CHARLOTTE, N.C. (News Release) — Former major leaguer, Wes Helms, a native of Gastonia, NC, has been named the new manager of the Charlotte Knights for the 2020 season.
Wes Helms will now join his uncle, Tommy Helms, as the only family members to manage the Charlotte Knights in franchise history. Tommy Helms, a Charlotte, NC native, managed the Knights during the 1990 season. He was inducted into the Charlotte Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.
Helms, the 22nd manager in franchise history, replaces Mark Grudzielanek, who managed the Knights for the past three seasons (2017-19). Last season, Grudzielanek became just the third manager in franchise history to accumulate 200 wins with the Knights. Grudzielanek, along with Steve McCatty (pitching coach), Frank Menechino (hitting coach), Guillermo Quiroz (assistant coach), and Josh Fallin (head athletic trainer) will not return to the Knights in 2020. The only returnee from last season’s coaching staff will be Shawn Powell (performance coach).
Joining Helms in Charlotte for the 2020 season will be newcomers Matt Zaleski (pitching coach), Howie Clark (hitting coach), Mike Daniel (coach), and Cory Barton (head athletic trainer). The Knights will open up the 2020 season on Thursday, April 9 in Durham, NC against the Durham Bulls. Opening Knight at BB&T Ballpark is set for Thursday, April 16 at 7:04 p.m.
Helms, a 1994 graduate of Ashbrook High School in Gastonia, NC, was inducted into the Gaston County Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 10th round of the 1994 MLB June Amateur Draft, Helms made his major league debut on September 5, 1998. Over the course of his career, he spent parts of 13 seasons in the majors with the Braves (1998, 2000-02), Milwaukee Brewers (2003-05), Florida Marlins (2006, 2008-11), and Philadelphia Phillies (2007). He compiled a career batting average of .256 with 694 hits, 75 home runs, and 374 RBIs over 1,212 big league games.
The 2020 season will mark the second overall campaign for Helms in the Chicago White Sox organization. He spent the 2019 season as a coach with the Double-A Birmingham Barons. Before that, he spent the 2018 season with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies organization) as their bench coach.
Zaleski, 38, will enter his first season with the Knights as pitching coach and fifth overall as a coach in Chicago’s organization in 2020. The Arlington Heights, IL native spent six seasons as a pitcher with the Knights from 2009-2014. On the mound, Zaleski appeared in 92 games with the Knights and is the all-time leader in franchise history in games started (74) and is second in franchise history in innings pitched (437.2). Overall, Zaleski appeared in a total of 316 games a minor league pitcher (2004-14). He began his coaching career in 2016 as pitching coach of Great Falls (Rookie) and spent last season as pitching coach with Winston-Salem (High-A).
Clark, a native of San Diego, CA, enters his first season with the Knights and first overall with in the White Sox system. Clark, 45, spent the past two seasons as assistant hitting coach with the Baltimore Orioles. As a player, Clark was originally drafted by the Orioles in the 27th round of the 1992 MLB Amateur Draft. He spent parts of six seasons in the majors with the Orioles (2002 & 2006), Toronto Blue Jays (2003-04, & 2007), and Minnesota Twins (2008).
Daniel, a product of South Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, enters his first season with the Knights and first overall in Chicago’s system. Originally drafted by the Washington Nationals in the seventh round of the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), Daniel, 35, spent seven seasons in the minors (2005-2011).
Barton, a native of McConnellsburg, PA, enters his 16th season in the White Sox system and first in Charlotte in 2020. He spent the previous two seasons (2018-19) with the Birmingham Barons in the same capacity. Before that, he worked with the AZL White Sox for four seasons (2014-17). Barton, 43, also served in the same capacity with Kannapolis (2013), Winston-Salem (2011-12), and Advanced Rookie Bristol (2005-10). He was named Appalachian League Trainer of the Year in 2007 and 2009
Powell, a native of Brighton, IL, enters his ninth season in Chicago’s system and fifth in Charlotte. Before joining the Knights for the 2016 season, the Western Illinois University product spent two seasons as the strength and conditioning coach with the Winston-Salem Dash (2015 and 2012). Before that, Powell spent time in the same capacity with Double-A Birmingham (2013-14). He has also worked for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors as a strength and conditioning consultant (2005-05) and the New York Yankees as a strength and conditioning coach (1989-99).
2020 Charlotte Knights Field Staff:
Manager: Wes Helms
Pitching Coach: Matt Zaleski
Hitting Coach: Howie Clark
Coach: Mike Daniel
Athletic Trainer: Cory Barton
Performance Coach: Shawn Powell
Season membership plans are on sale now and can be purchased online at charlotteknights.com, by phone at 704-274-8282, or in person at the BB&T Ballpark Ticket Office located at 324 S. Mint St. Single-game tickets for the upcoming season will go on sale at a later date.