Recently my fiancé and I went on vacation to Ocean Isle, N.C. While there, we made the 40-minute drive to Myrtle Beach and took in a Pelicans Minor League Baseball game.
The Pelicans are the advanced Single-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
For our game, the promotion was “Wizard Night,” in conjunction with Harry Potter, since the final film in the franchise was being released at midnight. All of the interns and stadium workers were dressed in outfits straight out of Hogwarts, the jerseys worn by the players — given away after the game — had a Harry Potter theme, and the between-innings activities that are typically played during games in the minors all had a Harry Potter twist.
At the end of the night, there were fireworks shot off to the tunes of, you guessed it, Harry Potter.
Oh, and mixed in there was some pretty good baseball.
On the drive home, we stopped in Bluefield, W.V., to watch the Blue Jays, a short-season Single-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays where my brother was recently moved.
While the stadium, which was originally built in 1939 had nowhere near the bells and whistles that graced the Pelican’s park, it had plenty of interesting history.
For 53 years, Bluefield was affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles, which is the longest minor league team affiliation on record. From 1958-2010, about 100 former Bluefield Orioles have played in the majors, and several former Bluefield managers have also coached in the big leagues.
Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray and local legend Dean Chance all got their professional baseball starts in Bluefield, which was affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles until the Blue Jays moved in this season.
The seats are still Orioles orange and you can tell the fans there are still loyal to that team by all the Baltimore shirts in the seats.
What else was cool about the park was the food prices. True, it was a cash-only situation, but for $2, fans could enjoy a soda in a collectable cup, and nachos where just $1.50. There was plenty of fun and entertainment as well.
My fiancé and I both signed up for a golf challenge where you had to chip a ball over the left-field fence from home plate (I failed, miserably) and I even won a free dinner because I found a player’s autograph hidden in my program.
Of course, seeing my little brother, Matthew Johnson, play was the biggest thrill of all. He was transferred to Bluefield from Vancouver a little more than a week ago, and luckily was playing the day we were set to drive back to Ohio.
There is still plenty of summer left, so my advice is to take in a minor league game somewhere in Ohio. These young men are often far from home, and crowd support can really help boast their moral and even help them have stronger performances. You never know what future All-Star you’ll see, or whose autograph you’ll get. That’s what makes the minors so special to me.
There are five minor league teams in the state. Triple-A teams are the Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Indians) and Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers). The Akron Aeros are Cleveland’s Double-A squad. The Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds) and Mahoning Valley Scrappers in Niles (Cleveland) are Single-A teams.