And a continuation - Garnetpalmetto presents....a NIGHT
at the Ballpark with GP
. Last week I realized that upon seeing Municipal Stadium I had visited all of South Carolina's current active parks (Greenville's Municipal Stadium, Charleston's Joseph P.Riley Park, Fort Mill's Knights Stadium) save one - Coastal Federal Field in Myrtle Beach. Coastal Federal is the home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, an Advanced-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, who play in the Carolina League. I hastily bought tickets for a match-up between the Pelicans and the Lynchburg Hillcats (affiliated with the Pirates) and drove to MYR
for the game, yesterday. It had been raining sporadically, but heavily, on the drive to Myrtle Beach but by the time I arrived around 1:00 PM
, it had stopped. I ate lunch, did some exploring at Broadway at the Beach
, and killed a few hours in the excellent Ripley's Aquarium
which features stingrays which you can pet as well as a tunnel that goes through one of the tanks allowing you to see sharks, sawfish, and other sea life swimming around you - definitely a good spot to go on vacation.
Finally game time approached so I made my way to the nearby stadium. Coastal Federal was built in 1999 to house the team that had been the Durham Bulls of Bull Durham
fame. You see, the Bulls moved up to the AAA level in 1998, causing the Braves to seek a new location for their High-A team. After a year playing in Danville, VA (which is now home to the Braves Rookie club, the Appalachian League Danville Braves), the team moved to Myrtle Beach, which had been without a minor league team for approximately 10 years after the Myrtle Beach Hurricanes moved to Hagerstown, MD
, and into Coastal Federal Field.
While not built directly on the beach, the stadium is only a few blocks inland and is directly across 21st Street from Broadway at the Beach. The stadium was, quite simply a nice place to catch a game. Palmetto trees line the walk up to the stadium and, to my surprise, the stadium features a gate devoted entirely to people with Internet tickets (what a perk!)
The concourse is wide and clean and is only sporadically cluttered with carts (I counted two beer carts, the customer service booth, and a frozen lemonade stand). Otherwise the majority of concessions are done out of a single large concessionaire behind the homeplate area. With the concourse under the bleacher seats, my only complaint is that lighting could have been better after the sun went down, but before then, ample sunlight comes in to avoid the "dingy concrete tunnel" feeling of some concourses.
Seats were quite comfortable and, to my surprise, the program advertised that they had previously been in Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium. Having never been to the Launching Pad, I've got to say they had some seriously comfy seats! Each featured a cupholder for drinks, but for some reason the highest row of seats before the break in the concourse between the lower and upper bowls only featured one armrest for the seats on the end. I actually liked this and found I wasn't bumping my elbow into an arm rest while I was scoring the game.
Looking up to the bleachers prior to the game
Grounds crew wetting down the infield
Lastly, I got to meet their mascot, Splash, who informed me that the mascots of minor league baseball are currently mounting a plan to extract vengance from KROC after his dissing of Rochester's mascot last season. Watch out, Godfather!
The game itself had decent attendance (a turnout of 2,795 meant the stadium was about 64% filled). The game itself, was another pitcher's duel. Going into the 8th inning, the score was tied 2-2 with both teams being matched pretty evenly in terms of both offense and defense. The breaking point came in the 8th when Lynchburg put in closer Chris Hernandez. Hernandez gave up a single to the first batter he faced catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who was 2 for 3 going into the inning), a double to right field Matt Esquivel, then beaned the following batter, Steve Doetsch to load the bases. After that he struck out Myrtle Beach's Mark Jurich to start backing himself out of the corner. The next batter would be first baseman Scott Schade who had homered previously. Schade received four straight balls from Hernandez, walking in the winning run. After that, Hernandez crumbled giving up 2 more hits and 3 more runs before a fly out and a stikeout brought the inning to a close. Final score after Lynchburg's at-bat: 6-2 in favor of the home team.
My main gripe about the game is, I felt, that Lynchburg's manager left Hernandez in too long. Although he faced only 9 batters the guy had a meltdown out there and, as far as I could tell, had nobody warming up in the bullpen. Am I insane to think that, even that late in the game, you don't leave a guy out there struggling THAT badly? Otherwise, it was hardly an offensive show - only 3 doubles, 1 triple, and 1 homer were hit in the game as the breeze in from the ocean kept most balls inside the park or where they could be caught with ease. My secondary gripe would be that, like in the case of the Bombers, the Pelicans need to establish their own identity separate of their parent club. Case in point - during that 8th inning rally, I nearly drop my pencil when I hear the music for the Tomahawk Chop come over the PA system. Umm...that might work if the Pelicans were named for the Braves (they're the only team in the Braves organization NOT named "Braves," in fact). Maybe something more appropriate for a beach location? Playing "Wipeout" maybe?
All told, Coastal Federal is a great spot to catch a game and comes recommended to anyone coming through MYR
[Edited 2005-08-01 04:04:31]
South Carolina - too small to be its own country, too big to be a mental asylum.