Andy Milovich has guided the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to attendance gains in each of his three seasons as general manager of the Carolina League franchise. He launched a successful debut campaign in 2015 as a Cubs affiliate, boosted the team's digital presence with a variety of unique initiatives and launched a lineup full of creative promotions.
Yet for all of that success, Milovich may forever be remembered as the guy who turned prostate exams into a fad. In 2014, as part of a dare by local sports talk radio hosts and as a way to raise attention and money for a young fan battling cancer, Milovich took the team's prostate awareness promotion to another level. He took an exam in the team's press box during the seventh-inning stretch of a game while singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" to the crowd over a microphone.
"More than anyone, he has a wide set of boundaries," Pelicans owner Chuck Greenberg said of Milovich. "He's truly willing to go deep in more ways than one."
Milovich has proven he's willing to swallow pride for a good stunt—he starred with a Wilson football in a promotional video spoof of "Castaway" as part of the team's effort to get Seahawks quarterback (and Rangers Rule 5 pick) Russell Wilson to come to town for a game in 2014.
The success of Milovich and Myrtle Beach is no goof. The Pelicans have turned into one of the minors' steadiest franchises since Greenberg bought the club in 2006 and invested roughly $4 million into ballpark improvements—including adding a beach area with lifeguard stands down the right-field line, an oversized scoreboard, expanded ticket booths, an emphasis on online sales, and a revamped food service.
A pair of talented GMs in North Johnson and Scott Brown preceded Milovich, who has since taken the operation to new heights. The Pelicans used their new Cubs affiliation as an opportunity to market the team on a national level. They partnered with the local tourism board and each of Chicago's affiliates on a "9 innings of winning promotion" in June, in which they gave out prizes each inning of a June nationally televised game to fans who Tweeted the hashtag slogan. Fellow Cubs affiliates promoted the giveaways on their Twitter feeds and even announced the winners on their broadcast.
"We raised our game from a social media standpoint," Greenberg said. "The family of Cubs minor league affiliates worked together very well to utilize the social media platform to create a lot more interest in one another."
And the Pelicans did their best to lure Cubs fans vacationing in Myrtle Beach to the ballpark. They launched an advertising campaign at the local airport, including having new Cubs manager Joe Maddon welcome visitors with a recorded greeting that played every 15 minutes over the summer. The team hung jerseys over the baggage carousel with the number of the carousel on it, placed signage on the baggage belts, and regularly sent their promotional "street team" to the airport when direct flights from Chicago were arriving.
The team has also figured out the formula for how to succeed in a busy tourist market—where the beach, golf and other entertainment options can make baseball a tough sell.
"Travel patterns and when people come and go have a dramatic impact on attendance and how you can roll out a promotional schedule," Milovich said.
Added Greenberg: "We've got several different seasons that take place and appeal to multiple layers of potential fan bases. We're very loyal to the local community, but it's also essential to reach out to the tourists as well. We're always having to operate on multiple platforms simultaneously."