Pelicans pitcher

Pelicans Pitcher Ryan Kellogg will be returning to the mound in Myrtle Beach.

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans are celebrating their 20th season on the Grand Strand, and the minor league baseball franchise is planning to spread the birthday presents around to the fans that have supported the team through the years.

Opening their 20th season at TicketReturn.com Field on Thursday in a series with the Frederick Keys, the Pelicans have scheduled a number of ways to say thanks to a local fan base that has cheered the home team to three straight Carolina League Mills Cup championship appearances.

“We have a lot of events planned, but the main thing we want to promote is how important the community is to us,” said Pelicans broadcaster and manager of media relations Scott Kornberg. “Everything is designed to make sure our locals come first and foremost. We wouldn’t be celebrating two decades of Myrtle Beach Pelicans baseball without them.”

The team has launched a new “My Pelicans” program that is free for Grand Strand residents and includes exclusive freebies and members-only benefits, as well continuing its “Play It Forward” campaign that has raised more than $2 million for area charities over the past five years. The Pelicans also are offering Locals Appreciation Saturdays with discounted admission tickets and 20th anniversary-themed giveaways at the gate.

The season-long festivities will honor the history of the franchise with collectable bobbleheads and player cards of some of the greats who have suited up for the Pelicans over the past 20 years - from the team’s first manager and current Atlanta Braves skipper Brian Snitker to recent standout and current Chicago Cubs lead-off man Ian Happ.

“We have had some big names come through Myrtle Beach. Now it’s 171 former players or guys who came on rehab assignments to make it to the majors,” Kornbereg recalled. “But sometimes we forget what a strong managerial tradition we have. Brian Snitker is now the manager of the Braves, (former manager and Murrells Inlet resident) Rocket Wheeler had a big impact on the local community, and (current manager) Buddy Bailey is one of only 11 managers in minor league history to win 2,000 games.”

Of course, most fans are more interested in the incoming crop of players they will see this summer, and the Cubs have once again sent a talented crew.

Right-handed pitchers Alex Lange and Keegan Thompson, left-handed hurler Bryan Hudson, infielders Aramis Ademan and Tyler Alamo, and outfielder D.J. Wilson are among the top prospects in the Cubs’ organization on the Pelicans’ roster this season. This year’s crop of Pelicans have big cleats to fill as Myrtle Beach has won two of the past three Carolina League crowns.

The Pelicans also have a long list of history-themed promotions on the schedule - a Salute to Bull Durham (trivia fact 1: the old Durham Bulls relocated to Myrtle Beach), Myrtle Beach Mermen Night (trivia fact 2: The HBO series “East Bound and Down” was shot at Pelicans Ballpark), and Braves Weekend (trivia fact 3: the Pelcians were initially a farm team for the Atlanta Braves). There are 15 post-game fireworks shows on the schedule, beginning opening night through Aug. 18, and other special events like Cubs-A-Palooza (June 1-2), Touch-A-Truck Night (June 3), and an early Halloween Night (July 1).

Weekly promotions include Half-off Hunger Mondays (half-priced admission with Backpack Buddies donation), $2 Tacos and Tallboys Tuesdays, Weiner Wednesday (buy one get one hot dogs), the ever-popular Thirsty Thursdays ($1 drafts from 6 to 8 p.m.), and Beer, Brats & Baseball and First Responder Fridays. In addition to the Locals Appreciation and 20th Anniversary celebration on Saturdays, Ultimate Kids Sundays will feature on-field fun, inflatables, face-painting and more for the little ones.

The Pelicans open the 2018 season Thursday.

For a full schedule and more information, visit www.myrtlebeachpelicans.com.

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