|Kannapolis Cannon Ballers|
Founded in 1995
Kannapolis, North Carolina
|Minor league affiliations|
|League||Carolina League (2022–present)|
|Major league affiliations|
|Team||Chicago White Sox (2001–present)|
|Previous teams||Philadelphia Phillies (1995–2000)|
|Minor league titles|
|League titles (1)||2005|
|Division titles (1)||2017|
|Name||Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (2020–present)|
|Colors||Navy blue, red, light blue, gold, white|
|Ballpark||Atrium Health Ballpark (2020–present)|
|Intimidators Stadium (1995–2019)|
|Temerity Baseball, LLC|
|General manager||Matt Millward|
The Kannapolis Cannon Ballers are a Minor League Baseball team of the Carolina League and the Single-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. They are located in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and play their home games at Atrium Health Ballpark. The team was established in 1995 as the Piedmont Phillies. From 1996 to 2000, they were known as the Piedmont Boll Weevils. From 2001 to 2019, they were known as the Kannapolis Intimidators, after Kannapolis native NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, who was known as "The Intimidator," purchased a share of the team before the 2001 season.
The Cannon Ballers franchise moved to Kannapolis in 1995 from Spartanburg, South Carolina, where it had been a Class A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies since the franchise's beginning in 1963. Debate raged in the Kannapolis area over what to name the team, with team officials finally deciding to call the team the Piedmont Phillies for the 1995 season.
A name-the-team contest in the fall of 1995 drew thousands of entries, and the team settled on the boll weevil as the team's new mascot, indicative of Kannapolis's history as a textile mill town (Kannapolis natives are even called "lintheads"). The Piedmont Boll Weevils kept that mascot until after the 2000 season, when NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt purchased a share in the team's ownership. It was then that the name was changed to the Kannapolis Intimidators, in honor of Earnhardt's nickname. The team's logo was designed by Sam Bass, who has designed paint schemes and uniforms on many NASCAR, IndyCar, and NHRA race cars. It was also during that off-season that the team's parent club changed from the Phillies to the Chicago White Sox, making the Intimidators the third White Sox farm team to be located in the Carolinas, following the Charlotte Knights and the Winston-Salem Warthogs (now known as the Winston-Salem Dash).
Earnhardt, who drove the number 3 car in NASCAR, was killed in an accident at the Daytona 500 in February 2001. Following Earnhardt's death, the Intimidators avoided assigning the number 3 for team uniforms. Team manager Razor Shines, originally slated to wear the number, changed his uniform number to 43. The team officially retired number 3 on May 15, 2002, in memory of their former co-owner, similar to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim retiring the number 26 (the 26th man) in honor of former owner Gene Autry.
From 1995 to 2019, the team played in Intimidators Stadium (formerly Fieldcrest Cannon and later CMC-NorthEast Stadium) in Kannapolis. "The Cannon" was still under construction when the Piedmont Phillies began play in 1995. Upon completion in late 1995, during the winter, the stadium seated 4,700 fans. The stadium changed names on April 3, 2012, under a new naming rights agreement for the 2012 season. For 2016, the naming rights deal quietly ended, with the name reverting to Intimidators Stadium.
Current or former Major League Baseball players to pass through Kannapolis include Jimmy Rollins and Dave Coggin of the Philadelphia Phillies, as well as Jack Egbert, Gordon Beckham, Chris Getz, Brent Morel, and Clayton Richard of the Chicago White Sox. Marlon Byrd, Jorge Padilla, Ryan Madson, and Brett Myers played for the 2000 Piedmont Boll Weevils. Also, NFL running back Ricky Williams played for the Boll Weevils during the late 1996 and 1997 seasons while he was also playing college football for the University of Texas.
On October 30, 2018, ground was broken on a new ballpark in downtown Kannapolis as part of a mixed-use redevelopment plan. The stadium was scheduled to be ready for the team's 2020 season opener on April 16, 2020, but the Minor League season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The stadium quietly opened to fans in early May as a public park, following appropriate COVID-19 protocols.
With the move, the team announced in February 2019 that it would seek ideas for a new name to be introduced at the same time. The new owners cited their inability to widely market the Intimidator name due its association with Earnhardt, and trademark rights held by his estate. On October 23, 2019, the team unveiled its new identity as the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers. Team leadership looked for a name that reflected both the city's heritage and its association with auto racing. "Cannons" was among the most popular suggestions, which was refined into "Cannon Ballers" for a broader appeal. The mascot — a baseball-headed stuntman — has a mustache reminiscent of Earnhardt's. A public vote was held to determine the mascot's name, with "Boomer Baller" announced as the winner on January 15, 2020.
In conjunction with Major League Baseball's restructuring of Minor League Baseball in 2021, the Cannon Ballers were organized into the Low-A East. In 2022, the Low-A East became known as the Carolina League, the name historically used by the regional circuit prior to the 2021 reorganization.
Smith Family Baseball, owned by Illinois businessman Dale Smith and his son Brad (the team's President) bought the team from Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and motorsports magnate Bruton Smith in December 2004. Larry and Sue Hedrick, the owners who bought the Spartanburg Phillies in 1993 and eventually moved them to Kannapolis, retained a minority share of the team's ownership.
A group led by Reese L. Smith III announced the purchase of the Intimidators in 2015, subject to approval by the South Atlantic League, Minor League Baseball and the Commissioner of Baseball. The Kannapolis city council voted to transfer the lease of the stadium to Intimidators Baseball Club LLC.
The team was purchased by Temerity Baseball, LLC, following the 2018 season. Entrepreneur, lawyer and financial services expert Andy Sandler is the CEO and founder of Temerity Baseball.
The Spartanburg/Kannapolis franchise has appeared in four SAL championship series, winning two:
Baseball Hall of Fame alumni