Charlotte Knights

New Charlotte Knights manager vows to be aggressive in producing runs

Charlotte Knights new manager Julio Vinas

Charlotte Knights introduces new manager Julio Vinas .
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Charlotte Knights introduces new manager Julio Vinas .

New Charlotte Knights manager Julio Vinas has heard about BB&T BallPark’s reputation as a hitter’s field, with plenty of home runs flying over the fences since it opened two years ago.

But when the Knights’ batters aren’t connecting this season, Vinas expects the team to generate runs in other ways.

“When we’re swinging the bats well, I’m going to let the guys swing the bats,” Vinas said during his introductory news conference Monday. “But I’m very aggressive as a manager – you’re going to see a lot of stealing, a lot of hit and runs, a lot of little things to try and manufacture runs.”

Vinas, named manager of the Chicago White Sox’s Triple-A affiliate in January, is one of the rising stars in the White Sox’s minor league coaching ranks.

Since he joined the organization in 2011, the 43-year-old Vinas has managed three minor league teams – at High-A Winston-Salem in 2011, at Class A Kannapolis in 2012, and the past three seasons at Class AA Birmingham (Ala.).

In 2013, his first year at Birmingham, Vinas led the Barons to the Southern League championship, and even spent the final two weeks of the 2014 season with the White Sox as a coach.

“I also managed in winter ball for many years – five years in Colombia and three years in Venezuela,” Vinas said. “Every year, I had about 9-10 big leaguers. I’m aware of how to handle big leaguers.”

Along the way, Vinas – who spent 11 years in the minors with four teams after being taken by the White Sox in the 33rd round of the 1991 draft – has made his mark, and learned a few things about managing players.

“The game doesn’t really change much; it’s just dealing with the different personalities,” Vinas said. “Thankfully, I’m a people person – I get along with everybody. Hopefully that’ll continue.

“But you’re going to see me battling for the guys. I fight for my players. I back up our players, so you might see me get tossed a couple times.”

I know the (Chicago) White Sox want us to have a competitive team out here and win this year, so that’s what we’re going to try and do – win a championship for Charlotte.

Julio Vinas, new manager of Charlotte Knights

In the past four seasons, the Knights had two winning years (2012 and 2015) behind former manager Joel Skinner, who is at Winston-Salem this season. Charlotte’s last postseason appearance came in 2012, when it lost in the International League’s championship series.

Vinas wants this year’s Knights to do better than that.

“I know the (Chicago) White Sox want us to have a competitive team out here and win this year, so that’s what we’re going to try and do – win a championship for Charlotte,” Vinas said.

“It deserves one. It was a great year for football; hopefully, it’ll be a great year for baseball as well.”

Busy at BB&T BallPark: The Knights’ management has more to prepare for this season than just the start of their International League home schedule April 14 against the Durham Bulls.

Five college games will be played at BB&T BallPark this year, and the facility will serve as host of the 2016 Triple-A All-Star Game on July 11-13.

The Charlotte 49ers will host three games at BB&T BallPark – against Georgia on March 8, N.C. State on March 29 and Winthrop on April 5. South Carolina will play North Carolina on April 12, and Wake Forest will play Appalachian State on April 26.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Dan Rajkowski, Knights executive vice president. “We said early on, ‘We want the lights kept on in this building as much as we can.’ That means going after events like that.

“But the All-Star Game is a premiere thing for Charlotte. It’s not at the level of the major leagues, but we’re going to have executives and players from all over the country here. It’s a lot of work, but that’s OK.”

Single-game tickets on sale: Advance sales for single-game tickets for the Knights’ 2016 season will begin Saturday.

The ticket office at BB&T BallPark will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday for in-person sales, and from noon to 2 p.m. for phone orders. The Knights’ ticket office is also open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Advance tickets, which have a $2 discount from game-day purchases, can also be bought online at beginning at noon Saturday.