For those just tuning in, at the beginning of August, I embarked on a nearly 3000 mile, 6-day, 6-game Cubs themed vacation. The plan was to hit 2 big league Cubs games (home and away), a Triple A game, Double A game and games from two different Single A affiliates (low and high).
Alright. One more stop. So far, we’ve been to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We’ve been to South Bend, Indiana. We’ve been to Chicago,Illinois. We’ve been to Des Moines, Iowa. We’ve been to Kodak, Tennessee. Our final stop will be Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to see the Cubs’ high Single A affiliate, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
Like the South Bend Cubs, this is the first season for the Pelicans with the Cubs. Most recently they had been associated with the Texas Rangers. The Cubs previous affiliate at this level had been the Daytona Cubs, who were part of the Cubs family since the team’s inception in 1993. Despite this long term relationship, I’m actually ok with the change. Why, you might ask? Because I’m selfish. The Pelicans play in the Carolina League and the Potomac Nationals, also in that league, are my closest local minor league team. So now, I can see some Cubs minor league baseball fairly locally! In fact, the Pelicans are coming to my neck of the woods in early September. It’ll be midweek so I don’t know that I’ll make it to all three games in the series, but we’ll see what the schedule permits.
Anyway, back to the trip.
When we rolled into Myrtle Beach, we weren’t getting enough baseball so we were also following the big league Cubs on the MLBTV app on my phone. The reception wasn’t great while going through the Smokey Mountains but the further we got into South Carolina, the better it got. The Cubs were in the final game of the Giants series that we saw begin in person a few days before in Wrigley. While we were busy in Des Moines and Kodak, the Cubs had won games 2 and 3 and were looking to sweep the four game series against the defending World Champs while widening their wild card lead.
We pulled into the Pelicans stadium just as Hector Rondon came on in the 9th for the save. With a 2-0 lead, we watched on in horror as the wheels began to fall off. A single, a double and a walk loaded the bases with no outs. But Rondon somehow managed to channel Carlos Marmol and/or Mitch Williams and struck out the next three guys to complete the sweep.
We locked up the car and headed towards the stadium where we could hear a familiar tune. Apparently, somewhere in the stadium (maybe on the scoreboard?) they had been playing the Cubs game and were blasting Go Cubs Go over the loud speakers. I knew I was going to like this place…
After splurging on tickets in Tennessee the day before, I didn’t have that opportunity in Myrtle. I couldn’t get three together anywhere but in the outfield general admission bleachers but that was fine with us.
Featured on the ticket was current Cub Kyle Hendricks, who played for the Pelicans while he was still in the Rangers organization. He came over along with Christian Villanueva in return for the Cubs sending Ryan Dempster to the Rangers.
I find it very interesting that in Tennessee, Iowa and Chicago, we had to pay for programs. But in the two Class A ballparks, South Bend and Myrtle Beach, the programs were free.
This was volume 9 and covered two series. Without looking at the schedule, I would guess that equates to a homestand. I asked at the customer service stand if they had any back issues available and after digging around, I received this volume 1 gem from the opening homestand:
Every time I went to the restroom or concession stand, I popped into the team store. I was having trouble coming to terms with adding anything with a Pelican on it to my predominantly bear themed collection. And their team colors aren't Cubby blue, but a light, powder blue. I didn't add a hat, but I did end up with a t-shirt that didn't look too silly. In addition to this year's Pelicans team set, they also had last year's Daytona Cubs set AND last year's Kane County Cougars set. I guess they figured the sets had a bunch of current Pelicans in them so why not sell them. Well, they certainly suckered me into picking up one of each.
Once the sun went down behind the water tower a bit, these seats were perfect. It definitely felt closer than this picture leads you to believe.
You may have to click to enlarge it, but I thought the Harry Caray caricature sign above the broadcast booth was a nice touch.
They were doing fireworks right behind us after the game so they kicked us out of our seats during the 8th inning and cleared the vicinity. Hmmm. I wasn’t real happy about that, but what can you do? During the bottom of the 8th and the top of the 9th, we ended up standing along the third base line in a main aisle.
The view was much better, but of course the Pelicans had themselves a late inning rally so we ended up standing around quite a bit. Already up 6-2, they added 4 more in the 8th to make this our 3rd double digit game of the trip!
I was trying to get a picture of the final score on the scoreboard when I noticed the video they were showing. What’s going on?
Oh, just the mascot Splash the Pelican hoisting the “W” flag out in left field. Nice! I really enjoyed all of the big league club traditions that have filtered down to the minors. Harry Caray. Go Cubs Go. The “W” flag. Winning. Well, that last one might not be a tradition just yet…
Oh yeah, I mentioned fireworks, right?
But wait…there’s more?
Well, that’s it for the Cubs part of the trip, but hey, we were in Myrtle Beach. I pricelined a hotel and got a pretty good deal. We slept in but hit the beach for a couple of hours on Monday morning before walking the boardwalk on the way back to the car. We had lunch, “wasted” some money in an arcade for an hour or two and then hit the road.
What a great way to end a fantastic trip!
To briefly recap the week:
The Cubs/affiliates went 6-0, outscoring their opponents 48-8! Three double digit scoring outputs, along with two shutouts thrown. We saw fireworks at two stadiums. Five of the six stadiums were new to us (all but Wrigley), The weather was beautiful each and every night. The drive wasn’t as bad as I thought. I didn't talk about it much but the food was amazing. There were giveaways. There were autographs. There were baseball cards. There was some great father/son bonding. If I knew it would turn out this way, I would have paid double!
I would do this every year for the rest of my life, but I don’t see how this trip could be topped. My sons and I talked about doing a similar trip with other ballparks, grouped geographically rather than by affiliation. I just don’t know that I would be as entertained without a vested interest in the teams playing. Spring Training and the Cubs Convention are on my bucket list but with both sons wrestling in the winter for the foreseeable future, those are both a good couple of years away. I did throw it out there that if the Cubs make it past the wild card round this year, I will definitely be on the hunt for playoff tickets…