KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (WBTV) - We’re now within five days of that long-awaited first pitch being thrown out in Kannapolis. The COVID-19 pandemic pulled the plug on the Minor League baseball season just as the new, multi-million Atrium Health Ballpark was finished and ready for play last year.
Even without baseball, city leaders say the downtown development project where the city bought 55 acres of property and opened it up to developers, has been a homerun, and the ballpark is the centerpiece.
“It’s been a huge level of excitement waiting for this day, unfortunately we had to wait more than a year to do it,” said Kannapolis City Manager Mike Legg. “It has tremendous impact on our community, on our downtown effort, can’t understate the value that this facility has to the revitalization of our center city core.”
“We still have a long list of things we want to get accomplished before Tuesday, so we’ll be up all day and all night getting that done, but we’re super excited,” said Matt Millward, General Manager of the Cannon Ballers. “The buzz is building, starting to get anxious, a little bit nervous, I shouldn’t say nervous, but just excited for all the hard work we’ve put in.”
There have already been college baseball games and a high school game here. Those games showed ballpark staff what changes might be needed before the first Cannon Ballers game.
“We noticed some lines on the concourse, so all we had to do was reconfigure our cues a little bit, make our lines flow a little bit quicker,” Millward added.
City leaders are ready, ballpark staff is ready, what about the team? The players for the Cannon Ballers haven’t been on the filed yet, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t gotten a good look at it.
“I’ve probably done about a dozen or so of past Intimidator players who have Facetimed me and I’ve walked throughout the clubhouse…they’ve even told me, if I get dinged up or nicked up and have to go down to Kannapolis, this is going to be fun,” said Trevor Wilt, Broadcasting and Baseball Operations Manager for the Cannon Ballers.
Wilt also pointed out something else they’ve learned from hosting college and high school games. “Left field is a home run alley and it looks like the ball is flying out in left field a lot, people can expect a lot of home runs, that left field berm, it needs to be filled up,” Wilt said. “Those little boxes that we drew out, spent a lot of time on those, it’s going to be a great spot to catch a home run as well.”