Cannon Ballers help local community progress
To get from the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta to the home of the Cannon Ballers in Kannapolis, North Carolina, you’ll spend most of the four-hour drive on I-85. About 30 minutes past Charlotte, take exit 58 and follow signs for downtown Kannapolis. Then, appropriately, you’ll
To get from the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta to the home of the Cannon Ballers in Kannapolis, North Carolina, you’ll spend most of the four-hour drive on I-85.
About 30 minutes past Charlotte, take exit 58 and follow signs for downtown Kannapolis. Then, appropriately, you’ll cross town on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.; a few turns later, you’ll arrive at Atrium Health Ballpark.
It’s at 1 Cannon Baller Way where the Single-A affiliate of the White Sox hosted the second annual MLK Dream Day on Saturday, a celebration of the Kannapolis community working toward the common goal of advancing an emergingly diverse population.
“Dream Day is part of a bigger campaign, basically a weekend celebration in our county,” Cannon Ballers general manager Matt Millward said. “It’s really about bringing the community together for a fun and educational event.”
On the fun side, children in attendance enjoyed a playground, bounce house, and activities like face painting and balloon sculpting; a canned food drive saw the exchange of non-perishable items for a fish fry meal.
The educational aspects included a health and wellness corridor, with local medical professionals promoting awareness of anxiety and depression awareness, the importance of nutrition and fire safety habits, in addition to the administering of COVID-19 vaccines.
Representatives from more than 30 local businesses set up tables that lined the ballpark’s concourse to sell various products. Twenty more organizations, most of them minority-owned, participated in an informational business fair on the upper level.
“Minus the cold weather, it’s an incredible event with a ton of different things to do,” Millward said. “It really brings our community together and brings awareness to the different programs that are available -- the non-profits that are out there, small businesses in our region and shining a light on them.”
But the reason for the timing of Saturday’s gathering was the preservation of the life and legacy of Dr. King, whose birthday on Sunday will be celebrated once again as a national holiday on Monday. Kannapolis mayor M. Darrell Hinnant gave opening remarks on the field, before a performance of the Negro National Anthem and an oratorical reading from local high school students.
Each year’s event also carries a theme, inspired by historical texts that are crucial to the history of civil rights in the United States. The inaugural event in 2022 was based around Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which the Cannon Ballers honored with a video presentation of community members reciting the speech and the commission of a mural.
This year’s theme: "Dreams," a poem by Langston Hughes. Once again, the team filmed a video and began painting a new mural at Saturday’s event.
Last year’s event saw more than 1,000 people drop in throughout the day. Millward said he hoped that number would nearly double this year.
After years of smaller events and marches through Kannapolis and the neighboring city of Concord, the Cannon Ballers used a strong relationship with the Cabarrus County branch of the NAACP to utilize the Atrium Health Ballpark facilities to host a larger, more creative event.
“When they brought that to my attention my wheels started spinning and I knew we needed to get involved,” Millward said. “It truly is a community effort. I would love to say it’s all us, but it’s a true partnership from our NAACP president, local pastors, I’ve got a barber down the street that gets really involved -- you name it."
Jacob Resnick is a contributor for MiLB.com.