Dan Black was just another awestruck fan last week when he walked across the BB&T BallPark infield in the direction of Reggie Jackson, fresh baseball and pen in hand.
“(Jackson) kind of looked at me like, ‘Why are you coming over here, kid?’ ” Black said, “but he still signed my ball.”
On Saturday, Black again found himself face-to-face with the New York Yankees Hall of Famer-turned-special assistant, who was in town working with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
This time, however, their meeting came in the batting cage with advice and stories in lieu of autographs.
“It was neat,” said Black, who added White Sox special assistant Jim Thome was also present. “I got to sit in on a conversation with a couple of Hall of Famers about hitting, about the eras in which they played in, hear about a whole bunch of different guys, and soak up a good baseball moment for my personal life.”
Black went on to make his good day even better going 2-for-3 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored in a 7-0 Knights victory against the RailRiders in front of 9,665 fans.
The win was the fifth in a row for the Knights (43-58), who conclude the four-game series on Sunday.
Black’s big night came in support of Andre Rienzo (1-2), who shut out the RailRiders for five innings, striking out six and surrendering just one hit.
The start was Rienzo’s first since being reassigned to Charlotte by the Chicago White Sox on June 13. The native of Brazil went 4-5 with a 5.87 ERA in 11 starts in the majors.
In Black’s first trip to the plate, he laced a single up the middle.
On attempt No. 2, Black deposited a 2-1 fastball into the bleacher seats for a two-run home run to put the Knights on top 4-0 in the fourth inning. The home run was his sixth of the season in Class AAA play.
The game was Black’s first with the Knights since he suffered a rib injury that led to a strained oblique during a three-home run, seven-RBI game in Columbus on May 29.
“That was a rough couple of months,” Black said. “I took a few weeks off to just rehab it and get everything healthy, and now that I’m back everything seems to be going well. It’s nice to not be worried about how my body is going to feel day-to-day.”
Andy Wilkins (2-for-4) and Josh Phegley (2-for-4) also turned in multi-hit games for the Knights, who talled eight hits.
The Knights’ five-game winning streak is their longest since an eight-game tear in August of 2012, but it was the sitdown with Mr. October that will stay with Black long after the specifics of Saturday’s game are forgotten.
“It was just really cool to see a Hall of Famer come around some minor league guys and treat them with respect,” Black said. “He knows the struggles that we’ve gone through. I just really like those moments where you can just sit down with those guys and talk to them candidly.”
Notes: With Saturday’s attendance of 9,665, the Knights have now drawn more than 500,000 fans (501,262) to the uptown ballpark this season. They’ve averaged a Minor League Baseball-best 9,640 fans through 52 games.
South Atlantic League
Greensboro 6, Hickory 1: The host Grasshoppers scored three runs in the first inning to set the pace for the victory. Greensboro (64-36) outhit Hickory (57-42) only 10-9.
Kannapolis 8, Lakewood 4: The Intimidators started strong and finished strong to score the home win. Kannapolis scored one run in each of the first three inning and finished with a three-run eighth. Reliever Matt Abramson worked three innings for his first win of the season.
Saturday’s box score
E — Semien, Johnson. DP–Charlotte 2. LOB–Scranton/WB 4, Charlotte 7. 3B–Johnson. HR—Black. SF–Danks.
|Turley L, 0-2||5.0||5||4||4||1||6|
|De La Cruz||2.0||3||3||3||2||1|
|Rienzo W, 1-2||5.0||1||0||0||2||6|
|De Los Santos||1.0||1||0||0||0||0|
HBP-Semien (by Turley), Tuiasosopo (by Turley), Tuiasosopo (by De La Cruz).
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