While the big boys of Major League Baseball are already in swing, those with big league aspirations take the diamond Thursday night in Myrtle Beach as minor league hardball returns to the Grand Strand.
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans, a High Class A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, kick off the 2014 season Thursday at TicketReturn.com Field against the Salem Red Sox, so we’ve rounded up some interesting news and nuggets to get you ready for another spring and summer at one of minor league baseball’s crown jewels of stadiums, from notable matchups, players to watch and some of the wackier and noteworthy promotions.
Meanwhile, apparently the ballclub’s new slogan - “Un-flocking believable” has ruffled the feathers of some of the area’s more conservative folk. Un-flocking believable...
Anyhow, first things first - the season gets started with a bang as the opening night game also features the return of Thirsty Thursday, which means $1 Budweiser and Bud Light draft from 6-8 p.m. - and a post-game fireworks display, and also after the game, kids age 12 and younger can run the bases.
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The first 5,000 fans through the gates also receive a handy-dandy magnet schedule of the Pelicans 2014 season.
The first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. Thursday. The series with Salem continues at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and concludes at 3:05 p.m. Sunday.
On the field, the Pelicans have a new manager, Joe Mikulik, who has gained some notoriety for his tirades against umpires when he was manager of the Asheville Tourists, and some of his meltdowns have gone viral on YouTube.
The Pelicans squad is a mix of returning players and others getting their first taste of High Class A ball.
Ones to watch include:
Columbian catcher Jorge Alfaro, the second highest ranking prospect in the Texas Rangers organization and the highest ranked on the Pelicans roster.
Outfielder Nick Williams, who is No. 97 in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list.
Third baseman Joey Gallo, who led all minor leaguers with 40 long balls last season, and is ranked as the organization’s best power hitter.
The Rangers’ top pitching prospect, Alex “Chi-Chi” Gonzalez, who returns to Myrtle Beach after a brief call-up last season.
If you’re a local fan of the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, you should be interested in Salem’s squad this weekend, too.
The Boston farm team is the defending Carolina League champs and it seems to be all about pitching as the team welcomes back hurlers Brian Johnson, Luis Diaz and William Cuevas. According to the team’s Web site, arms to watch for the Sox, include, “Austin Maddox, a third-round pick in 2012, Corey Littrell, a fifth-rounder in 2013, and Justin Haley, a sixth-rounder in 2012. Additionally, 6’7" right-hander Kyle Martin will stand tallest on the staff at the outset, with Dominican-native Simon Mercedes and Colombian-right-hander Dayan Diaz rounding out the strong crew of pitchers.”
And if you’ve ever been to a minor league game, you know all of the action doesn’t happen on the field.
Weiner Wednesdays will be back, featuring $1 Hebrew National hotdogs throughout Wednesday home games.
May 15, vs. Potomac Nationals is X-Con Night, tying in with the annual comic book/fantasy convention set for May 16-18 at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
May 17, also vs. the Nationals, the first 500 fans will receive a free beach chair umbrella, as the Pelicans mock recent governmental crackdowns on tents and other shade-providing implements and structures along our beaches.
It won’t quite be the dog days of summer yet, but you can bring your canine to the game and sit in the Thirst Inning Deck on May 28 for Bark in the Park. (and it’s coincidentally Wiener Wednesday, too...hmmm.)
May 29 vs. Salem it’s Redneck Night, featuring an appearance by “The Dukes of Hazzard’s” General Lee, and a post-game redneck wedding. Yee-haw! It’s also Thirsty Thursday, so this could get interesting.
June 19 vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks, it’s Pirate Night, with a swashbuckling costume contest, arghhh...
July 11 vs. Lynchburg Hillcats is USC-vs.-Clemson Night, featuring bobblehead dolls of Gamecocks Coach Steve Spurrier and the Tigers’ Coach Dabo Swinney.
Eating and drinking is also a part of the ballpark experience, so a handful of new items have been added to the stadium’s concessions line-up.
Turkey hot dogs have been added to the menu, along with hummus, pita chips and vegetables, Dickey’s Barbeque Pit chopped brisket, and chicken and waffle bites, with maple syrup.
For more information, go to www.myrtlebeachpelicans.com.