Cannonball Charlie says bittersweet farewell to York Revolution

Thomas Kendziora
York Dispatch

Cannonball Charlie saluted the crowd from his longtime perch in right center field. He stood tall in his colonial attire, blue coat and yellow breeches topped by a tricorne hat. He turned to his left and fired the cannon, a York Revolution tradition that always startles the unprepared but elicits cheers from the masses.

On Saturday night, however, this sequence carried a world of extra emotion. After 15 seasons in Cannonball’s Corner, it was Charlie’s final baseball game in uniform. The man who normally carries out this act in the middle of the first inning with a stern, battle-ready face did so fighting back tears.

Jason Kreiger, of York, the man behind the cannon, has been a staple at PeoplesBank Park since the Revolution came to the city in 2007 as an expansion team in the independent Atlantic League. He assumed the Cannonball Charlie moniker in the summer of the team’s first season, and he spent the next decade and a half creating an unforgettable character and leaving a lasting legacy.

“In this town, Cannonball Charlie is synonymous with baseball and this team in particular,” said Doug Eppler, the Revolution’s marketing director and in-game host. “If you’re a fan and you hear that term, you think of Revolution games, you think of home run blasts, you think of victory blasts. If you're a staff person at PeoplesBank Park, you think of just one of the nicest guys in the world.”

Eppler, decked in bright green for Saturday’s “Halfway to Saint Paddy’s Day” theme, stood alongside Charlie for a special tribute at the end of the first inning. He asked everyone in the stands to express their gratitude with a collective salute. And Charlie, with his eyes welling up, returned the gesture.

Cannonball Charlie saluting the crowd during his farewell at the York Revolution baseball game in York on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022

“There’s not too many jobs where you get to watch baseball, play with gunpowder and make an impact on people’s lives,” Kreiger said. “It tugs at my heartstrings. It really does.”


Kreiger, a lifelong baseball fan, knew he wanted to be involved in some way with the York Revolution when they came to town. He interviewed with the team but never heard good news, so he became a season-ticket holder instead. And when Greg Vojtanik, then the team’s marketing director, sat next to him at a game and said a position might be open, Kreiger had no idea what was coming.

The next day, he learned how to fire the cannon. Safe operation remains a hallmark of the job, and Kreiger undergoes training every year of his own volition. Kreiger already had the long hair and the beard that helped define the character, and he was always able to pull off the seriousness of a Revolutionary War soldier when the moment demanded. 

But Cannonball Charlie’s influence ultimately stretched far beyond the role at the ballpark and far beyond what anyone in the organization could have imagined.

“I can’t emphasize enough that this is not a case where a baseball team went out and hired a consultant to figure all this stuff out,” team president Eric Menzer said. “The team had a cannon it wanted fired, and it was Charlie himself — it was Jason himself — who created the character, not management. 

“Jason is not an actor. He is Cannonball Charlie.”

Charlie’s traditional American flag wave, salute and cannon fire occurred in the middle of the first inning, before the Revs batted for the first time. He also blasted the artillery to celebrate each Revolution home run, doing so right as the hitter crossed home plate. The team plays DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” after securing home victories; when T-Pain says “everybody’s hands go up” and the music stops, the cannon fires one more time.

York hit two home runs but faltered in the late innings Saturday against the High Point Rockers, losing 8-6. Charlie’s final blast came on a Troy Stokes Jr. home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Revs, already out of playoff contention before the weekend, closed their season with a 9-3 win the following day, but the cannon stays silent on Sundays as the team hosts Bark in the Park. 

Fans paid visits to Cannonball’s Corner throughout Saturday’s game, the culmination of a monthslong farewell parade. Charlie took pictures, gave hugs and even played catch. It was a fitting final night for a man who always tried to tailor his character to whatever audience was in front of him.

“I try to make it as fun and as enjoyable to everybody [as possible],” Kreiger said. “Whether it’s a kid or adult, you have to be approachable. You have to be able to talk about baseball and answer the same questions two or three times a night from kids.”

Whether those kids knew him as Charlie or thought he was George Washington, they always seemed to walk away with a smile.

Cannonball Charlie's farewell at the York Revolution baseball game in York on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022


For the last 15 years, Kreiger showed a venerable commitment not only to the character but to the impact he could have with it. Since his second season, he’s made appearances in costume at local libraries and schools, reading stories about baseball and relating them to kids. He even developed a Cannonball Charlie coloring book.

Kreiger said one of the most rewarding aspects of the job was seeing kids at games that he had met during these appearances. And his longevity in the position allowed him to become a fixture of many childhoods.

“It's so cool that this guy is willing to extend himself this way, to play this role with this organization and in his town,” Menzer said. “Maybe it was the coloring book and realizing that he had taken the initiative to do that, that was really the first time I remember thinking, that’s just not something that we should ever take for granted. That’s really special.”

Sanai Brown, on left, and Alexis Arugunes, on right, both from York, getting a picture with Cannonball Charlie during his farewell at the York Revolution baseball game in York on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022

Cannonball Charlie made appearances both with the team and independently, sometimes with the cannon and sometimes without. Kreiger simply wasn’t one to pass on the chance to make somebody’s day better.

“He’s up for whatever,” Eppler said. “So many things that have nothing to with baseball and even things that have nothing to do with the cannon, he’s still one of the first people to raise his hand and say, ‘Yeah, I can help with that.’”

The cannon has been used to start 5K races and been stationed at charity golf tournaments, where it can launch a player’s tee shot onto the green for an additional donation. But a particularly shining moment Kreiger and so many others took place on July 4 this year, when the York Symphony Orchestra played at the stadium and Charlie’s cannon became part of Tchaikovsky’s "1812 Overture."

Kreiger credits the orchestra’s conductor, Lawrence Golan, for knowing from the music score when the cannon needed to be fired. Charlie tallied about a half-dozen blasts when he and the orchestra practiced together the night before, but he met the moment to fire nearly 30 times in a memorable performance.

“It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it now,” Menzer said. “That, I would have to say, is my most memorable Cannonball Charlie moment. And I’ll refrain from saying he went out with a bang.”


Kreiger will surely have more time to just be Jason in a post-cannonball world. He recently became engaged to Laura Bosley, whom he met while she was an usher for the Revolution. The couple started dating five years ago and has a basset hound, Petunia, who’s become a Bark in the Park regular.

As a day job, Kreiger worked at York College as an earth and space science lab assistant before the course was eliminated in 2020. Earlier this year, he started a new job as a jack of all trades at a local flower shop. He knows he’ll continue to be recognized wherever he goes, from the ballpark to the grocery store; he’s even been spotted by a former Revs colleague at an East Coast Hockey League game in South Carolina.

When Cannonball Charlie announced his impending retirement in June, Eppler said it was a “no-brainer” for the Revolution to retire the character. While the cannon will stay, the successor — or multiple successors — will carry a new identity rather than face the impossible task of duplicating Kreiger’s persona.

“In professional sports, you retire somebody’s jersey because of what they’ve meant to the sport or to the team,” Eppler siad. “This is us retiring his jersey, albeit in the form of his name.”

Cannonball Charlie at his farewell at the York Revolution baseball game in York on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022

The Revs remain in the process of planning a permanent Cannonball Charlie tribute as the offseason approaches. Menzer said the team didn’t want to rush something so important amid the busyness of a baseball season, but the Revs will have a tribute and successor(s) in place by Opening Day 2023.

Kreiger isn’t disappearing completely — he still loves baseball and all the people and moments it’s brought him. But he knew it was time to make the change, as bittersweet as that would be.

“I want to pay it forward, and I want to give somebody else the opportunity to have as much fun and have as much community impact as I have been privileged to have over the last 15 years,” Kreiger said. “I'm not going to be a stranger to PeoplesBank Park. I will still come around as a fan. I will still train the successor because that's going to be my peace — knowing that the cannon is in good hands.”

The cannon will keep firing. The people and relationships will remain intact. And the memories will last a lifetime.

“From 2007 to now, everybody that has come to a game or that I’ve seen in community appearances, they’re a part of my life,” Kreiger said. “I’m thankful every day, and I feel so lucky.”