Family Travel 2011

Megan Sexton



Take a trip around the minor league bases in South Carolina

Posted 6/21/2011 3:36:00 PM

Minor league baseball is much more than the action on the field.

It’s watching a three-legged race down the third base line between innings.

It’s a giant frog mascot showing off his moves in a dance-off with players and coaches near the dugout.

It’s a yellow lab delivering a basket of extra baseballs to the umpire between innings.

It’s a homewrecker sandwich at a ballpark known as The Joe, named for the city’s longest-serving mayor.

It’s, quite simply, a great way for a family to spend a summer evening.

And you can experience it in nearly every corner of South Carolina.

Fluor Field in Greenville, BB&T Coastal Field in Myrtle Beach and Joseph P. Riley Park in Charleston are each home to Class A baseball teams. The Greenville Drive is a minor league team of the Boston Red Sox; the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, a Texas Rangers affiliate, and the Charleston River Dogs, a N.Y. Yankees farm team. The Charlotte Knights, a Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, play in Fort Mill.

“Minor league baseball really is about families,” said Mike deMaine, general manager of the Greenville Drive. “It’s a great atmosphere for families to enjoy each other’s company … and it’s a great value for their dollar.”

The Drive play in a cozy stadium on the edge of downtown Greenville designed to look like Boston’s Fenway Park, complete with the Green Monster wall in left field. The warehouses just beyond the outfield wall bring a taste of Baltimore’s Camden Yards, and the rooftop and balcony viewing from nearby condos offers a little of Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

We took a pleasant walk from our downtown Greenville hotel to the ballpark on a recent Saturday, although shuttles are available throughout downtown for fans who want a ride. Once there, we munched on some peanuts and hot dogs, watched the kids see how fast they could throw a baseball, sang along to “Sweet Caroline” (another reminder of Fenway) and were entertained by Breakin’ BBoy McCoy, who did a pretty impressive Michael Jackson dance routine atop the first-base dugout

It all added up to an entertaining night at the ballpark.

And the home team won.

Greenville Drive stats:

Where: Fluor Field at the West End, downtown Greenville
How much: Ticket prices are $5 to $9.
Just for kids: Kids can’t resist the play area near the entrance down the left-field line. Reedy Rip’it, the energetic frog mascot, is a big hit with kids, too.
Don’t miss: Baseball fans will love the touches that make Fluor resemble Boston’s Fenway, including the 30-foot high Green Monster in left field and “Pesky’s Pole” in right.
Extra stuff: Fireworks every Friday.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans stats

Where: BB&T Coastal Field, 21st Avenue North, just across the street from the Broadway at the Beach entertainment complex.
How much: Ticket prices range from $8 to $13.
Don’t miss: Deuce the yellow lab. He stole the show at a recent game we attended, bringing a basket of balls to the umpire and then running the bases after the game. (A treat at each base led him from first to home plate.)
Just for kids: At a game this summer, kids couldn’t get enough of Splash, the official Pelicans mascot (who is, naturally, a pelican). He’s the clown of the ballpark and is always ready to pose for a picture. Another plus for kids: After every home game, kids can run the bases with Splash and Deuce.
Extra stuff: The left-field beach. The real one is just a mile or so away, but the Pelicans park features its own version that can accommodate up to 120 for special gatherings – complete with lounge chairs.

Charleston River Dogs stats

Where: The Joe (officially called Joseph P. Riley Park). It’s on the waterfront close to The Citadel and not far from downtown Charleston.
How much: Ticket prices range from $6 to $17
Don’t miss: The food. The Travel Channel’s Adam Richman tried the massive Homewrecker Hot Dog as part of his Man vs. Food gig. But the new item on the hot dog menu – the pig on a stick – caught our attention. It’s a foot-long, bacon-wrapped corndog.
Just for kids: Every Sunday is Family Sunday. There are face-painting stations and inflatables on the concourse, and families can play catch in the outfield before the game.
Extra stuff: Saturdays are giveaway days at The Joe. The first 1,000 fans receive a gift – baseball cards, bobble-heads, hats, etc.

Charlotte Knights stats

Where: Knights Castle, just off Interstate 77 in Fort Mill.
How much: Tickets are $7 to $14
Don’t miss: Homer the Dragon. He’s hard to miss (the green guy with the orange hair). You’ll find him riding his four-wheeler, throwing T-shirts to fans and delivering pizzas. Just watch out: He is known to bop people with his tail.
Just for kids: The Levine Children’s Hospital Play Zone features a carousel, rock climbing wall, jumbo slide, speed pitch and other activities for kids. It’s on the first base concourse.