At the ballpark, the term grandstand refers to the fan’s natural habitat; along the Atlantic coast, the Grand Strand indicates a stretch of beach land that proceeds over 60 miles in South Carolina — and the centerpiece city of the Grand Strand is Myrtle Beach, home of the Pelicans and TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark.
Opened: April 12, 1999
Capacity: 6,600 (5,200 seats)
Dimensions: 308L, 400C, 328R
Owner: City of Myrtle Beach (70%), Horry County (30%)
Ticket Prices (2012): Field Box, $11 (April-May), $13 (June-Sept.); Reserved Box, $9 (April-May), $11 (June-Sept.); Grand Strand Reserved Box, $9 (April-May), $11 (June-Sept.); Budweiser Thirst Inning Deck, $8 (April-Sept.).
Phone: 843/918-6077 (843/918-6000 for tickets)
League: A-Advanced Carolina League
Parent: Texas Rangers
Address: 1251 21st Av. N., Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, 29577
Directions: From the West, take Highway 501 E, take a left on Grissom Parkway; ballpark parking is on the left. From the South, take Highway 17 Bypass North beyond Highway 501, make a right on 10th Avenue N, make a left on Grissom Parkway; stadium parking is on the left. From the North, use Highway 17 Bypass South, veering right on Grissom Parkway; stadium parking is on the right.
Parking: Free, located around the stadium, off of Grissom Parkway
Written By: Jesse Goldberg-Strassler (January 2013)
The Atlanta Braves-affiliated Durham Bulls received the rare opportunity of a Minor League franchise promotion, jumping from the High-A Carolina League in 1997 to the Triple-A International League in 1998. The void left by the Bulls in the Carolina League schedule was filled by the Braves-affiliated Danville 97s, a team which split its home field with the Appalachian League’s Danville Braves. At the same time, a ballpark was already being erected for the franchise in gorgeous Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Coastal Federal Field, opened right on schedule, hosting the brand new Myrtle Beach Pelicans on April 12th, 1999.
For players like Jason Marquis, Jason Flach, Jason Ross, Jim Scharrer, Mike Hessman, Mike Terhune, Mark Mortimer, and Jerrod Wong, who played for both Danville and Myrtle Beach, the difference between 1998 and 1999 was immense. The one-season-only 97s, sharing their ballpark, finished a league-worst 58-82 before a season-long attendance of 74,737. In contrast, powered by league MVP Marcus Giles, the inaugural 1999 Pelicans went 79-60, drew 232,619 strong to Coastal Federal Field, knocked out the powerful Kinston Indians in the first round of the Carolina League playoffs, and had split the first four games of the best-of-five Championship Series with the Wilmington Blue Rocks before the arrival of Hurricane Floyd forced the series to be cut short. The Pelicans and Blue Rocks were named co-champs.
(Marquis, perhaps, served as the truest symbol of change. As a teenager, he went 2-12 in 22 starts for Danville. The next season, with Myrtle Beach, he allowed just one earned run in 32 innings over six starts, spurring a run up the ladder to the Major Leagues.)
In 2000, Myrtle Beach saw no reason to share the league trophy. The Pelicans dominated the Carolina League to the tune of an 88-52 record before a season attendance of 234,019. Skipper Brian Snitker was named Manager of the Year; Christian Parra went 17-4 with a 2.28 ERA and was named Pitcher of the Year; and the Pelicans tied things up in a bow with a swift three-game sweep of Lynchburg to hoist their second straight Carolina League title.
These back-to-back championships mark the Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ only titles to date as a franchise, though the club has enjoyed the attendance of consistent talent through the seasons. Jason Marquis and Rafael Furcal played with Giles for the 1999 club; Adam LaRoche served as the starting first baseman in 2001 and 2002 (and even won a game in an emergency pitching assignment); Adam Wainwright impressed in 2002; Gregor Blanco ignited the offense in 2003 and 2004, assisted the latter season by Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur; Jarrod Saltalamacchia ripped up the league in 2005; Matt Harrison dazzled in 13 starts in 2006; Elvis Andrus opened scouts’ eyes in 2007, partnered with a pitching corps featuring Jonny Venters, Kris Medlen, and Tommy Hanson; and Jason Heyward enjoyed a brief debut in 2008 before slugging his way to success with Freddie Freeman in 2009. Upon switching affiliations from Atlanta to the Texas Rangers entering 2010, the Pelicans have already hosted such future Major Leaguers as Mike Olt, Joe Wieland, Robbie Ross, Justin Grimm, and, in 2012, 22-year-old right-hander Wilmer Font, who zoomed from Myrtle Beach to Texas in just one season.
Off the field, there were several other key changes over the course of the 21st century’s first decade. A group led by Chuck Greenberg bought the Myrtle Beach Pelicans during the summer of 2006, investing in $2.5 million of improvements and additions to the ballpark in the offseason. Coastal Federal Bank was purchased by BB&T in 2007, causing the Pelicans’ home to be renamed BB&T Coastal Field entering 2008.
It was during that same 2008 campaign that Myrtle Beach hosted the Carolina/California League All-Star Game, an honor granted once again to the Pelicans in 2010. In between, Baseball America named the stadium as its top-rated facility in the Carolina League.
In addition to hosting on-field play, including Coastal Carolina’s “Baseball at the Beach” college baseball tournament and a 2011 exhibition between the Rangers and Coastal Carolina, the home of the Pelicans has received even wider notice: HBO’s “Eastbound & Down” filmed its third season upon the Myrtle Beach lawn during the 2011-2012 winter.
In April 2012, Myrtle Beach announced the park’s current name, TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark.
Among its other attractions and interests, TicketReturn.Com Field’s fixed seating is directly from Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the home of the Atlanta Braves from 1966 through 1996. The park’s dimensions feel hitter-friendly, with the six-foot left field wall situated just 308 feet away from home plate and the eight-foot right field located 328 feet away, but the statistics have not borne this out: In 2011, Pelicans batters hit just two more home runs at home than on the road while their pitchers gave up an exact 50/50 split of 76 gopher balls at home and on the road. In 2012, the batters knocked eight more roundtrippers at home — but the pitchers gave up a remarkable 50 home runs on the road compared to just 30 served up at home. (This fit in with a 42-26 record at TicketReturn.Com Field compared to a 32-39 mark away from Myrtle Beach.)
There is also the great drawing factor of The Beach itself, one of the nation’s great photogenic communities and resort towns.
Myrtle Beach is beautiful, and the park and team are a strong part of the community; the Pelicans regularly host flocks of beach-goers and tourists, taking in the sun on an ideal summer day. TicketReturn.Com Field is right on 21st Avenue, which leads directly southeast to the beach, about one mile away. It all serves to make Myrtle Beach the perfect place to enjoy both a grand slam and the Grand Strand in the same day.
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