Author: Dawson Haywood
North Carolina has its fair share of professional sports teams and when people from other states think of North Carolina professional sports the Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Panthers are the two teams that bring in the most attention. There are actually 46 professional teams that span from minor league baseball, stock racing teams, hockey teams, and there is even a good number of minor league basketball teams that call North Carolina home. This article is going to focus on the 12 professional baseball teams that are located in North Carolina.
Without a major league team in North Carolina fans of the sport can still find a way to enjoy professional baseball in person without having to travel to the closest Major League cities Atlanta an Washington D.C. What is interesting about the minor league teams in North Carolina is that there are not teams that are affiliated with the Atlanta Braves or the Washington Nationals. The Major League team with the most affiliation with Minor League teams in North Carolina is the Chicago White Sox.
Minor League baseball is interesting because each Minor League team is independently owned but the players that represent the organization are employed by a Major League organization. For example, the Charlotte Knights have been affiliated with the Chicago White Sox since 1999 but previously had affiliations with the Marlins, Indians, Cubs, and Orioles. Minor League organizations are able to pick and choose their team name, city, ballpark, etc. The Minor League team is not responsible for paying the players.
Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox)
The Charlotte Knights will play in the new Triple-A East league in the Southeast Division this upcoming season and will continue to be a Chicago White Sox Affiliate team. The team has not won a league title since 1999 but has seen some success in recent history winning a division title back in 2012. The team plays at Truist Field located in the heart of Charlotte, North Carolina right up the road from the Bank of America Stadium.
Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays)
The Durham Bulls will come into the 2021 season also playing in the newly formed Triple-A East League. The team has a rich history of winning with 15 league titles, three of which have been within the last ten years. The team plays in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park which is also home to the Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Central Eagles. The team has been affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays since 1998 but throughout the team's long history since its founding in 1902 it has been affiliated with 11 other Major League teams.
Asheville Tourists (Houston Astros)
The team that can be found playing in Asheville is one of the oldest teams in North Carolina with its first games dating back to 1897. The team has also been playing at McCormick Field just north of Biltmore Village since 1924. Though one of the oldest teams in North Carolina they have not seen much success over their long history only winning 7 total league titles. Throughout the team's history they have had five alumni be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Greensboro Grasshoppers (Pittsburgh Pirates)
The Greensboro team recently changed their Major League affiliate team in 2019 from the Miami Marlins to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team has had multiple Major League affiliates throughout it's history but found most of their success when the New York Yankees were providing players allowing the team to win back to back to back league titles in 1980, '81, and '82. The team has won just one other league title in 2011 with the Miami Marlins.
Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers)
The Crawdads came onto the scene in 1993 and have played in the South Atlantic League since its founding up until this year whenever the Minor Leagues were redesigned. Throughout their short history they have been affiliated with the White Sox, Pirates, and currently the Rangers. The team recently won a league title in 2015 and had won two others in 2002 and in 2004. Since their affiliate with the Rangers they have found themselves in the South Atlantic League Finals on two occasions. The Crawdads are one of the few teams in the Minor League that is owned by their Major League affiliate.
Winston-Salem Dash (Chicago White Sox)
The Dash had been the oldest continuously operating team in the Carolina League until the restructuring of the Minor Leagues this year. The team has been on a bit of a drought with their last league title coming in 2003. Most of those titles came from when they were affiliated with the Boston Red Sox between 1961 and 1984 winning 3 league titles during that time.
Carolina Mudcats (Milwaukee Brewers)
The Mudcats are one of the more wishy-washy teams in North Carolina as they have not yet been affiliated with the same Major League team for more than 7 years. The Milwaukee Brewers and the Mudcats have had a partnership since just 2017. Since 2008 the organization has gone through four affiliation changes and reasonably so. The last notable sign of success came in 2008 when they won a division title and before that their last notable sign of success came in 2003 when they won a league title in their first year affiliated with the Florida Marlins.
Down East Wood Ducks (Texas Rangers)
The Wood Ducks are one of the youngest teams in North Carolina being founded in 2017. In their Inaugural Season they won a league title and even won a first half title in 2019. The team plays in Grainger Stadium which is located in Kinston, North Carolina. The Texas Rangers have a trend in owning their teams and like their High-A affiliates the Wood Ducks are also owned by their Major League Affiliate. In 2017 the team was named by Ballpark Digest as the best logo/branding for Minor League Baseball.
Fayetteville Woodpeckers (Houston Astros)
The Woodpeckers are another young team in North Carolina also being founded in 2017. In 2018 the team won a league title in the Carolina League and in 2019 they also won a division title. The team is owned by the Houston Astros and they play in the relatively new Segra Stadium. The team is the first Minor League team to play in Fayetteville since 2000 when the Cape Fear Crocs moved to New Jersey. The Woodpeckers were a part of a two-team expansion in the Carolina League which also included the Wood Ducks. During their first two seasons when they played at Campbell University they were known as the Buies Creek Astros. The Astros ended up signing a 30-year lease agreement with the City of Fayetteville in December of 2016 so the city can expect the team to play in the city for a very long time.
Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox)
The Cannon Baller brand has yet to hit a baseball field due to COVID-19 but is expected to play in their inaugural season as the Cannon Ballers this summer. The team was founded in 1995 as the Piedmont Boll Weevils and was later rebranded to the Kannapolis Intimidators because NASCAR driver Dale Sr. purchased a share of the team. Due to a change in ownership and naming rights issues with the Earnhardt family the team decided to rebrand to the Cannon Ballers which is a name that Kannapolis locals are able to relate to. The team has not seen much success winning only one league title in 2005 and a division title in 2017. When the team rebranded to the Intimidators they also gained a new long time Major League affiliation with the White Sox. The team will play in one of the newest ballparks in North Carolina this summer.