South Charlotte

Ballantyne will field a baseball team

The wait to bring baseball to Charlotte is over.

It's not Major League Baseball, but the Southern Collegiate Baseball League is funded in part by MLB and offers college-age players a wood-bat summer league against top-notch competition.

The Ballantyne Smokies will begin their inaugural season in June 2012, and will play their home games at Ardrey Kell High School.

The summer league features players looking to increase their draft stock or get wood-bat experience.

The Smokies, formerly known as the Fort Mill Stingers, were founded in 1994 and moved to Fort Mill in 2007. They had played for a decade at Belmont Abbey College before moving their home games to Fort Mill High School, where they struggled to draw consistent crowds.

"We had a hard time finding support in Fort Mill," head coach and part-owner John Spencer said. "We saw an opportunity to move to Ballantyne and we took it."

The Smokies recently were sold by Bill Capps, commissioner of the SCBL and who still will own 10 percent of the team. He sold the team due to health issues and to better perform his job as league commissioner, according to the SCBL.

Spencer, John DeMaine and former major-leaguer Chad Tracy, a Charlotte native and West Mecklenburg High graduate, bought the team and will each own 30 percent.

Tracy played for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Florida Marlins and Chicago Cubs during his seven-year career, which ended in 2010. The lifetime .278 hitter's best year came in 2005 with Arizona, where he hit 27 home runs, added 72 RBI's and hit .308.

Tracy played briefly for the Stingers while attending East Carolina University.

Last year's team featured players from all over the country. Most were from local colleges, including Lenoir-Rhyne, Winthrop, the Citadel, Presbyterian, Gardner-Webb and UNC Pembroke.

Several former Charlotte-area high school stars were on the roster, including Danny Yelverton (Weddington High, Gardner-Webb), Ashton Lover (Ardrey Kell, Louisburg College), Robert Balsley (Myers Park, Sury Community College), Greg Lawson (Providence, Catawba College) and Ben Boykin (Nation Ford High School, Spartanburg Methodist).

The team will play a 42-game schedule from the beginning of June through the end of July. Last year they finished 21-21.

The Smokies say moving the team to Ballantyne will have a positive impact on revenue and attendance.