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Amid pandemic, Charleston RiverDogs will hold virtual Opening Day festivities

  • Updated

Opening Day at Riley Park, a springtime ritual that regularly draws more than 5,000 fans to watch the Charleston RiverDogs' first home game of the baseball season, will have to wait.

The start of baseball season is on hold because of the coronavirus.

But the Charleston RiverDogs plan to make Thursday night as intimate and fan-friendly as possible with multiple Opening Day events that can be viewed through the team’s Facebook page.

“Things are very abnormal right now, so we want to maintain some sense of normalcy for our fans,” said Nate Kurant, the director of promotions for the RiverDogs. “We’re doing Opening Night at Home with a lot of social media engagement.”

There will be no actual festivities for Opening Night, which was scheduled for April 7 prior to the pandemic. But the RiverDogs are still making the most of it.

At 7:05 p.m. on Thursday, the team will show via Facebook last year’s Opening Night game against the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Class A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. The RiverDogs are an affiliate of the New York Yankees.

RiverDogs_1.jpg

On Tuesday the field at Riley Park appeared ready for the Charleston RiverDogs' season opener, but no one knows when that will be because of the coronavirus. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg is expected to provide a video of himself throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. That video is scheduled to be posted at 6:45 p.m.

The RiverDogs were supposed to open against the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, whose parent club is the Chicago White Sox. The Charleston front office has come up with an indirect way to play the Cannon Ballers with the help of a MLB video game.

Ryan Perry, the RiverDogs’ video production director, will play a member of the Kannapolis staff at 5:05 p.m. They’ll use their franchise teams, with Perry playing as the Yankees and his Kannapolis counterpart playing as the White Sox.

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Bill Murray and the Mayor (copy)

It's become a Charleston tradition for the city's mayor to throw the ceremonial first pitch for the Charleston RiverDogs' season-opening game at Riley Park. Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg was joined by Bill Murray for the 2017 Opening Day. File/Staff

Perry said his starting pitcher will be Gerrit Cole, the Yankees' free-agent pickup who signed a nine-year, $324 million deal in December.

“He’s the obvious choice for me,” Perry said, laughing. “I think it’s going to be a fun game. We just want to bring as much excitement as we can to the fans.”

The RiverDogs also will conduct a virtual t-shirt toss. At random times throughout the evening, the RiverDogs will solicit fan comments and select t-shirt winners.

“We’re doing as much as we can to engage fans,” Kurant added. “They can’t come to us this yet, so we’re doing everything in our power to come to them.”

Riley Park lunches

The RiverDogs are offering a drive-through lunch menu to the general public. The service is provided Tuesday through Friday each week at Riley Park.

To order, visit charlestonriverdogs.ehopper.info.

On Mondays, 100 meals are donated to front-line COVID-19 first responders.

Reach Derrek Asberry at 843-937-5517. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry

Sports Reporter

Derrek Asberry is sports reporter with the Post and Courier. He joined the newsroom in March 2016, after three years at the Aiken Standard where he covered the Savannah River Site. He enjoys New York Yankee baseball and poker.

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