Made my annual pilgrimage to see the Myrtle Beach Pelicans shortly arriving on the Grand Strand Saturday afternoon. Just after I arrived a girl drove up and hopped out of her car wearing a 70's miniskirt and white boots. I knew it was disco night, and thought these fans were really going all out. Turned out she was the girl who announced all the promotions.
After waiting out in the hot sun I was one of the first fans in the gate at 6 pm. Enjoyed the shade under the stands for a while, saying hello to the men at the guest relations booth. I noticed entry forms for a sweepstakes, but uncharacteristically did not enter. Went out to my seats in the sun and chatted with the usher. There was still plenty of time before the game.
Heard an announcement that fans could enter a contest: if the Pelicans turn a triple play an entrant would win. Wanting to get out of the sun, I went back to the guest relations booth to enter. At that time only one other fan had entered. I knew winning was a longshot – later I learned the Pelicans had never turned a triple play at home in their entire history.
Found a seat in the shade and the game began. As the umpires were announced I noticed a difference: AA games have two umpires, AAA games have three, and MLB games have four. During umpire introductions the Pelicans played amusing Star Wars music.
I kept score, making note of the player's stats and hometowns. The opposing Lynchburg Hillcats, a Braves affiliate, had one player from Athens and a catcher from Birmingham. Pelicans first baseman Preston Beck was from Dallas. In the first few innings third baseman Luis Mendez made several nice defensive plays, including tagging a runner caught between second and third.
For the most part I watched and scored the game, enjoying the crowd and between-inning promotions. From time to time my cell phone would distract me. Snapped a photo of the super moon rising over the left field stands and posted it on Instagram. At worst, the crack of the bat brought my attention back to the game – unlike one young fan sitting in the front row beyond the third base dugout who was hit with a foul ball.
In the top of the fourth the first two Hillcat batters led off with base hits. Catcher Joe Odom hit a grounder right at Mendez at third. He took three steps to his right to step on the bag, wheeled, and fired a one-hopper to second. It was a close play at second, and I thought there was no time to get the out at first. Odom had seemingly crossed the bag as Beck stretched to his right for the throw, but the base umpire, having just completed his out call at first, pointed toward first and made another out call. Triple play!
The Pelicans flew off the field in celebration. The fans gave them a standing ovation. Lynchburg manager Luis Salazar went out to argue, to no avail. I was thankful the minor leagues don't have replay – had this been a MLB game it call would surely been reviewed. The stadium announcer said one lucky fan had won the HTC Triple Play prize pack, but didn't say when the winner's name would be announced.
I kept my phone close just in case, but it wasn't until after the Pelicans batted that the announcement was made: "The prize winner is…" …and my name was called. Heart beating, I excitedly gathered my stuff and made my way to the guest relations booth. Met the very friendly Guy Schuman, who gave me the details of my prize. Guy used to live near me in East Cobb, and is the fourth-highest ranking Pelicans official. Had my picture taken with Splash, the Pelican mascot, for Facebook. HTC, the local cable company, and the Pelicans ran the promotion last year, but since no triple play was turned the prize was given away at the end of the season. My prize: a tablet computer, a laptop computer, and a 39" flat screen HDTV.
Returned to my seat but was too excited to keep score. The smile on my face wouldn't go away. Texted Ceil and Will with the news. Stood and sang during the seventh inning stretch. By then the long day was taking its toll: taking two cars to Pageland for gas, packing the trunks of three cars to the brim, driving to the beach, unloading all three cars without a luggage cart, and standing in line for 30 minutes in the sun.
I'd wanted to attend the Saturday game because of the "Pelicans Disco" T-shirt giveaway, thought fortunately the nice T-shirt turned out to be a footnote in the bigger story. It was also the first time I'd ever worn my flashy new "light mango" colored Nike KD7 basketball shoes. I thought it would be hard for me to wear such bright shoes. Now they're my lucky shoes, so I'll have to wear them every day.
Here are two links: one to video hightlights of the game, and other to a game story: