When the Charlotte Knights take the field Saturday evening at BB&T Ballpark, fans in attendance might notice something a bit odd.
That’s because the minor league team will be sporting Charlotte Pitmasters logos – for one game.
The idea sprouted first from David Ruckman, the Knights’ vice president of entertainment, last fall as the club was looking into promotion options.
“We survey the landscape to see what other teams are doing,” Egan said. “A couple of other clubs have done some food-related promotions for foods unique to their area and we thought, ‘Why not us?’”
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In April, the Knights unveiled the Pitmasters name, logo and uniforms, designed to honor the Carolinas’ storied barbecue. On Saturday, the orange-tinged uniforms, featuring a pulled pork sandwich character named Smokey, will make their debut in a game against the Gwinnett Braves.
“We’ll always be proud to be the Charlotte Knights,” said Rob Egan, the Knights’ general manager of baseball operations. “But for one night this season, we’re thrilled to honor BBQ lovers all across the Carolinas with this unique new brand. We hope that our fans enjoy the new design and get behind this special theme night.”
The team began preorders for New Era and 39Thirty hats ($32 and $28) and t-shirts ($20) with the Pitmasters logo in April. Since then, it has sent Pitmasters merchandise to 35 states, including over 200 hats and over 150 shirts. The team also began selling the gear in its team store on June 18. Even Carolina Panthers star tight end Greg Olsen, who endorses New Era, came in to buy a hat.
“It was great because (Olsen) can wear it and not get in trouble with his contract,” said Ryan Petrere, Knights Merchandise Manager.
Game-worn, autographed jerseys will be available for fans through an auction on Saturday, with all proceeds benefiting Charlotte Knights Charities.
Barbecue restaurant Queen City Q, a partner of the Knights, will offer a menu of three different styles of BBQ sliders at the game. Fans can vote on their favorite styles with a chance to win prizes from Queen City Q. NoDa Brewing Company will also sell a Pitmaster Smoked Wheat beer on gameday.
The Knights are among the leaders in Minor League Baseball attendance, with an average of 8,827 fans a game so far this year. If all goes well, Egan hopes to bring back the Pitmasters for a game next season.
“That’s our intent,” Egan said. “We’re curious to see what happens on Saturday. I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t bring it back next year; it’s a brand that we want to bring back occasionally.”