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braves-leaving-myrtle-beach | September | 2010 Articles

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Say It Ain't So, Chuck!

Written by Bill Ballew on .

The rumor mill along the Grand Strand has been buzzing at full throttle of late, spinning nonstop like a hamster on crack. With the conclusion of the mock auction confirming that Nolan Ryan and Pelicans owner Chuck Greenberg have added the Texas Rangers to the stable, the word has run rampant that Myrtle Beach's boys of summer will be representing the American League club instead of the Atlanta Braves as soon as next season.

As a refresher, minor league teams and major league affiliates sign player development contracts that typically run in two-year cycles and conclude after even-numbered seasons. The Braves are one of the very few major league teams that owns most of its farm clubs-Triple-A Gwinnett, Double-A Mississippi, Class Rome and Rookie-level Danville-meaning they never have to worry about where their up-and-comers will be toiling on an annual basis.

The exception has been the Advanced Class A step, although that has been consistent for the past three decades. The Braves were partners in the Durham Bulls' revival in 1980 and remained at Durham Athletic Park until the city moved up to the Triple-A International League in 1998. After spending one year in Danville as the 97s while locating a new home, the Braves played an integral role in helping get what is now BB&T Coastal Field built in time for the 1999 campaign.

Before the Braves' arrival, professional baseball was anything but a success, at least in the stands, along the Grand Strand. The area's lone stint in pro ball prior to the Pelicans' presence came in the South Atlantic League, from 1987-1992. As an affiliate of the Blue Jays, the Myrtle Beach team won league titles in its first and final seasons. The games were played in Conway, on the campus of Coastal Carolina University, because city and county officials refused to provide any financial assistance for a ballpark. The lethal combination produced seasonal draws that ranged from a high of 78,212 in 1988 to a low of 61,120 during the team's swan song. Given the fact that minor league numbers are akin to the major leagues' on-field stats during the steroid era, it doesn't take a room temperature IQ to see why owner Winston Blenckstone took his toys to Hagerstown.

That scenario changed when the Braves and Capitol Broadcasting combined forces to get baseball back on the South Carolina coast. In addition to working with local politicians to get the ballpark built, the Braves provided assistance with the layout to make the facility fan friendly while contributing design elements that were reminiscent of Turner Field. The result was an immediate success as well as a recent resurgence after Greenberg purchased the team a few years back.

In my opinion, Greenberg would be making a huge mistake in kicking the Braves out of Myrtle Beach. Braves fans from throughout the Southeast make dual-purpose trips to the beach along the Grand Strand with evenings at BB&T Coastal Field, with many of them doing so several times over the course of the campaign. Without the Braves as the main attraction, many of those excursions will evaporate, thereby hurting the Pelicans' attendance.

The rumor mill also has the Braves possibly relocating to Kinston, where the Cleveland Indians have resided since 1987. The K-Tribe has had a loyal following during that time, but Grainger Stadium and the heat found in eastern North Carolina are not exactly enticing alternatives after more than a decade in Myrtle Beach. That's a deal along the lines of Charlie Brown trading five Mickey Mantle cards for one Joe Shlabotnik.

The Rangers appear to be headed to the playoffs thanks in large part to the trade they made with the Braves that sent Mark Teixeira to Atlanta for Texas' starting shortstop Elvis Andrus, closer Neftali Feliz and pitcher Matt Harrison. Isn't that enough in this game of cowboys and Indians? Come on, Chuck, do the right thing and keep the Braves in Myrtle Beach.


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