall of 1995 drew thousands of entries, and team officials settled on the boll weevil as the team's new mascot, indicative of Kannapolis' history as a textile mill town (Kannapolis natives are even called "lintheads"). The Piedmont Boll Weevils would keep that mascot until after the 2000 season, when NASCAR racing legend Dale Earnhardt purchased a share in the team's ownership. It was then that the name was changed to the Kannapolis Intimidators, in honor of Earnhardt's legendary nickname. It was also during that offseason that the team's parent club changed from the Phillies to the Chicago White Sox, making the Intimidators the third White Sox farm team to be located in the Carolinas, following the Charlotte Knights (who actually play their home games in suburban Fort Mill, South Carolina) and the Winston-Salem Warthogs, now called the Winston-Salem Dash.

Earnhardt, who drove the #3 car in NASCAR, was killed in an accident at the Daytona 500 in February 2001. Following Earnhardt's death, the Intimidators avoided assigning the number 3 for team members. Team manager Razor Shines, originally slated to wear #3, and subsequently changed his uniform number to #43. The team officially retired #3 on May 15, 2002, in memory of their former co-owner, similar to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim retiring the number 26 (the 26th man) in honor of former owner Gene Autry. I wrote about this tribute on April 8th.

The team's logo was designed by Sam Bass, who has designed paint schemes and uniforms on many NASCAR, Champ Car, and IRL race cars, another rarity within the realm of baseball.

The team plays in CMC-Northeast Stadium (formerly Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium) in Kannapolis. "The Cannon" was still under construction when the Piedmont Phillies began play in 1995. Upon completion in the winter of 1995, the stadium seated 4,700 fans. The stadium officially changed names on April 3, 2012 under a new naming rights agreement for the 2012 season.

In their 18-year history in Kannapolis the Intimidators/Boll Weevils/Phillies have only won one South Atlantic League title, which came in 2005. However, the team has yet to win a division crown. That year the team went 74-59 under then-manager Nick Capra who played for five seasons in Major League Baseball with the Texas Rangers (1982-1983, 1985 and 1991) and the Kansas City Royals (1988).

When trying to come up with marks for this cap I did quite a bit of digging. As most of you who read these posts have come to learn I don’t usually take things at face value. I always like to find little patterns within the names, dates and numbers to tell a story that I find particularly interesting that also has to do with something going on in my life. With this hat I scored big time.

#1- This tall, lanky right-handed pitcher was taken in the 17th round by the White Sox in the 2002 amateur draft out of Lamar Community College in Lamar, Colorado. In 2002 and 2003 he battled through the Rookie Leagues with the AZL White Sox and the Great Fall White Sox respectively, posting solid numbers as a starter. In 2004 he made got bumped up to Kannapolis where he made 15 starts, going 8-5 with a 3.64 ERA and 113 strikeouts before moving on to advanced-A Winston-Salem and AA Birmingham to play with the Barons. In 2005 he made his Major League debut on May 22nd, only pitching in 12 games, 10 as a starter going 3-2 with a 4.03 ERA and 48 strikeouts. That season he split time between the big club and in AAA with the Charlotte Knights. But despite his split time he still won a World Series ring as the White defeated the Houston Astros in four games.

In the offseason after the end of the 2006 season he was traded to the Rangers where he stuck it out until the end of the 2010 season, going 13-15 with a 4.68 ERA and 134 strikeouts. On December 14, 2010 he signed as a free agent with the Athletics where he became the ace in 2012 and helped the team win their first American League Western Division title since 2006 despite missing the month of the regular season and postseason after taking a liner off of his dome due to a pitch hit by Angels shortstop Erick Aybar.

He’s hands down on of the funniest cats on Twitter, along with his wife Amanda. Brandon McCarthy.

