Sharing promotional ideas has long been a tradition in minor league baseball. It's why nearly every team offers cheap brew on Thirsty Thursdays and why traditional uniforms are abandoned for Chewbacca and Jedi jerseys on Star Wars Nights.
Andy Milovich's latest brainstorm with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Carolina)—in which he will have a prostate exam while singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch tonight—may not be as appealing as cheap beer, but it seems to be catching on with other teams.
Lake Elsinore Storm (California) Dave Oster will pull a similar stunt on Saturday night during the team's cancer-awareness promotion, and Milovich says he has heard another team is considering doing it as well.
"We might be on to something here," Milovich said of minor league general managers (typically middle-aged men) having prostate exams as a ballpark promotion. "It's right in our wheelhouse."
Milovich, the Pelicans' second-year general manager, is taking one for the team as part of a previously scheduled prostate cancer awareness promotion—the team is passing out foam fingers to men ages 18 and older—and to benefit a young fan battling brain cancer. The idea was first suggested to Milovich during a radio interview late last week and was quickly crafted by the team into a promotion, with Milovich agreeing to have the uncomfortable medical exam done while leaning out the window of the press box only if 10-year-old cancer patient Fallon Emery received 10,000 likes on her Facebook page. She did, and now Milovich is set to do his part.
"It all started as a joke on the radio," said Milovich, who came to Myrtle Beach in December 2012 after spending eight years as the West Virginia Power general manager. "That's when your best promotions come about, just by joking."
The joke went viral over the weekend after ESPN's Darren Rovell first reported it, and Milovich spent the early part of this week doing radio interviews with stations across the country. Lake Elsinore Storm (California League) president Dave Oster tuned in when his old friend was on the air with a Southern California sport-talk station and heard the hosts suggest that Oster should get in the act. Milovich—knowing that Oster was listening—played along, as did Jason Klein and Casey White, the founders of the San Diego-based sports branding company Brandiose, who also happened to be listening. Klein and White texted Oster, challenging him to also have a prostate exam during a game. In the end, Oster gave in.
"I bent over to the pressure," Oster said. "I texted Milo and told him that if Fallon gets to 12,000 likes I'll do it too . . .
"This is what minor league baseball is about, sharing ideas, and it was a chance to bring some more attention to Fallon's cause."
Oster's exam coincides with the Storm's Cancer Awareness Night promotion on Saturday and ties in with their new "Play it Forward" campaign, which honors individuals and groups in the community who support others.
Milovich is close to Fallon's family, so drawing attention to her cause is personal. The Pelicans are hosting a "Coaches vs. Cancer" promotion on Aug. 2 in which proceeds from a silent auction of autographed sports memorabilia—including a football autographed by South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney—will benefit Fallon.
"The feedback has been overwhelming," Milovich said. "There is a lot of humor we have created (with the prostate promotion), but is amazing the emails and comments we have gotten back. People who are cancer survivors have written saying thank you for doing this."