SAPAKOFF COLUMN: Spreading the USC-Clemson baseball series to more neutral sites
It's not like neutral site games are some kind of futuristic idea hatched only as recently as Gamecocks first baseman LB Dantzler took to favoring Justin Bieber's “Baby” as his walk-up song.
After all, South Carolina and Clemson christened their baseball rivalry in Charleston in 1899, a 21-8 Clemson win.
The Tigers and Gamecocks have clashed in Anderson, Sumter, Orangeburg and Spartanburg (not to mention Omaha).
The Reedy River Rivalry rocks as South Carolina and Clemson meet in Greenville on Saturday for the middle game of their three-game 2013 series. But the best rivalry in college baseball and its annual neutral site game are too big for a single river that's actually a glorified stream with pollution issues.
The Ashley River, Catawba River, Pee Dee River and Atlantic Ocean beckon.
To add range and depth to the growth of youth baseball throughout the Palmetto State, the programs should agree to spread the neutral site game around:
Not surprisingly, Clemson head coach Jack Leggett's favorite neutral site. The contract calls for fantastic Fluor Field again in 2014.
Riley Park last April got a Michael Roth start and an epic 11-inning ballgame that defined the recent trend: a close South Carolina victory, this time 3-2.
“I'm extremely interested in getting the 2015 game and we're already in communication with both schools,” Charleston RiverDogs general manager Dave Echols said Thursday. “From everything I've heard, it was very well received last year.”
And hermit crabs for 99 cents!
They call it TicketReturn.com Field these days, but it's still the minor league home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the Class A Carolina League. The Tigers won an NCAA regional here in 2007, the Gamecocks beat Coastal Carolina in a super regional in 2010.
When Myrtle Beach entered neutral site discussions a few years ago, Clemson balked, complaining about the travel distance. But a long bus ride is worth the good will.
Yes, the other Carolina. But the triple-A Charlotte Knights will move into a theoretically wonderful downtown ballpark in April of 2014. Too close to Waxhaw, Clover and Tega Cay to ignore.
An underrated baseball hotbed. South Carolina's appearance at Sparrow Stadium last year — a 5-4 loss to Francis Marion — was the biggest thing in Florence since Red Bone Alley opened 20 years ago (or 140 dog years, as the restaurant that captures an outdoor Charleston experience tells its customers).
It was 1952, the score 5-2. Clemson defeated South Carolina in The Garden City.
A bit of a reach, but a return would mean so much to this community.
The Claflin Panthers' quaint Mirmow Field briefly was home to the Orangeburg Dodgers of the Class A South Atlantic League (indeed, this is where Pedro Guerrero hit .145 in 1974).
River rivalry? How about the bluffs above the mighty Savannah?
Plans are in the works for a ballpark aimed at luring the Class A South Atlantic League's Augusta Green- Jackets to the Palmetto State side of the river.
We're on a serious rivalry roll here.
The only thing missing from the neutrality pact is a spread formation.Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff