Major League Baseball just got back into gear last weekend after its All-Star break. “America’s game” also includes Minor League Baseball, and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans are front and center in the batter’s box for the Grand Strand.
Games with aspiring Major Leaguers on all levels of baseball bring sports fans another pastime with entertainment, especially for families; affordable, up-close access to action on the field; and other ways to help contribute to the community year-round.
Kristin Call, continuing as the Pelicans’ director of marketing in the team’s first year as the Chicago Cubs’ Class A Advanced affiliate, rounded up highlights of some special home-game promotions through the regular season, which ends Aug. 30. The birds’ season doesn’t end there, though, for by winning the Carolina League Southern Division for the first half of this year, they have earned a Mills Cup playoff series berth for the fifth straight year, a tradition carried over from the team’s four seasons in the Texas Rangers’ ranch of farm clubs.
Call said two more nights are on deck at TicketReturn.com Field for the Pelicans’ “Strike Out Cancer Series.” For “Coaches vs. Cancer Night,” at 7:05 p.m. Saturday, the first 1,000 fans through the gates receiving a Splash/Rally Shark mascot bobblehead doll, with the University of South Carolina and Clemson University touted, respectively.
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Fundraisers that night also will help Fierce Fallon, a foundation (www.fiercefallon.com) to help Fallon Emery, an 11-year-old from Carolina Forest battling brain cancer, as well as the Vs. Cancer Foundation. “Pink in the Park,” 6:05 p.m. Aug. 9, will benefit the Dallas-based Mary Kay Ash Foundation, which funds research and education programs for cancers that affect women and programs to end violence against women (www.marykayfoundation.org).
The Pelicans will swing away with yuletide cheer on “Christmas Vacation in July” night, at 6:05 p.m. Sunday, having all kinds of fun with the third installment in the “National Lampoon’s Vacation” movie series starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. The first 1,000 fans in attendance, Call said, will receive Pelicans alpine hats, in the style sported by “Cousin Eddie” (Randy Quaid) in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” from 1989.
Pelicans players will flash their own cheer that night, with special jerseys that make the wearer look wrapped in a string of Christmas lights, Call said, also eager to announce a special guest sure to stick around after the game.
“Santa Claus will hear fireworks set to Christmas music,” Call said.
The timing for this “Christmas all the way” evening, Call said, was simply coincidental, a bonus, with the release of the sequel “Vacation” in many theaters Wednesday.
Call outlined some other special nights for August:
▪ “Thirsty Friday,” Aug. 14, “in the heart of tourist season,” but when the team’s out of town for its usual “Thirsty Thursday” promotion, with $1 beers, 6-8 p.m.
▪ “Golf Night,” Aug. 25, when the first 1,000 fans receive Pelicans visors.
▪ One more “Bark in the Park” outing, Aug. 26, with dogs receiving free admission with their owners who buy tickets for the bleachers, in left field.
Another movie will inspire an evening, Call said, with “‘Animal House’ Night,” Aug. 27, with the Pelicans wearing jerseys and stadium personnel in shirts, all modeled after the navy blue top with the word “COLLEGE” on front, as the late John Belushi donned as Bluto in the movie from 1978. Anyone’s also welcome to enter the “Bluto Look-a-Like Contest” and submit photos in advance at the Pelicans’ Facebook page, from which the winner will be invited to lead a pre-game pep talk to the team that evening.
Finally, “Ticket Amnesty Night,” Aug. 28, will give everyone – not just season-ticket and mini-plan holders – the chance to bring any unused 2015 game ticket to exchange for admission on this night only, Call said, so for anyone whose plans changed, causing a missed night of baseball for whatever reason, “Don’t throw out that ticket.”
‘Honeymoon’ in Charlotte, N.C.
Scotty Brown, in his third year as general manager of the Charlotte Knights, the Chicago White Sox Triple-A affiliate, said the team’s “honeymoon has not worn off from last year.”
The franchise moved from suburban Rock Hill to begin 2014 in Charlotte’s Center City/Uptown section, at BB&T Ballpark. As of last weekend, the Knights had sold out 23 games this year, leading the International League in attendance and approaching a half-million. Brown said a metro population exceeding 2 million, the city skyline view from the stadium, “the intimacy of the seats” near the field, with players on a level just one call-up away and “so close to the big league” all help make Minor League ball there a consistent draw.
With 30 years of front-office employment in baseball – including the Pelicans’ general manager from 2010-12 – Brown said the product produced in any level of the Minor Leagues stays constant.
“What we try to do is emulate what towns such as Myrtle Beach, Zebulon (N.C.) and Charleston do,” he said, “and make it fun for the fans, with entertainment and promotions as an added value.
“We’re all in different markets, but we all follow the same formula.”
Brown has loved working in “baseball at the grassroots,” because it stays “family friendly, affordable and really just a great gathering spot for the community to celebrate.”
Bulls reign in Durham, N.C.
Scott Carter, director of marketing for the Durham Bulls, the Tampa Bay Rays’ Triple-A club since 1998, said besides the contingent of local fans in the greater Raleigh, N.C., area across surrounding Wake, Durham and Orange counties, visitors include more than the opposing teams, because of a great location.
“Within two hours’ driving distance from us are eight Minor League teams,” he said, “and we see people coming through North Carolina on a Minor League baseball tour.”
A stop to see the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Lower-A, South Atlantic League team for the Miami Marlins, might be right before or after a night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Carter said.
Many fans seeing the Bulls also recall the movie “Bull Durham,” for which filming included the Bulls’ former home from 1926-94, Historic Durham Athletic Park, about a mile north of the team’s current stadium, opened in 1995.
Carter said the old ballpark, home of the N.C. Central University Eagles’ team every spring, remains in great shape and a tourist attraction itself. He said when people from out of town catch a Bulls game, they often head over to see the movie setting as well.
The old site remains in demand “primarily for amateur baseball,” Carter said, “and for summer youth and travel baseball tournaments, and for social events such as concerts.”
“Bull Durham,” from 1988, which co-starred Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins as a respective catcher and pitcher on the Bulls in a see-saw love story with Susan Sarandon’s character, “still holds true,” Carter said of its portrayal of the profession.
“It’s pretty accurate for what life is like in low-A, Minor League baseball,” Carter said.
In the Carolina League, two teams’ Major League affiliations changed, in what in essence turned out to be a trade in the overall league makeup: The Carolina Mudcats, based in Zebulon, east of Raleigh, joined the Atlanta Braves developmental system, and the Cleveland Indians welcomed the Lynchburg (Va.) Hillcats into its ranks.
Carter spoke of the value of Atlanta having a team in the Carolinas again, the first time since the affiliation with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans ended after 2010. He said the Braves’ fan base reaches far across the Southeast, with another connection that’s no bull.
“The Bulls were a Braves affiliate during the filming of ‘Bull Durham,’” he said.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.
If you go
Who | Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Class A Advanced affiliate of Chicago Cubs, and 2015 Carolina League Southern Division First-Half champions
Home games | Against:
▪ Carolina Mudcats (Atlanta Braves) from Zebulon, N.C., east of Raleigh, 7:05 p.m. Saturday and Monday, and 6:05 p.m. Sunday.
▪ Potomac (Woodbridge, Va.) Nationals (Washington Nationals), 7:05 p.m. July 28-30.
▪ Wilmington (Del.) Blue Rocks (Kansas City Royals), 7:05 p.m. Aug. 4-6 and Aug. 27-29, and 6:05 p.m. Aug. 30 (final home game of regular season).
▪ Frederick (Md.) Keys (Baltimore Orioles), 7:05 p.m. Aug. 7-8, and 6:05 p.m. Aug. 9.
▪ Lynchburg (Va.) Hillcats (Cleveland Indians), 7:05 p.m. Aug. 14-15, and 6:05 p.m. Aug. 16.
▪ Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash (Chicago White Sox), 7:05 p.m. Aug. 24-26.
▪ Mills Cup Championship playoffs – for fifth straight year – beginning after Sept. 7.
Where | TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark, 1251 21st Ave. N., Myrtle Beach, with parking lot entry from Robert M. Grissom Parkway.
How much | Per game:
▪ Advance: $9 left-field bleachers, $11 upper-deck reserved and $13 field box – and each $2 more on game day.
▪ Military discount – with ID at box office, receive $3 discount for all games.
“Strike Out Cancer Series” |
▪ “Coaches vs. Cancer Night,” 7:05 p.m. July 25, with first 1,000 fans through the gates receiving a Splash/Rally Shark bobblehead doll, with the University of South Carolina and Clemson University touted respectively, also with fundraisers for Fierce Fallon, a foundation (www.fiercefallon.com) to help Fallon Emery, an 11-year-old from Carolina Forest battling brain cancer, as well as Vs. Cancer Foundation (team.vs-cancer.org/pelicans and www.vs-cancer.org), focusing on childhood cancer at Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston, and national research efforts; also with other activities such as a silent auction with various items from sports coaches.
▪ “Pink in the Park,” 6:05 p.m. Aug. 9, with auction of game-worn jersey to benefit Mary Kay Ash Foundation, which based in Dallas, funds research and education programs for cancers that affect women and programs to end violence against women (www.marykayfoundation.org).
Some other special promotions |
▪ “Christmas Vacation in July,” 6:05 p.m. SundayJuly 26, with Pelicans alpine-hat giveaway for first 1,000 fans, and Santa Claus on hand for fireworks to Christmas music.
▪ “Racing Night,” 7:05 p.m. Aug. 8.
▪ “Golf Night,” 7:05 p.m. Aug. 25, with Pelicans visor giveaway to first 1,000 fans.
▪ “Bark in the Park,” 7:05 p.m. Aug. 26, with dogs receiving free admission with their owners who buy tickets for the bleachers, in left field.
▪ “Animal House Night,” 7:05 p.m. Aug. 27.
▪ “Ticket Amnesty Night,” 7:05 p.m. Aug. 28, with any unused 2015 game ticket exchangeable for ticket for use on this night only.
Post-game fireworks game dates | All Sunday home games, which each start at 6:05 p.m., through August (July and 26, and Aug. 9, 16 and 30), and after other games that begin at 7:05 p.m. July 30 and Aug. 6.
Weekly promotions |
▪ “Backpack Buddies Monday” – Donate an item from Help 4 Kids’ Backpack Buddies list (help4kidssc.com) – Ramen noodles, Pop-Tarts, Beenie Weenies, Vienna sausage, cereal, canned ravioli, individual servings of pudding, individual packs of macaroni & cheese, and drink boxes – for relay to children of needy Horry County families – and receive half-off ticket prices for games on July 27, and Aug. 24 – at box office only, in advance or on game days.
▪ “2sday Brewsday” – $2 craft beers, 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays.
▪ “Wiener Wednesday” – 2-for-1 hot dogs (Buy one, get one free).
▪ “Thirsty Thursdays” – $1 Budweiser and Bud Light specials, 6-8 p.m., and on one Friday, Aug. 14.
▪ “Ladies’ Night” – Half-price wine, 6-8 p.m. Fridays, also for men.
▪ Saturdays – “Locals Appreciation,” with $3 discount with local ID (for Horry and Georgetown counties) at box office; and Embrace Hospice honoring one local veteran before games.
▪ “Family Sunday” – Bring your ball and glove for pregame Catch in the outfield, weather permitting: 5:15-5:35 p.m. July 26; and Aug. 9, 16 and 30.
Every game | Pregame autographs with players for about 15 minutes after gates open, and for ages 12 and younger, run the bases after every game, weather permitting.
Listen | All games on WRNN-AM 1450, an ESPN Radio affiliate, and at www.espnmyrtlebeach.com.
Information | 918-6000, 877-918-8499 or www.myrtlebeachpelicans.com
Easy Escapes, for more Minor League Baseball
Surcharges might apply to ticket purchases:
Affiliate of | No team, but independant, in Coastal Plain League, a collegiate summer league
Where | Cormell Field at Sparrow Stadium, 121 Evander Drive, Florence, at Francis Marion University, off East Palmetto Street (U.S. 76/301), west of S.C. 327
How much | $7 ages 10-64, $5 ages 3-9 and 65 and older, and $4 military with ID
Information | 843-629-0700 or www.florenceredwolves.com
Affiliate of | New York Yankees, in South Atlantic League (Class A) play
Where | Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park, “The Joe,” on Lockwood Drive, north of U.S. 17, along the Ashley River
How much | $8-$18 Saturdays-Thursdays and $1 more on Fridays, and $2 less if purchased at least one day in advance
Information | 843-577-3647 or www.riverdogs.com
Affiliate of | Boston Red Sox, in South Atlantic League
Where | Fluor Field, 945 S. Main St., Greenville
How much | $7-$9 advance and $1 more on game day – also lawn/deck seats $7 on game day
Information | 864-240-4528 or www.greenvilledrive.com
Carolina Mudcats (formerly Kinston Indians, through 2011)
Affiliate of | Atlanta Braves, in Carolina League (A Advanced)
Where | Five County Stadium, at U.S. 264 and N.C. 39, in Zebulon, N.C., east of Raleigh
How much | $10-$15
▪ Free admission for ages 3 and younger on lap.
▪ $8 seats (in $10 tier) available for military with valid ID, as well as ages 4-12 and 65 and older.
Information | 919-269-2287 or www.carolinamudcats.com
Affiliate of | Tampa Bay Rays, in International League (Triple A)
Where | Durham Bulls Athletic Park, on Blackwell Street, off the Durham Freeway (N.C. 147)
How much | $6.99-$9.99, and two higher tiers (call for availability), and $1 more on game day
Information | 919-956-2855 or www.durhambulls.com
Affiliate of | Kansas City Royals, in Appalachian League (Rookie/Short-Season A)
Where | Burlington Athletic Stadium, 1450 Graham St. Burlington, N.C., north off Interstate 40/85, Exit 145
How much | $5-$9, and on Mondays, all $9 tier seats are $5.
Information | 336-222-0223 or www.burlingtonroyals.com
Affiliate of | Miami Marlins, in South Atlantic League
Where | NewBridge Bank Park, bordered by Bellemeade, Edgeworth, North Eugene and West Smith streets, in Greensboro, N.C., north of Interstate 85
How much | $7-$11
Information | 336-268-2255 or www.gsohoppers.com
Affiliate of | Chicago White Sox, in Carolina League
Where | BB&T Ballpark, 926 Brookstown Ave., Winston-Salem, N.C.
How much | $7.49-$14.99
Information | 336-714-2287 or www.wsdash.com
Affiliate of | Chicago White Sox, in South Atlantic League
Where | Intimidators Stadium, 2888 Moose Road, Kannapolis, N.C., off Exit 63 at I-85
How much | $5-$8 advance, and $2 more on game day for upper two tiers.
Information | 704-932-3267 (FANS) or www.intimidatorsbaseball.com
Affiliate of | Chicago White Sox, in International League
Where | BB&T Ballpark, 324 S. Mint St., Charlotte, N.C.
How much | $11-$17 advance, and $2 more on game day in some tiers; also $25 and $50 options.
Also | $2 discount on game-day purchases at box office – for active military (with ID), as well as ages 11 and younger and 55 and older
Information | 980-274-8300 or www.charlotteknights.com
Affiliate of | Texas Rangers, in South Atlantic League
Where | L.P. Frans Stadium, 2500 Clement Blvd N.W., Hickory, N.C., across from Hickory Regional Airport, near U.S. 321, off Interstate 40, Exit 123
How much | $9-$14
Information | 828-322-3000 or www.hickorycrawdads.com
Affiliate of | Colorado Rockies, in South Atlantic League
Where | McCormick Field, 30 Buchanan Place, Asheville, N.C.
How much | $7-$29 advance – with $1 discount for child/senior/military – and $1 more on game day
Information | 828-258-0428 or www.theashevilletourists.com
Affiliate of | Atlanta Braves, in Appalachian League
Where | Legion Field, 302 River Park Drive, Danville, Va.
How much | $5-$7, and $4 for youth/senior in lower tier
Information | 434-797-3792 or www.dbraves.com
Affiliate of | Baltimore Orioles, in International League
Where | Harbor Park, 150 Park Ave, Norfolk, Va.
How much | $11-$12 – and $9 child/senior (ages 60 and older)/military – advance, and $2 more on game day
Information | 757-622-2222 or www.norfolktides.com
Savannah Sand Gnats
Affiliate of | New York Mets, in South Atlantic League
Where | Historic Grayson Stadium, 1401 E. Victory Drive, Savannah, Ga.
How much | $8-$10
Information | 912-351-9150 or www.sandgnats.com
Affiliate of | San Francisco Giants, in South Atlantic League
Where | Lake Olmstead✔ Stadium, 78 Milledge Road, Augusta, Ga.
How much | $9-$13
Information | 706-922-9467 (WINS) or www.greenjacketsbaseball.com
NEAR FLORIDA-GEORGIA LINE
Affiliate of | Miami Marlins, in Southern League (Double A)
Where | Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, 301 A Philip Randolph Blvd., Jacksonville, Fla.
How much | $9.34-$20.56, and for military, ages 62 and older, and ages 4-14: $7.48-$18.62
Information | 904-358-2846, Ext. 3; or www.jaxsuns.com