#16- This outfielder grew up in Houston, Texas and was drafted in the 16th round of the 2001 amateur draft by the White Sox out of Bellaire High School. Like McCarthy, the two went through the same system together, starting out in the Rookie Leagues with the AZL White Sox, Great Falls White Sox, but also the Bristol White Sox from 2002-2003. In 2004 he spent the entire season in Kannapolis and hit .261 with 24 home runs, 56 RBI and 31 stolen bases. In 2005 he moved on to Birmingham where he won praise by making Baseball America’s first-team Minor League All-Star outfielder as well as the White Sox Minor League Player of the Year award after going .277/26/77 with 32 stolen bases. Despite this prestige he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks at season’s end with Luis Viscaino and Orlando Hernandez for Javier Vasquez and cash considerations.

Despite rolling to a new team, this cat continued his ball-hitting barrage with the Tucson Sidewinders before getting called up in August of 2006 where he made his MLB debut on the 18th. From then until the end of the 2012 season he hit .239 with 132 home runs and 408 RBI. He finished fourth for National League Rookie of the Year in 2007 and made his only All-Star Game appearance thus far in 2010. At the end of the 2012 season he was traded to the Athletics for infielder Cliff Pennington and Yordy Cabrera. This cat, Chris Young.

#18- I actually all ready wrote about this guy on March 13th, but he’s still a crowd favorite. He was selected 38th overall in the first round of the 2004 amateur draft by the White Sox out of Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Opa Locka, Florida. That year he split hit time in Bristol as well as a few games in Kannapolis. In 2005 he made 10 starts for the Intimidators, going 5-3 with a 1.87 ERA and 84 strikeouts before moving on to Winston-Salem for another 13 starts, going 9-3 with a 3.56 ERA and 79 strikeouts in the process.

Between 2005 and 2008 he was traded three times. First to the Phillies along with Aaron Rowand and Daniel Haigwood for Jim Thome. The he was traded back to the White Sox at the end of the 2006 season along with Gavin Floyd for Freddy Garcia. In 2007 this guy led the Minor Leagues in strikeouts with 185 while playing for the Barons. In 2008 he was traded to the Athletics along with Ryan Sweeney and Fautino de los Santos for Nick Swisher. Showing some solid promise in AAA with the Sacramento River Cats he was called up and made his MLB debut on August 6, 2008.

Despite a few rough outing in 2008 and 2009 he moved up and down between The Show and AAA before finally getting a solid spot in the rotation in 2010 where he went 15-9 with a 3.23 ERA and 171 strikeouts. In 2011 he made his first All-Star Game appearance behind a 16-12 record, a 3.12 ERA and 197 strikeouts. In the offseason he was traded to the Washington Nationals along with Robert Gilliam for catcher Derek Norris and pitchers Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole and Tommy Milone. Gio Gonzalez, we still miss you brother!

#33- This guy was selected by the White Sox in the 15th round of the 2005 amateur draft out of Sierra Vista High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2005 and most of 2006 he played with Bristol and Great Falls before finishing out 2006 in Kannapolis for 16 games. In 2007 he had a monster year with the Intimidators, batting .291 with 25 home runs and 93 RBI. As soon as the season wrapped up he was traded to the Diamondbacks for Carlos Quentin. Two weeks after that he was dealt to the Athletics as part of a package for Dan Haren.

Between 2008 and 2012 he became a professional ball hitter throughout the Minor Leagues, mostly sticking it out in Sacramento. On August 9, 2010 he made his MLB debut. He would only play a total of 106 games for the Athletics in three years before getting traded to the Houston Astros at the end of the 2012 season. During his time in Oakland; however, his most memorable moments (for me) came on July 6th when he hit a walk-off three-run blast against the Seattle Mariners in the 11th inning and the other coming on August 28th when he went 3-5 with a home run against the Cleveland Indians at The Jake. The moment I’ll never forget about this is how I yelled, “X-Files!” after his home run and first base coach Tye Waller didn’t stop laughing until the end of the inning. Chris Carter, you are clutch kid.

While there were a slew of other players I could have paid tribute to I couldn’t help but find all the guys whose tenures in Oakland were all paved through the pathway of Kannapolis. The only person I forgot to mention was Brandon Allen who played alongside Carter in 2006.

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