New fields luring more spring training tournaments to Myrtle Beach area

dbryant@thesunnews.comMarch 10, 2014 

NMB Park & Sports Complex Opens

Softball teams competing in the Fastpitch Dreams Spring Classic take the field during the soft opening of the North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex.

CHARLES SLATE — cslate@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

The Grand Strand has more fields than ever to host softball and baseball spring training tournaments this year, with several kicking off the season last week despite the less-than-favorable cold and rain.

Players christened new fields at the North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex -- which just opened March 1 -- while the new Crosley Field at The Ripken Experience-Myrtle Beach also had its first action. Players also kept the fields in Myrtle Beach at Grand Park busy.

The Grand Strand has been a go-to place for some spring training teams for years because the weather usually cooperates (though that wasn’t the case last week) and it’s a shorter trip for many of them than traveling all the way to Florida, officials said. With the additional fields opening, expect to see even more players along the Grand Strand this time of year.

“Overall the trend for spring training along the Grand Strand is increasing,” said Tim Huber, the sports tourism manager for the city of Myrtle Beach.

At Ripken last week, players christened the new $1.2 million Crosley Field, the complex’s fourth 90-foot diamond for ages 13 and up that is modeled after the home of the Cincinnati Reds from 1912 to 1970 .

With the extra field, Ripken has booked 100 more teams for its college and high school spring training than it did last year, said Bobby Holland, general manager of the complex off U.S. 17 Bypass near Mr. Joe White Avenue.

The number of spring training teams at Ripken has skyrocketed since the complex first offered it in 2007, growing from 26 college baseball, high school baseball and high school softball teams that year to 330 teams this year, he said.

“We have been open since Presidents Day and have had an 18 [and under] baseball tournament, Division 2 college baseball tournament and will be hosting and have been hosting about 80 college baseball teams before we see high schools roll in [in] late March,” Holland said. “They traditionally and predominantly are teams from the northeast, Midwest and also west and come to Myrtle Beach to Ripken to utilize our training facilities as some of them haven’t even been outside yet because of the weather up there.”

But the rain along the Grand Strand threw a curveball at the tournaments starting mid-day Thursday. Ripken squeezed in all of its games as of Thursday morning but was expected to shuffle some games Friday with more rain on its way.

At Grand Park last week, softball teams from places such as North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio had signed up for the Snowbird Spring Training college games, part of a softball and lacrosse event that’s been played in Myrtle Beach for a number of years.

“Aside from this weather, things are well,” Huber said Tuesday when temperatures hovered in the 30s. “It is interesting to hear the visiting parents from places like Pittsburgh comment that even a day like today is still great compared to 0 degrees at home.”

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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