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Knights prepare for final S.C. season
April 11 home opener is the last at Fort Mill stadium
 
Published Thursday, April 11, 2013 8:33 am
by Herbert L. White

FORT MILL, S.C. – Duente Heath isn’t sentimental about the Charlotte Knights’ final season across the border.

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PHOTO/CURTIS WILSON
Charlotte Knights outfielder Jared Mitchell stretches before practice at Knights Stadium. The Knights open their final season in Fort Mill, S.C., April 11. They’ll move to the new BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte in 2014.


Knights Stadium, the AAA franchise’s home since 1990, will host its final opening day on April 11. The arena will be vacated at season’s end for BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte’s Center City. Heath, a pitcher who went 4-3 with the Knights last year, is ambivalent. His attention is on moving up to the Major League Chicago White Sox.


“You’ve got to take the good with the bad,” he said. “You appreciate the times you had here and the games you had here, but it’s just moving on.”


The Knights are capable of leaving South Carolina with a winning campaign. Charlotte advanced to the Governor’s Cup championship in 2012 and the nucleus of that team and manager Joel Skinner return. It also has the motivation of promotion to the parent club as well as propel the franchise to its new digs next year.


“It’s kind of hard to top it,” Heath said. “As the season ended last year, just put it behind you this year and build off it at the same time.”
A major addition for the Knights is General Manager Scott Brown, who is overseeing the final Fort Mill season while keeping tabs on the Charlotte facility. This year’s team, he argues, is capable of repeating 2012’s performance.


“We’re coming off a playoff bid and that hadn’t happened in quite some time, I think four years prior to that,” Brown said. “A lot of these guys were with us at the end of the year. Winning is contagious, they want to be out here and they want to win. It’s so much more fun for the fans, the team and the front office. The name of the game is winning games and if you’re winning games and playing well, you have a chance for the big leagues.”


And playing before appreciative fans, which is what Brown is trying to cultivate in Fort Mill and Charlotte. Although he’s learning his way around the market, Brown’s attention is fixed on the home opener and keeping the Knights in contention.


 “It’s a great move for me to be in Charlotte and the Triple-A White Sox,” he said. “It’s certainly a little interesting when you’re in charge of a ballpark where you’ve never worked a game, so I’m as excited about opening day as anybody out there.”


The home opener represents a fresh start for the Knights, who opened the season 0-4 before a 21-4 win against Norfolk. For the players, winning and promotion are inseparable, said Heath, who pitched three games last year with Chicago with no decisions and a 4.50 earned run average. Charlotte stadium aside, Heath, like all the Knights are looking for a call from the big league team.


“You just come out and try to get better every day and everything else just takes care of itself,” he said. “Everybody knows your final goal is to get to the big leagues, but just do what you’ve got to do that day to get better.”
 

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