24th of Jun | Story

Notes from Kannapolis


KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina | The Kannapolis Intimidators and Delmarva Shorebirds played 55 minutes before the grounds crew and front office rolled the tarp over the infield. Prepared fans sat in the stands with umbrellas during the top of the third. Others, including us, sought shelter and watched children jump in puddles that grew bigger every few minutes. The rain stopped eventually, but the umpires and managers stomped around the outfield and declared the field too wet to play. They suspended the game, our first in almost three months of baseball. (Naturally, the next time the teams played each other, another game was suspended because of rain. The teams will attempt to make up both games during a five-game, three-day series in August.)

Time for minor league trivia. Three of the Chicago White Sox full-season affiliates are located in the Carolinas. The Intimidators are one. What are the other two? (Keep reading for the answer.)

Ty’s Treats, the cotton candy and funnel cake stand between home plate and third base at CMC-NorthEast Stadium is operated by 10-year-old Tyler Hunt. How did a kid start his own food-stand business at a minor league park? Hunt is friends with the son of Intimidators president Brian Smith, which helped. Some time before last season, Hunt asked his parents for a cotton candy machine. They said no because he could neither pay for the equipment nor sell the candy anywhere. So Hunt asked his friend to ask Smith if he could just open a tent at Intimidators games. Smith said yes. Now in its second season, Ty’s Treats has become a family operation. Hunt’s parents, Brad and Jodi, and his siblings, Bradley, Andrew and Lysni, are all involved in making and selling cotton candy, funnel cake and fried fair food, like Twinkies, Oreos and Milky Ways. The family is putting away the profits for college tuition. Ask Hunt about his favorite food to sell and the soon-to-be fifth-grader gives a businessman answer, “Money-wise, it would be the funnel cake,” he says, “but flavor-wise, it would be cherry cotton candy.”

Once a month, the Intimidators Booster Club hosts a Sunday picnic for players to show their support and provide the players with a feast of a meal. About 25 Intimidators season-ticket holders pitch in for the themed dinners, hand out birthday cookies and recognize player performance. The June dinner was a North Carolina staple of pulled-pork barbecue, coleslaw, green beans and hush puppies.

Most minor league teams don’t have a race car sitting outside their front gates. Most minor league teams haven’t been partially owned by NASCAR drivers. The late Dale Earnhardt purchased a small share of the team’s ownership in 2000 and, in response, the team’s name was changed from the Piedmont Boll Weevils to the Intimidators. Earnhardt was killed during the 2001 Daytona 500, before he had ever watched the team play a game after he bought in. The team retired the number 3.

Want the answer? Kannapolis is the Low-A affiliate of the White Sox. The other two South Side affiliates in the Carolinas are the High-A Winston-Salem Dash and the Triple-A Charlotte Knights. The Knights are moving from Fort Mill, South Carolina, to a new stadium in downtown Charlotte, which will place all three in North Carolina. The team’s other full-season affiliate is the Double-A Birmingham Barons.

And in random statistical news, the game started three minutes late, the first pitch was a strike and the first batter grounded out to short. The national anthem was sung in 1 minute and 16.1 seconds by three young girls who call themselves the Candy Kids. We didn’t eat during the suspended game, but the Intimidators Booster Club invited us to their picnic and stuffed us with their Southern cooking.

Carolyn@AMinorLeagueSeason.com ♦ @CarolynLaWell ♦ @AMinorLgSeason

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