Memories made: Through heartbreak, games have been big for Hawkins

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 18, 2019

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories on the Kannapolis Intimidators’ final season at the Moose Road stadium.

By Liz Moomey

KANNAPOLIS — April 8, 1995 was a day that changed Joe Hawkins’ life. It was his first game at the Intimidators Stadium.

That season, he would meet his future wife, Angela, who sold peanuts during the middle of the fifth inning.

Hawkins came to a game just to watch baseball as a passionate fan.

“Little did I know, that year, I would end up meeting my future wife, which would bring three children into my life,” Hawkins said.

Angela’s mom was working as a parking lot attendant and her aunt as a ticket taker. Now, two of Joe and Angela’s children, Jordan and Brooklyn, work in concessions.

“Three generations working at this stadium … that means so much to me,” he said.

In 2001, Hawkins was met head-on with another life-changer, as Angela died. Hawkins was unsure if he could could return for the 2002 season, but he did, and with compassion and care of other fans, he began the healing process. In addition, they invited Hawkins and his two oldest children, who were ages 3 and 4, to throw out a first pitch.

“It felt good to come back and watch baseball,” Hawkins said. “The really neat thing about it was people — I say this in a good way — didn’t feel sorry for me. It was therapeutic. They would say ‘We’re going to be here for you, Joe. We’re going to work through this together.’”

His late wife, the “peanut girl,” will be remembered as the Intimidators finish out their season at the Moose Road stadium and move to downtown Kannapolis.

“My wife will always be with me,” Hawkins said. “She’s always going to be with me. It’s something that I’m going to take with me.”

He said a piece of his heart will always be with Intimidators Stadium.

In 2013, Hawkins found love again. He decided in May 2016 that he was going to propose. Where? At an Intimidators game.

“Low and behold this guy named Joe came up with a really killer idea,” he said. “I said, you know what? I’m going to propose to her at the ball game.”

With the help of the on-field staff, Hawkins came up with a game plan. If his girlfriend, Connie, answered the question correctly — with a yes — she would receive a great prize.

“I pulled out a ring, got down on one knee and said will you marry me?” Hawkins said. “She said ‘absolutely.’ About 3,800 people were there that night and everybody exploded. They went crazy. That was one of those fist pump moments.”

Unbelievably, Hawkins once again was met with tragedy. In November of that same year, Connie died after a two-month fight with pneumonia.

Despite the sad memories that accompany Hawkins’ losses, he still enjoys the games, simply because of the people.

“It’s like a five-month family reunion,” Hawkins said. “We all show up in April and we spend the summer with each other.”

He said at the beginning of the season, new fans and staff members are complete strangers, but at the end of the season, they become part of his life.

“It’s such a family atmosphere around here, especially for those who have been coming for years and years and years,” Hawkins said.

Jordan Hawkins said coming to the games is a family affair. He said he’s excited to raise his kids at the Intimidators’ games, like his dad.

Joe Hawkins recalled when Jordan was 7 or 8 years old and looked up to a particular Kannapolis pitcher. At the end of the season, he hoped his son would be able to meet the player. Instead of shaking Jordan’s hand, the player reached over and gave the child a big hug.

“To have somebody like that really embrace him and tell him ‘I like you, you’re OK, you’re going to be good’ that really meant a lot to him,” Joe Hawkins said.

Joe Hawkins said his kids and he will take the memories they had with Angela for the rest of their lives.

He said he will hate to leave this place one last time on Aug. 29, but he will continue to go to games at the downtown stadium and looks forward to making new friends.

“Whenever they close up this place in two weeks — I’m going to be honest — whenever we go home, I don’t know what I’ll be feeling,” Joe Hawkins said. “But I’m excited for the new place.”

Jordan Hawkins said a lot of good memories are leaving the stadium and a lot of new memories will be coming to the new stadium. He is not sure if he’ll be in the concession stand or sitting with his dad on Aug. 29, but there is no way he is going to miss the final game, he said.