Braves could return to MB as parent club of Pelicans

The Atlanta Braves may be making a home run back to Myrtle Beach following what would amount to a four-year road trip to Lynchburg, VA.

The four-year Player Development Contract between the Texas Rangers and Myrtle Beach Pelicans expires after this season, and speculation is growing that the Braves will return their Advanced Class A franchise to Myrtle Beach beginning in 2015.

The Pelicans, currently the Advanced Class A affiliate of the Rangers, was a farm team of the Braves from their 1999 inaugural season until 2010. The Pelicans switched to a Rangers affiliate while the Braves moved to Lynchburg and the Carolina League Hillcats.

The current four-year PDCs for both teams expires after this season, fueling speculation that the Braves will return to Myrtle Beach. The Braves have not officially announced they are leaving Lynchburg after 2014 but they have been exploring their options.

The Advanced-A franchise is the only team in Atlanta’s farm system not owned by the parent club. The Braves began looking for another host city in 2012. A proposal to move the Braves’ affiliate to Wilmington, NC, fell through earlier this year when city residents voted against a publicly funded stadium.

Myrtle Beach seems like a perfect fit since the team has deep roots in the Grand Strand sand. The Pelicans parted ways with the Braves in 2010 when Pelicans CEO Chuck Greenberg purchased a share of the big-league Rangers. Baseball rules prohibit an owner from having an interest in a minor-league franchise that is affiliated with another team.

But when Greenberg quickly sold his interest in the Rangers following a rift with Texas general manager Nolan Ryan, the door was opened to once again making Myrtle Beach the home of the Braves. Greenberg did buy the Rangers’ Double-A club, the Frisco Roughriders, earlier this year but that is his only tie to the Texas big-league club.

The longtime partnership between the Braves and Myrtle Beach was a good one, especially since the Grand Strand and the surrounding area of vacationers is generally considered “Braves Country.” Myrtle Beach became known within the Braves’ organization as the best stop on the minor-league ladder, and some big-name major leaguers did their rehab starts here so they could also squeeze in a few rounds of golf.

An official announcement on the Pelicans’ future plans is not expected until after the season. That’s when parent clubs and affiliates can submit a formal request to relocate. The minor league teams must be notified if a club is leaving between Sept. 12-15. If so, minor-league teams have until the end of September to negotiate with other parent clubs.

Next month could see some serious turnover in the Carolina League since six of the eight teams have PDCs expiring at the end of the 2014 campaign. The Carolina Mudcats (Cleveland Indians), Frederick Keys (Baltimore Orioles), Potomac Nationals (Washington Nationals) and Wilmington Blue Rocks (Kansas City Royals) join Myrtle Beach and Lynchburg in possible offseason affiliation changes.

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