Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Myrtle Beach Pelicans 3 at Salem Red Sox 0 (Carolina League) - August 11, 2015

Now that I've completed the New York-Penn League ballparks, there is nothing left to visit close to home to visit, so I have to head out for extended trips. The Carolinas are a hotbed of minor league baseball, with 12 teams in 4 leagues (International, Carolina, South Atlantic, and Appalachian) in the two states. Using Charlotte as a starting point, there are also several teams within 4 hours that are in Virginia, Georgia, and Tennessee. It is just a matter of deciding which teams to see and then planning a schedule.

As visiting all ballparks in a given league is my current obsession, the Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League was an obvious candidate to be on the list, as they play at one of the two ballparks I have yet to see in this eight-team circuit (the Carolina Mudcats in Zebulon are the other). The Red Sox play out of Salem Memorial Ballpark, though it is now also known as LewisGale Field after a medical center bought naming rights in 2006, 11 years after the stadium opened. The venue, part of a larger sports complex, is about a mile southwest of downtown and very close to the larger community of Roanoke. Parking is free in the spacious lot out front.

Tickets are $9 for game-day GA seats and that is all you need to get. The seating bowl is huge with capacity at 6,300; the GA seats those above the main walkway. You can move around and sit closer if you want, as once the game starts, there is none of that ticket-checking stuff going on.

One of the interesting features here is the concourse behind the main walkway, where entrances to the restrooms can be found. There are archways all along the concourse, with banners of past Salem players, including Daisuke Matsuzaka, who threw 4 innings here in 2012.

Another feature I quite liked is the tables and stools set up on the plaza behind home plate (above). These are open to the public and provide a great view of the game behind the protective netting. I would have tried one but didn't want to take up a whole table. Behind here you can see the guest services where rosters can be picked up (a free scorecard is given out upon entry) and the ID table, where you get a wristband to purchase alcohol. You can also see the baseballs on the facade below the press box commemorating league and division titles for the Red Sox (who have played here since 2009) and the Avalanche, the franchise's previous name.

The views beyond center and right field are quite nice, with rolling hills in the background. The photos above and below really don't show these in all their glory, but are another reason to sit high in the GA section.

You might notice the pennants in the shot above. When I first saw them, I thought they represented each team in the league, but upon closer inspection, realized that they were quite repetitive. Still, few minor league parks have pennants atop the seating bowl and it is nice touch, especially when the wind is blowing and the flapping sound harkens back to days gone by, when pennants were a more common sight at diamonds around the country.

I don't like to talk much about the food at ballparks as part of the fun for first-time visitors is looking at the menus, but one concession stand here deserves special mention. That is Swine Drive Deli Dawgs, which offers ten different specialty hot dogs, such as the Hawaiian Dog (BBQ Sauce, Pineapple Ring, and Teriyaki) or the Boston Dawg (Baked Beans, Yellow Mustard and Diced Onions, my choice below). The large, all-beef franks are served hot and fresh (i.e. made after you order) on a sub roll and come with a fork to eat all the toppings. Well worth the $5.

Finally, it seems like Red Sox affiliates are concerned with the health of their fans (perhaps as a result of consuming such items above). There are fitness facts around the concourse in Lowell, and there they suggest taking the stairs instead of a very slow elevator.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time here. The game day staff are incredibly friendly and the park is spacious and affordable. Unfortunately, the team is not so good these days, with a 16-29 record in the second half of the season.

The Game

Myrtle Beach, the 1st-half division winner and best team in the league by far at 68-46 overall, was in town to take on the Red Sox.

Teddy Stankiewicz (2nd round, 2013, Boston's 19th-ranked prospect) started for Salem, coming in with a 3-10 mark. He hasn't pitched poorly but has received little run support from his offense. Such would the case again tonight as Jonathan Martinez (above) started for Myrtle Beach and hurled four hitless innings, keeping the Salem hitters off balance. In the fifth inning, Salem's Yoilan Cerse (recently signed out of Cuba) did something I have never seen before. He lost his bat on four consecutive swings, including three times while fouling the pitch off. Each time the bat was flung into the protective netting at the backstop, finally Cerse had to remove his batting gloves. Naturally, on the next pitch, he singled to break up the no-hitter, the only hit given up by Martinez in six frames.

Stankiewicz was equally stingy with the runs and was replaced with one out in the 6th after giving up a double and hitting a batter. Kyle Kraus (7th, 2012, above) took over and induced a beautiful 3-6-3 double play to keep the game scoreless.

David Garner (7th, 2013) came on for Martinez and hurled 2 more hitless frames and Myrtle Beach finally broke the run drought when Cael Brockmeyer (16th, 2013) singled home Pin-Chieh Chen in the 8th. The Pelicans added some unnecessary insurance in the 9th as Trey Martin (13th, 2011, smiling above) homered off the left field foul pole to make it 3-0.

Jasvir Rakkar (26th, 2012, from North York and drafted out of Stony Brook) pitched the ninth and gave up a single before getting Mauricio Dubon (26th, 2013 and Boston's 21st-ranked prospect, above) to line into a game-ending double play. Dubon was born in Honduras (though states Sacramento) and if he makes the majors, he would be the first native of Honduras to do so (Gerald Young was born there but grew up in California).

The sorry Salem linescore is above. This was the third time this year that Stankiewicz has given up no earned runs and received a no-decision. Martinez, meanwhile, leads the league with a 0.94 WHIP and should be in AA next year, thus earning my Player to Watch award.


Some of the opposition players get their own walk up music, such as Forever Young for leadoff hitter Chesny Young (14th, 2014). Even funnier was a short clip from the Simpsons with homer stating "Take that Pinchy" when Chen (Pin-Chieh) struck out. I always like when the game day staff make the extra effort to mock the visitors.

Next Up

I'm in Hickory for the first of five South Atlantic League games in five days. Check back tomorrow for an update.



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