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The Myrtle Beach Pelicans are ready to play ball again. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

The Birds are back. 

Seventeen months since they last took the field, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans announced their 2021 schedule this week. The team is set to play 120 games this season, with 60 played on the road and the other half at TicketReturn.Com Field in Myrtle Beach, according to a news release. 

The Pelicans will open their 2021 season on the road against the Charleston RiverDogs in a six-game series on May 4. 

The Pelicans will return to the Grand Strand for their home opener on May 11 against the Augusta GreenJackets, the Low-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, in a six-game series. The series versus the GreenJackets will be the only home series in the month of May for Pelicans. 

The longest stretch of home games will be played on the Grand Strand from July 13-25, when the Pelicans take on the Fireflies and the RiverDogs in separate six-game series.

Over the course of the season, fans will be treated to old rivals such as the Down East Wood Ducks, Fayetteville Woodpeckers and the Lynchburg Hillcats. However, there are some new, yet recognizable faces coming in and out of TicketReturn.Com Field this summer, following structural changes to minor league baseball in the offseason.  

Previously, there were 14 leagues spread over five levels. Now, it’s 11 leagues over four levels. The four levels will be known as Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A with the lower three of those levels split into three regional leagues; the Triple-A level remains at just two leagues. 

This new system will allow major league teams to be closer to their minor league affiliates, while also being able to increase the salaries for minor leaguers.

The Charleston RiverDogs and the Columbia Fireflies are now in the same league as the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, joining the Low-A East. Augusta rounds out the South Division. 

The RiverDogs were in Class A for 40 years and an affiliate with the Yankees for the last 15 seasons. Charleston is now Low-A and with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Fireflies were also Class A with the RiverDogs and are now with the Kansas City Royals. 

Also in the Low-A East will be the Delmarva Shorebirds, Fredericksburg Nationals, Lynchburg Hillcats, Salem Red Sox, Carolina Mudcats, Down East Wood Ducks, Fayetteville Woodpeckers and Kannapolis Cannon Ballers. Delmarva, Fredericksburg, Lynchburg and Salem make up the North division, while Carolina, Down East, Fayetteville and Kannapolis make up the Central.

After a season away from the Pelicans, Buddy Bailey is back in the dugout for Myrtle Beach. Bailey, who was the manager during the Pelicans championship season in 2016, managed the South Bend Cubs in 2019, guiding the team to a Midwest League Championship in his lone season as manager in South Bend. 

Bailey was 216-202 during his time as manager of the Pelicans.

The 2019 Pelicans finished the year 55-81, the second-lowest win total in franchise history. The Pelicans will look to emulate that 2016 glory and push to the competition once the new season begins in less than three months.

To see the full schedule, click here. Season tickets are available and for that information call 843-918-6000.

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