The midnight oil seems to have been burning late into the night sky on almost every night for the last couple of months in Charlotte. GM Jesse Stollings, Assistant GM Zach Bowden, Scout Matt Dorey and a newcomer to the war room, Jesse’s brother, CBL veteran and current Manger of the Rookie Lexington Blowfish, Jerry seemed to be discussing plans for conquering Mars, but instead, they were trying to figure out how to get the foundering ship known as the Charlotte Knights steadied and headed in the right direction.

Owner Tony Perez had given the group a deep war chest to go out and bring in some new talent, over $70 million to lure teams to the Launch Pad. The top target was CF Frank Gallagher. After a skyrocketing bidding war Frank signed on the dotted line as he became a vital part of the long-term plans by signing the 5 year, $25.9 million a year deal. But after the elation of that success, there were a string of FA failures, RP Jim Attkisson, lost to Colorado, SP Luis Brisita, lost to Fargo and probably the most frustrating of all, CL Artie Cooper lost to the Millers.

An unnamed source confirmed there was a very heated exchange between Tony and Jesse after losing out on those top targets. Perez made it very clear that he was not pleased with how Stollings had made some tactical choices that meant the Knights lost out on all of those players. But Tony seemed to show his pleasure as the Knights were able to secure the services of SP Hsin-pei Chiang, the 26 year old from Taiwan. When asked about how the team did during Free Agency, Stollings stated he would have given them a B-. “We started out strong, but there were some other players that we missed out on that made us re-evaluate how we were going to set things up.” Perez was more direct, “After Gallagher, we went 0’fer. I could accept losing out on 1 or even 2 of the others, but not all 3. I am going to be having a talk with our management team. I am a patient man, but that was not acceptable.”

Spring Training was not a page turner. The Knights showed explosions of brilliance followed by the more numerous flickers of failure. The biggest loss was 22 year old Closer Dan Bradford. He had a strong start in his new home after being acquired in the off-season in a trade with Manchester. Then part way through the regular season warm-up, he suffered a season ending injury. Team Trainer Lucio Santiago delivered the devastating news that he was going to be out for 12-13 months after suffering a partially torn UCL. “It is all up to him now, how much he follows the rehab schedule how much effort he puts into it” Santiago said when asked about the injury.

As the lights go down on the Spring Training campaign for the 2037 season the hard work begins for Stollings as he has to go through all of the data, look at all of the film and solidifies the roster. Some of the conversations are going to be pleasant surprises for the players as they are told they will be joining the Knights for the start of the upcoming season, while others are told they are not quite there and are being sent down to the Winston to try to improve their skills. While others, they are being told that maybe it is time for them to look for a new home as they will be shopped around for possible trade partners.

The start of the 2037 season holds the expectation that this may be the start of something great again in Charlotte. Is this the year we finally see fireworks in the stadium or will this be another year of broken dreams and periodic whiz-bangs that start with so much potential and disappoint with the final result?

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