Zach Remillard’s call-up may prove to be the feel-good story of the year for the Charlotte Knights.
The news caught just about everyone by surprise last Thursday, but the excitement spread rapidly as the news trickled out. A fellow member of the media called me, a friend from the press box texted me, and word got all around Twitter.
After Tim Anderson left a June 17 contest against Seattle due to injury, Remillard stepped up big when the White Sox needed a spark.
He then played hero for the night.
Remillard’s story is one of perseverence and mental toughness. It feels a lot like Jake Burger’s comeback story in Charlotte of 2021.
A 10th round draft pick of the White Sox in 2016, the Coastal Carolina product first reached Triple-A in 2021 when he hit an anemic .193 in 269 at bats. A year later, Remillard was a different player, with a .280 batting average and a .373 OBP.
When I asked him what prompted the turnaround, he said the answer could fill a book. But basically, Remillard said, he did a lot of soul-searching in the off-season about his goals of becoming a professional baseball player and then re-doubled his efforts — in the batting cage and between the ears — to make it happen.
But his stats only tell part of the story. He is uber-versatile, having already played every position this season but pitcher and catcher. He is often referred to having very high baseball IQ. He’s exactly the guy you want up late in the game when you need a baserunner. He’s not afraid to take a walk, and he’ll gladly drop down a bunt if it’ll help the team, as we saw in Saturday’s game.
The conventional wisdom was that he’d be the last man off Chicago’s bench and playing time would be minimal. But Remillard’s sensational debut may have changed that.
Regardless, the White Sox have finally acknowledged there’s a place for the grit, hustle and determination that those of us in Charlotte have long observed.
Remillard’s call-up reminds me of last year’s feel-good story: Mark Payton’s call-up. Payton had a season for the ages in Charlotte but didn’t get summoned to Chicago until September.
The evening that the Payton rumor surfaced, I recall getting an unexpected late-night message from one of Payton’s teammates asking me if I had gotten confirmation yet of the call-up. We didn’t find out for sure until the next morning, but there was palpable exuberance at batting practice that afternoon. Payton was beloved by his teammates, much like Remillard this year.
At last, Remilliard’s pro clock is ticking.
Reyes Remains Mired in Charlotte
Billy Hamilton got called up to Chicago ahead of Victor Reyes. So did Jake Marisnick, Adam Haseley and Clint Frazier.
There was logic to most of the decisions at the time. Hamilton had to be called up or released, Haseley was swinging it well and on the 40-man roster, and Frazier was scorching hot. (As far as Marisnick, well, your guess is as good as mine.)
All the while, Reyes kept on hitting.
His batting average has consistently been at or above .300 all year. He leads the Knights with 56 RBIs in just 61 games, and also is tops on the team with 14 home runs as of June 18. He’s a switch hitter with over 1,200 MLB at bats.
I didn’t understand it last year when Mark Payton didn’t get a call-up till the season was almost over, and I don’t understand why Reyes keeps getting jumped in the queue.
But I don’t know what goes on in the locker room. Nor do I have access to the analytics that tell the true story of a player’s season. But I can’t deny what I see on the field every day in Charlotte, either.
Knights Reaching Mid-Season Point
The Knights stand at 32-37, with just six games remaining in the first half of the season. After that, a first-half winner is declared, records are wiped clean and teams start the second half of the season in a new pennant race at 0-0.
The Knights flirted with a .500 record all year, only to see any realistic chance slip away two weeks ago with 5 losses at Gwinnett. Admirably, the Knights split six games this past week in Durham, and finishes with six at home versus Louisville. The Bats are 7 games above .500, in third place in the Western Division of the International League.
So, mathematically, I guess, there’s still a chance. Though, the starting rotation is a bit of a mess: Davis Martin is hurt, Jesse Scholtens is in Chicago, John Parke is getting knocked around as he shakes off the rust from two months on the IL, and Sean Burke continues working on improving his consistency.