“On Deck” takes you behind-the-scenes at Fieldcrest-Cannon Stadium and tells the story of the Kannapolis Intimidators as the team enters its 15th season.

Baseball has been a constant in Cabarrus and Rowan counties since the turn of the 20th century.

In the heyday of King Cotton, textile mill towns would field their own teams and play each other in the old Independent Carolina Baseball League. Teams from Concord, Kannapolis and the surrounding communities would hire ringer ball players to play baseball. This league operated outside the farm system set up by the major league owners at the time. It was dubbed “The Outlaw League.”

Baseball has thrived in the area through the high school teams and the American Legion posts that sponsor teams. A movement by local business and elected leaders in the 1990s wanted to bring a minor league baseball team to Kannapolis. The Intimidators were born as a single-A farm team that now is a part of the Chicago White Sox organization.

The team has gathered a respectable following among the locals in Kannapolis and Rowan County, but has always had the cloud of controversy hanging over it. What started out as a joint partnership between the City of Kannapolis and Rowan County to build, co-own and manage Fieldcrest-Cannon Stadium has turned into a political sticking point between the two governments.

The team also has been through several owners, including the late Dale Earnhardt (hence the moniker Intimidators). Smith Family Baseball owns the team now.

Through the years, Kannapolis has seen its share of hard times. In 2003, Pillowtex, formerly Cannon Mills, closed its doors and laid off 4,800 people. And in 2005, Dole Food Co. owner David Murdock created the North Carolina Research Campus, a life sciences partnership with the UNC system and Duke University, built on the old site of Cannon Mills.

While Rowan County has expressed interest in selling the stadium and getting out of the baseball business, Kannapolis and Rowan County are continuously negotiating on ownership of Fieldcrest-Cannon Stadium, with the hope that, one day, the city and Smith Family Baseball will purchase the stadium.

Through the changing times and political wrangling, the Intimidators continue to play. In 2005, the Intimidators won the South Atlantic League championship. The league, which is in its 105th year, hosts teams from Hickory, Asheville, Winston-Salem and all over the Southeast. At the heart of the league are the players, most of them in their mid to late 20s, and their dreams of, one day, playing in the Majors.

“On Deck” takes you behind-the-scenes at Fieldcrest-Cannon Stadium and tells the story of the Kannapolis Intimidators as the team enters its 15th season.

You’ll meet the young players and their managers as they slug it out at home and on the road for 140 games for the next five months. You’ll meet the staff of The Cannon as they maintain the stadium during the long season. And you’ll meet the fans, some of them die-hard, and always ready to cheer for their Intimidators.

About the authors
James Nix is the photographer for the Concord/Kannapolis Independent Tribune.
Ben McNeely is the Web reporter for the Concord/Kannapolis Independent Tribune.

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