When the Charlotte Knights visited the Lehigh Valley IronPigs last weekend, the Knights weren’t just visiting to play baseball. They were there for a reunion.
For parts of five seasons, IronPigs outfielder Jordan Danks played for Charlotte. But this past offseason, after being dropped from the Chicago White Sox’s 40-man roster, he was claimed off waivers by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Danks has stuck to his usual routine for the past couple of months, waking up and playing baseball. But his former ballclub’s arrival made him reminisce.
“It was a little bit of a refresher,” said Danks of seeing his former teammates. “Kind of like when your family comes into town and you feel a little bit close to home and not so homesick anymore.”
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Danks will officially cure his homesickness this weekend, as he and the IronPigs visit Charlotte for the first time this season and for the first time since his departure. The Knights won the series opener Friday, 7-5.
Drafted by the White Sox in the seventh round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Danks – whose older brother, John, is a starting pitcher for Chicago – bounced back and forth between the Knights and the big league club from 2010 to 2014. But it was in Charlotte where he had the most success.
Despite hitting just .227 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs in 180 games with Chicago, Danks left the Knights as the franchise’s all-time leader in hits, games played and four other statistical categories.
“You can just learn from watching him,” said Knights outfielder Trayce Thompson, who has replaced Danks as Charlotte’s primary center fielder. “He’s just so smooth in the outfield. Of all the spring trainings we spent together, seeing him take infield, I don’t think I saw him miss one single ball.
“He’s an awesome outfielder, and he’s a good hitter, too. I feel like his defense almost overshadows his hitting because he’s so good out there.”
While Danks’ success as a player with the Knights is documented in the team’s record book, it’s his impact in the clubhouse that Charlotte second baseman Drew Garcia noted as the most noticeable absence since Danks left.
Known for having an extensive stash of movie quotes he can cite for any given situation or teammate as well as being someone any player within the organization could talk to, Danks kept the Knights’ clubhouse loose and was there for his teammates.
“He was always just a good player and a good teammate. Those are the kinds of people that stick around,” Garcia said. “You want to keep them in your organization as long as you can.
“I think the White Sox liked him as a person and him as a player, and that’s what everybody in the clubhouse and the fans could see that that’s what he was.”
Entering Friday’s game, Danks was batting .264 with one home run and 19 RBIs in 41 games with the IronPigs. He’s slowly adjusted to playing in Allentown, Pa., and with a new team. But he knows that sitting in the visitors dugout at BB&T BallPark this weekend will be a different experience.
“(Baseball) is a game of adjustments,” Danks said. “Everybody has to make them.”
James: 704-358-5118; Twitter: @patjames24