Tagged: Myrtle Beach Pelicans 2016

On the Road: Four Dudes and a Lot of Food in Myrtle Beach

To see all my posts from my May 10 visit to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

Prior to embarking on my Carolinas road trip, I did not receive any designated eater volunteers for my evening with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. “Don’t worry,” said the Pelicans (I’m paraphrasing here). “We’ll take care of it.”

Take care of it they most certainly did. Via Facebook, the Pelicans recruited not one but FOUR designated eaters. Not only that, but these four designated eaters got to enjoy a four course (one per inning) concession standvaganza that took the designated eating concept to bold new terrain. Pelicans food and beverage director Brad Leininger and his ballpark kitchen crew are masters of the craft.

I met my four designated eaters at a picnic area located down the first base line, just after the game was underway. Our location was within spitting distance of the “Clark and Addison Grille”, one of many Cubs-themed modifications to the ballpark in the wake of the Pelicans affiliating with Chicago’s National League affiliate prior to the 2015 season.

092When I arrived at our designated location, the designated eaters were already enjoying a variety of cold, canned alcoholic beverages. It was “Craft Beer Tuesday” at TicketReturn.com Field, and, furthermore, the Pelicans had just become the first professional team to add buckets ($30) and growlers ($25) to the daily beverage menu.

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Left to right: cans of Terrapin RecreationAle, Oskar Blues IPA and Palmetto Lowcountry Pilsner

This quartet, from left to right:

Thomas Robinson — A Myrtle Beach native who now lives in-between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, North Carolina. Thomas is a big baseball fan and, while not yet a Pelicans season ticket holder, he said “I’m going to be.”

Chris Lizio — After working for the Pelicans in 2015 as a production assistant, Chris transitioned to a digital broadcast assistant position at nearby Coastal Carolina University.

Rich Johnson — For over two decades, Rich has hosted The Fishing Line program on New York-area TV and radio. He also spends ample time in the Myrtle Beach area, and particularly enjoys watching the Pelicans on dollar beer nights. “My record is 12,” said Rich. “I don’t drive, of course.”

JD Hewett — JD is a childhood buddy of Thomas; the two played baseball together growing up and now regularly attend Pelicans game. JD, who now lives in Little River, South Carolina, works alternately as a commercial artist, furniture reconditioner and hot dog vendor (selling to a whitewater rafting clientele from the riverbanks of Robbinsville, North Carolina).

The first inning was dedicated to the Pelicans’ Chicago-centric variations of ballpark favorites.

We’ll start with Thomas and Chris.

Thomas, as you saw, had the Chicago Dog. I promise there is a hot dog in there somewhere. It’s just submerged underneath green relish, sport peppers, tomato, a pickle spear, celery salt and who knows what else.

096“It’s awesome,” said Thomas. “The peppers have a good kick and I like the hotness.”

Chris had a “Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Burger.” As the name would imply, it’s a burger featuring a deep-dish pizza bun. I don’t have a standalone quote from Chris regarding this item, which I assume is because his mouth was full.

097Before moving on to Rich and JD, I’d like to give a shout-out to the house made chips that accompanied these items. Thick, crispy, seasoned with Old Bay and accompanied by a dipping sauce whose specifics I forget but which were nonetheless complementary to the overall flavor package.

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Rich and JD, you’re up.

The Double Play Dog is an Italian sausage topped with Italian roast beef and peppers.

099“It’s excellent,” said Rich. “I don’t think of beef on sausage but the two flavors really balance nicely. It’s not in your face. It creeps up on you. It’s got a great kick that dissipates fast, like a chili pepper. It doesn’t linger until the next bite.”

The Polish Sausage is self-explanatory, with the titular meat topped generously with sauteed onions and peppers. I’m going to assume that my lack of a specific quote on this item was once again due to mouths being full. (The vegetable array seen behind the Polish Sausage was universally ignored, the only item all night to receive no interest. Make of that what you will.)

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Everybody was having a great time, and that was only the first course. Beer break!

103Second Inning — Seafood, eat it.

Next up for the boys was an array of coastal cuisine: crab cake, fried clams and fried shrimp along with a heap of fries. The boys were pleased.

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The Pelicans’ crab cakes are sourced from the aptly-named Crab Cake Lady, who operates out of Murrels Inlet, South Carolina.

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In a Facebook post of his own, Rich said that the crab cake may have been the “best thing he ate all night. Tangy, delicious and not much filler at all.” The fried clams and shrimp received general approbation as well, with lack of greasiness and ample meat within the breading cited as distinct positives. Thomas said that the clams were “as good as anything you’ll find in Calabash,” claiming that that particular North Carolina locale set the gold standard for local seafood.

JD is a huge Motorhead fan — just check the shirt — so I thought it was fitting that he was the one who found the “devil shrimp.” #RIPLemmy

IMG_1316Third Inning: 

Bog Balls, a South Carolina specialty, consist of chicken, rice and sausage  mixed together into a ball and fried. They are served with a Sriacha mayo dipping sauce and, as I later learned, are gluten-free (!)

112Chris said that the fried pickles “might be my favorite thing in the ballpark.”  But nonetheless, he made a beeline for the chicken waffle bites. They are fried in waffle batter and come with a side of syrup.  (The sweet potato fries, dusted in cinnamon sugar, were similarly sweet.)

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Thomas went ahead and grabbed the fried bologna sandwich, remarking that “a big cut of bologna is the best way to go. Who doesn’t like a big bologna?” He then made a suggestion to Pelicans food and beverage director Brad Leininger. “Y’know what’d be good on this bologna? A fried egg.”

115With so much food being eaten and so much being said about it, I was finding it hard to keep track of everything that was going on. This Facebook Live video, posted by the Pelicans, illuminates the general scene during this time. These guys were really living it up, in a sort of collective disbelief over how well they were being treated.

Finally, mercifully, we came to the end.

Fourth Inning: Dessert

118Thomas, Chris, JD and Rich were now enjoying birthday cake, chocolate and mint chocolate chip ice cream in a waffle cone bowl.

117But Rich was particularly enamored with this root beer float.

119“I remember being a kid at the Jersey Shore, getting my first kiss to “Light My Fire” and all that. We’d get root beer floats just like this. This is the real deal.”

And then there was funnel cake.

120Chris is a funnel cake man. 
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And lest we forget, a peach bellini made an appearance. JD said that “It reminds me of a Seagrams wine cooler.”

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Postscript: I’ve been recruiting ballpark designated eaters for nearly four years now, beginning shortly after I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Just like anything related to one’s job, I sometimes get cynical about it. It adds a lot of extra work at an already busy time of year, and, truly, you can only ask a guy how a hot dog tastes so many times before it gets a little boring. But I still love the concept, because it gives me a chance to meet people, at every ballpark I visit, who I otherwise wouldn’t. I love getting to tell their stories. And my own cynicism is often trumped, as it was in Myrtle Beach, by the almost giddy enjoyment of the designated eaters themselves. Brad Leininger and Pelicans staffers such as Jen Borowski, Kristen Call, Hunter Horenstein, Andy Milovich (and others, I’m sure) put a lot of effort and coordination toward creating an experience that was truly memorable for all involved.

Rich: The food was so great, I’m not gonna eat for two days. At the gym tomorrow, I’ll be in slow motion.

Chris: This made it even harder to decide what to eat here. Everything is so good.

JD: I couldn’t ask for a better evening at the ballpark. It was great hanging out with you and these guys, and watching Rich drink.

Thomas: This was the best experience I ever had at a ball field. I played ball, but this was the best.

Thanks, guys. It really was a lot of fun.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: Shooting, Rolling and Singing in Myrtle Beach

To see all my posts from my May 10 visit to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

As mentioned in my previous post, my whirlwind day with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans was overseen by the indefatigable front office duo of Jeffrey Draluck and Hunter Horenstein.

For the record, Jeffrey and Hunter later decided that their collective nickname would be “Hans and Franz Jefenstein.”

During the ballgame itself, Hunter was my point man. He ably oversaw the most massive designated eating experience in the history of this blog — a four-man, four-inning effort that will be documented in the next post. When all that was said and done, it was the fifth inning, and there was still much on the agenda. For reasons I can no longer quite ascertain, we began the inning while wandering around the home bullpen area.

Pelicans on their perch.

124Hunter pointed out that one downside of this bullpen setup is that it isn’t visible from the press box, meaning that those covering the game have no way to tell who is warming up. He also said that while walking past the clubhouse door, it is always a good idea to keep one’s hand out in front in a defensive gesture. You can get clobbered if someone opens it from the inside while you’re walking by. The more you know.

125Oh, wait. I do remember why we were out this way. I had been invited to ride along during the nightly ritual that is shooting t-shirts out of a massive 12-barrel t-shirt gun. Jen Borowski, the Pelicans’ senior director of community development, is an expert T-shirt markswoman. I left the shooting to her and was content to just hang out in the passenger seat while trying to look cool.

IMG_1320Riding around the field while shirts are getting shot is a lot of fun.

The view from center field.

IMG_1321Hunter and I then made our way to the third base dugout, so that I could compete in an oversized dice-rolling competition. Along the way Hunter saw an usher by the name of Bob and said “How ya doin’?”

“If I was doing any better, I’d be twins,” replied Bob.

I laughed at Bob’s remark, but upon further reflection I realized I have no idea what it means.

Anyhow, this was the oversized die I was tasked with rolling.

IMG_1324The specifics of this contest have been lost to the annals of time, but I got two rolls and an opponent on the first base side got two rolls as well. I won. That’s the important thing. And I won because my form was flawless.

Photo: Larry Kave

Photo: Larry Kave

The next stop was the press box, so that I could spent an inning on the Pelicans radio broadcast. John Vittas is on the left and Scott Kornberg is on the right. They join a distinguished legacy of Pelicans broadcasters that includes Nathan Barnett (now engaged in a futile quest to get me to visit his current Frisco RoughRidgers locale) and Tyler Maun (now an MiLB.com co-worker and widely beloved co-host of the Show Before the Show podcast).

126Kornberg kindly vacated his seat so that I could spend some time chatting with Vittas.

I was on the air during the top half of the seventh inning and immediately went from the booth to a press-box window so that I could lead the crowd in singing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Footage of this rousing rendition may exist, but I can no longer find it. But I did find this photo (credit Larry Kave) on the team’s Facebook page.

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Back on the concourse, I spent a few minutes chatting with longtime gameday employee John Glover. Glover is, in a way, the heart of the franchise. He’s been with the team since the beginning and for years has manned the guest service kiosk. He knows everybody, and everybody knows him.

128Glover, originally from what he calls “the real New Jersey” (Bayonne, to be exact) has a military background and used to teach survival courses in the Air Force. He has a kind, calm demeanor and told me that, when it comes to his time with the Pelicans, “I’ve never had a job I’ve enjoyed so much in my life.”

As the game wrapped up, I spent some time with Pelicans president Andy “Milo” Milovich. He showed off this beach area that, while empty on this Tuesday night, is often used as a group party area.

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Milo told me that if a sorority books the beach area, they get to take part in a pre-game “Field of Dreams” of sorts and run out onto the field with the players. I imagine that the players don’t have much of a problem with this.

We then walked over to Grissom Plaza, on the left field concourse, which was turned into a “Mini-Wrigley” after the Pelicans became a Cubs affiliate. Note the ivy. (And my apologies for the poor quality photo.)

