By John Bauman
April 30, 2021 (updated)
Dan Rajkowski, the Knights’ Chief Operating Officer, explained Wednesday at a Knights Media Day that the team last played on August 29, 2019. Over a year and a half later, the team will finally take the field again for Opening Day of the 2021 season.
A lot has changed since the team’s last game. The BB&T Ballpark is now called Truist Field. Cashless payment options have now been implemented for all concessions. And masks, social distancing and hand sanitizer have all been introduced to minor league baseball games.
But finally, baseball is back in Charlotte. The Knights, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, opens their 2021 season at home on Tuesday, May 4. Here’s a few things that fans can expect when they return to Truist Field.
Partnership with Mac’s Speed Shop
There’s a new food option for fans catching a baseball game at Truist Field. Mac’s Speed Shop opened in 2005 and has grown into a Charlotte favorite and multi-restaurant empire. They now have eight locations across the Carolinas and a new partnership with the Knights.
Mac’s Speed Shop will anchor one kiosk at Truist Field, near the main entrance of the ballpark. Pulled pork and nachos, two signature Mac’s staples, will be featured on their menu at Knights games. Andres Kaifer, the culinary director at Mac’s Speed Shop, also shared that a special mac and cheese bowl will rotate in throughout the season.
Safety at the Forefront
Fans entering Truist Field for any event this spring and summer will still have to follow guidelines that have become familiar during the pandemic. Capacity restrictions mean attendance will be capped at around 3,000 fans for now and social distancing is enforced. Masks and hand sanitizer will also be provided at all games this summer.
Rajkowski explained that the Knights are following overlapping guidelines from Mecklenburg County, from the White Sox organization and from the MLB. So, even though Governor Roy Cooper recently lifted the outdoor mask mandate, Knights fans will still have to wear masks at the ballpark for now. However, this could change for fans throughout the summer.
“The phrase we are using is ‘just adapt,’” Rajkowski said. “Like we’ve all been doing, we really have to adapt to this. The good news is we are adapting– knock on wood– in a better way [as restrictions ease].”
New Menu Items
On Wednesday, Knights Executive Chef Kyle McCleary introduced some new food items that Knights fans can expect throughout the concourse at Knights games.
He shared details about a new burger paying homage to Homer, the Charlotte Knights’ mascot. There’s also a new jumbo hot dog with an orange soda coleslaw that is sure to be a must-try.
After a year of having ballparks around the country closed due to the pandemic, McCleary is excited to have fans back at Truist Field enjoying a night at the ballpark again.
“We’ve got the greatest view in the city and normalcy is finally coming back. So it’s important for us to give the fans everything they used to have, plus more,” McCleary said.
Thirsty Thursday is Back
The promotions that fans have come to love from the Knights will return in 2021, although modified from their pre-pandemic days to accommodate social distancing.
“We see all of them coming back,” Rajkowski said. “Things will be a little bit different, but we see [promotions] being a part of it.”
Thirsty Thursday, which has historically included $1 small sodas, $3 domestic drafts, and $5 craft drafts, will be back this season, starting with the Thursday, May 6 game against Gwinnett. Friday Night Fireworks, Bark in the Park, Wine Wednesday, and more will also dot the schedule throughout the season.
Additional promotions will be announced as the season goes along and as social distancing/capacity requirements become more clear.
White Sox Prospects
In recent years, the Knights have enjoyed a talented roster thanks to the White Sox’s impressive farm system. Nick Madrigal, Eloy Jiménez, Michael Kopech and Luis Robert are just a few of the MLB players who have come through Charlotte in the last few seasons. That is a major point of pride for Rajkowski and his organization in Charlotte.
“If you turn on the TV and look at the lineup, you will see on any given night six, seven guys who played in Charlotte the last few years,” he said. “And I think that’s a credit to how they develop players.”
The Knights roster will be finalized soon, before the 2021 minor league season begins. The Sox still have a number of talented players who could move through the farm system this season before heading up to the big league club.
Keep an eye out for pitchers Jonathan Stiever and Matt Thompson, along with outfielder Blake Rutherford, to make their way onto the Knights roster at some point this season.
Single-game tickets to Charlotte Knights games are now on sale. The team will play a long homestand against the Gwinnett Stripers and Norfolk Tide from May 4 to 16 and return home after that for games in June. The season runs until Sunday, September 19.
Check out the full 2021 Charlotte Knights season schedule.