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DNC delegates to play ball at Knights Stadium

Delegates to the Democratic National Convention will get the chance to hit and field at Knights Stadium in the Fort Mill area - and the proceeds will benefit children's hospitals in Charlotte and Chicago.

It's the fifth straight time delegates, especially those who love baseball, get the chance to test their athletic abilities. It is the first time, however, they will do it at a minor-league ballpark.

"This is the first time at a AAA ballpark. We're impressed with the venue. It's a great place to entertain," said LeeAnn Petersen, founder of Convention Sports and Entertainment Group. Previous sites were Wrigley Field in Chicago, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Fenway Park in Boston and Coors Field in Denver.

The event is one of a number that likely will take place in York County, said Bennish Brown, executive director of the York County Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

"The good news is other events are coming here, the things we expected," Brown said. But, because of confidentially agreements with venues, "we don't have a lot of details."

The event at Knights Stadium is private and not open the public. The event is not affiliated with either the Democratic National Committee or the host Charlotte committee.

Petersen expects between 800 to 1,000 people to attend what she describes as a "open house style event." In addition to the baseball there will food and entertainment.

Because the Knights are the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, the Illinois congressional delegation has been invited to host the event, she said.

Dan Rajkowski, general manager of the Knights, said the team was approached about the event the week after Charlotte was officially selected for the 2012 convention.

He said the club will charge a "small rental" for the facility, but benefits of hosting the event are the prestige and helping children.

Levine Children's Hospital of Charlotte and Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago will share in the proceeds. Levine was selected, Petersen said, because it one of the organizations the Knights support.

The Knights' regular season ends with a two-game homestand against the Durham Bulls on Sept. 2 and 3, Labor Day. Rajkowski said he hopes the team can work with the convention to attract early arriving delegates and guests to those games.

Should the Knights have a stellar season, the AAA playoffs would begin on that Wednesday, Sept. 5. If the Knights don't make the playoffs, Rajkowski said it is possible some of the team's players could pitch batting practice.

Petersen said retired major-league players have attended the event. In 2008, Steve Garvey, the former Los Angeles Dodger star, was the master of ceremonies at Coors Field in Denver.

U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., a former University of Tennessee quarterback, knocked one out of the park at Coors Field. Petersen hopes Shuler, who announced he will not seek re-election, tries his luck at Knights Stadium.

The Fort Mill-area ballpark would present Shuler with a different set of challenges from the rarified air of Coors Field, which has a reputation as a home-run park.