Pelicans host Opening Day as season gets under way

Opening night for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans is always a special event, but this one also has the feel of a wedding.

Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue await a sellout crowd when the Pelicans play host to the Wilmington Blue Rocks at 7 p.m. Friday.

The old is obvious; it’s the tradition that has become Opening Day in Myrtle Beach. Once a new feeling since the Pelicans landed on the Grand Strand in 1999, now the custom seems old hat for Myrtle Beach sports fans.

It’s the one game every year when a sellout crowd is guaranteed, and there’s something special about seeing old friends at the ballpark rallying around “our” team.

The names on the backs of the jerseys change every year, but they are still “our” boys. This year’s squad has eight returning players from last season, but the 17 new faces will quicly become familiar to fans.

But there’s a lot more new this year than usual. For starters, the Pelicans are playing in a new stadium, or at least a new name for the old stadium. Gone is BB&T Coastal Field, here is TickerReturn.com Field – for at least one year.

I’ve never gotten used to the naming-rights trend that has forced some stadiums to use temporary signs, and this is probably the last time in my life I use the term “TicketReturn.com Field.”

The reality is local fans call it what it really is – the ballpark or Pelicans Stadium. Folks just say, “Hey, want to go to the ballgame?” and no one questions “Where?” It’s just the ballpark, not “Your Ad Here” Field.

The best of the new items this year come in the form of 19- and 20-year-old prospects who we might get to see playing in the majors someday. This year, it’s pitcher Cody Buckel and outfielder Jake Skole, two of the Texas Rangers’ top prospects.

Only time will tell if they live up to the hype, but it’s always fun to watch the wide-eyed young guns come to Myrtle Beach and try to focus on their baseball careers instead of the bars, babes and beach. It takes discipline and dedication.

Something borrowed? Well, this one is for the fans. The Pelicans’ Thirsty Thursday promotion featuring $1 drafts has been spun off into the new “Frosty Friday, offering $2 cups of suds from 5 to 7 p.m. That’s still a ballpark bargain.

The Pelicans also borrow some of the best promotional ideas from around the country and bring them to the crowds in Myrtle Beach. Some may be tackier and cheesier than the ballpark nachos, but they’re always good for a few laughs.

Watching drunk buddies sumo wrestle in inflatable suits, young kids run the bases after the game and slide home head first to the shock of their awaiting mothers, hearing school girls giggle their way through “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” – it’s all part of the experience at the ol’ ballpark.

And as for something blue, there’s the Pelicans’ new color scheme, the term of endearment vocal fans use for umpires (“Hey Blue, where’s you glasses?” and the sad feeling we get each fall when the season is done.

So enjoy Opening Day in the usual way and cherish the spring feeling of renewed hope. It’s like a ballgame and a wedding all rolled into one, without all the musdhy stuff.

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