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As Milo and I wandered about, the Pelicans put the finishing touches on a 5-2 victory over  the Winston-Salem Dash. My evening at the ballpark didn’t end there, however, as almost all of the front staff and assorted hangers-on stuck around for an impromptu post-game party at the groundskeeper’s shed. Moments like those are what makes working in Minor League Baseball special, and it says a lot about the Pelicans front office culture that nearly everyone wanted opted to hang out despite having just worked a 14-hour day and with another 14-hour day on the horizon. (And then another. And another.)

This account must end on a sad note, however, as the seemingly inseparable “Hans and Franz Jefenstein” have been separated from one another. Jeffrey has recently taken a position with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, leaving Hunter to ride the dinosaurs alone.

Stay strong, guys, and never forget the good times.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: A Long Day’s Journey Into Night in Myrtle Beach

To see all my posts from my May 10 visit to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

I’m used to arriving at the ballpark before the game begins, but more than seven hours before the game begins? This was my situation when I visited the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

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At the request of the team, I showed up at TicketReturn.com Field in the late morning so that I could get the “full Myrtle Beach experience.” Pelicans staffers (and best buds) Hunter Horenstein and Jeffrey Draluck were my designated tour guides, and over the course of the afternoon, we did everything from touch horseshoe crabs to play putt-putt to fly in helicopters. These intrepid adventures in rapid-fire tourism have been documented in an MiLB.com article, which touches on the Pelicans and their unique situation of operating a Minor League team within a vacation-based market.

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Hunter and Jeffrey, my dino-riding Myrtle Beach tour guides.

By the time Hunter, Jeffrey and I made it back to the ballpark, I was exhausted and just about ready to call it a day. But the day had just begun! We entered the ballpark through the backdoor, which gave us the chance to check out the team locker rooms. The Pelicans are in their second season of Cubs affiliation, and this relationship is made readily apparent throughout the entirety of the players’ domain.

073Even the bathroom stalls are Cubs-branded. Use the stall on the left if you need to “drop a Maddux.”

075The Cubs have assigned a nutritionist to work with the Pelicans players on-site. Therefore, healthy “shot” options are always at the ready.

078The clubhouse was empty because the players were warming up out on the field.

079What’s up, Jeffrey Baez?

080The Pelicans were established in 1999, operating first as a Braves affiliate (1999-2010) before transitioning to the Rangers (2011-2014) and, now, the Cubs. In that time quite a few players have traveled the “Road to the Show.”

082One such player was Mike Hessman, who slugged 23 home runs for the Pelicans in their inaugural ’99 campaign. Hessman went on to hit 433 homers in the Minors, the most of all time. If I have a reason to mention him, however gratuitous, I will.

With the gates open and game time approaching, I returned to the out-of-doors. It was a pleasant evening, if a bit overcast.

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In the dugout, I did my first-ever “Facebook Live” interview with Pelicans broadcaster Scott Kornberg.

It was then time to deliver a ceremonial first pitch. For good luck, I had my ball autographed by Splash.

088Splash’s John Hancock increased my confidence that my imminent offering would be straight and true.

And, of course, it was.

You’ll just have to take my word for it.

You’ll also have to take my word for it that there will be plenty more blog posts to come from Myrtle Beach. And by “plenty,” I mean “two.” Stay tuned.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Tuesday Night: Myrtle Beach Pelicans, May 10, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 10: TicketReturn.com Field, home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Opponent: Winston-Salem Dash, 7:05 p.m. start time

TicketReturn.com Field, from the outside:

086TicketReturn.com Field, from within: 

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Culinary Creation: Uh, where to begin? This was one of four courses, served to four designated eaters. Chicken and waffle bites, fried bologna sandwich, chicken bog balls, fried pickles, sweet potato fries. Stay tuned for a full report.

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Ballpark Character: Randy the vendor

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At Random: That’s not a T-shirt gun; this is a T-shirt gun.

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz