Pelicans field

New netting lines the field and protects the fans as the Myrtle Beach Pelicans open the season on Thursday. The Frederick Keys won 6-2. Photo by Janet Morgan/Myrtle Beach Herald janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Having attended hundreds of games at dozens of ballparks across the nation, Skip Keaton is a bit of a baseball stadium expert. He puts the Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ minor league

TicketReturn.com Stadium near the top of his list.

“I’ve been to (New York’s) Yankee Stadium, new and old, (Boston’s) Fenway Park, (Chicago’s) Wrigley Field, and big league and minor league ballparks all over the country, and this is one of my favorites,” said the 58-year-old New Yorker, who was visiting the Grand Strand on an annual golf getaway with friends. “ We schedule our trip around when the team is in town so we can catch a game. … It’s smaller than the big league parks, but it’s a great atmosphere.”

Keaton and the rest of his foursome are not alone in their assessment of the Advanced Class A Pelicans’ ballpark.

The 5,500-seat TicketReturn.com Stadium has ranked among the Top 50 minor league ballpark experiences in the country for six consecutive seasons by Stadium Journey, which last week cited the Pelicans for providing the best ballpark experience in the state - ahead of Charleston’s Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park, Columbia’s Spirit Communications Park, Greenville’s Fluor Field and North Augusta’s SRP Park.

“It’s an honor to be named the top ballpark experience in South Carolina, which is such a rich state for Minor League Baseball,” said Pelicans General Manager Ryan Moore.

“Our entire staff takes pride in this ranking because we know the experiences in Augusta, Charleston, Columbia and Greenville are some of the best in MiLB.”

Stadium Journey awarded TicketReturn.Com Field 4.57 stars out of five, earning perfect scores for the categories of Food & Beverage (“the food and drink selection at TicketReturn. com Field well exceeds most minor league food offerings.”), Access (“ parking is free, which is a huge bonus.”), Extras (“The ushers all were armed with towels and would gladly dry off your seats.”) and Neighborhood (“Broadway at the Beach ... has anything and everything you could ask for in a pre-game/post-game hangout.”).

Overall, Stadium Journey was impressed by how the team balances a summer fan base that is a mix of locals and visitors.

“The Pelicans have done an amazing job of catering to both local die-hards and casual tourists. With the massive variety of food options and many entertainment options, TicketReturn.com Field is easily a premier minor league venue.”

The Pelicans certainly delivered lots of bang for fans’ bucks last weekend, when Atlanta Braves legends Steve Avery and Andruw Jones made appearances.

“I saw that guy hit two homers in his first two at-bats against the Yankees in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series,” Keaton said of Jones. “He ended up finishing his career with the Yankees.”

Although Friday’s game with Avery was rained out, Saturday’s game attracted more than 5,100 fans to see Jones, the Pelicans and all the between-inning antics of Splash the Pelican and Deuce the Home Run Dog. Sunday’s showdown with the Winston-Salem Dash concluded with kids running the bases and a post-game fireworks show.

The Pelicans have only four home stands remaining this season: July 27-Aug. 2, Aug. 10-12, Aug. 17-10 and Aug. 27-30. The team is trying to extend its streak of seven straight Carolina League playoff appearances.

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