Creature of habit that I am, I enjoy all the beginnings that are a part of my two professions, whether it’s the start of a school year or a sports season.
Another season of Charlotte Knights baseball began for me tonight, and that always means interviewing new people. The Knights, the Class AAA affiiliate of the Chicago White Sox, have a new manager for the first time in three years.
Chris Chambliss, who played 17 major league seasons (1971-1988) for the Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, and Atlanta Braves, is the new skipper for the Knights. In covering the team, it’s not unusual for me to encounter people whom I remember well as players back in the day.
But my introduction to Chambliss was particularly unusual. After a rain-shortened 5-3 Knights victory over the Gwinnett Braves tonight, Knights staff member Patrick Stark took me down to the manager’s office for my first post-game interview with the new manager.
He said a brief hello, then before I could ask a question, he said, “Wait a minute. I’m up.”
I must have looked puzzled, as he then pointed to the television in his office, which was tuned to ESPN Classic. Sure enough, Chris Chambliss was on the screen, up at bat for the Yankees in a World Series game from either 1977 or 1978 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“That was when I was a lot skinnier,” he said. We asked him if he knew what the 31-years-younger version of himself was about to do in this particular at bat. He said no.
It was just a quirky moment, and to me, an example of what makes covering baseball so much fun.