Pitcher

As the weather turns warmer, the action at TicketReturn.Com Field inches closer.

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans, fresh off of winning their second-consecutive Mills Cup Championship in 2016, are set to kick off their season this April with plenty of fan-friendly features to be seen at the park.

General Manager Andy Milovich and his staff have worked tirelessly throughout the offseason to build the team’s strategy for the year. 2017 marks the Pelicans’ third season as a member of the Chicago Cubs organization, a dream continuing to take place for Milovich, a lifelong fan of the Cubs.

Following the big-league team’s World Series title, morale is high within the Chicago fan base — good news for those visiting Myrtle Beach this spring and summer.

“The Cubs have been an incredible fit in every way imaginable,” Milovich said of the affiliation. “They’ve just been the perfect partner both on the field and off for us.

“As a Cubs fan, I have the perspective in understanding an appreciation for the size and passion of that Cubs fan base. When you combine that type of energy and enthusiasm for that team and put that in play in a vacation destination like Myrtle Beach, it really helps us serve the greater good of the community by helping to put Myrtle Beach as a destination on the map in so many people’s minds.”

Since becoming a Cubs affiliate, the Pelicans have thrived seemingly more than ever both in terms of both fan engagement and on-field talent.

Both aspects feed off of each other Milovich says, but the Myrtle Beach offseason “gameplan” revolves entirely around delivering a positive fan experience. From food and beverage to the promotional calendar and everything in between, the primary focus for the Pelicans staff is centered around the fans’ enjoyment.

However, Milovich does greatly appreciate the role that elite baseball talent plays in creating an engaging experience for Pelicans fans. The Cubs have boasted one of Major League Baseball’s best farm systems for the past several years, and that trend appears as though it’ll continue in 2017.

“We love when we have a competitive team and we really thrive on having some of the talent that we’ve had come through here the past five years,” Milovich noted, emphasizing his pride in the Cubs organization.

“I think that really adds legitimacy to what we’re doing, to what we’re selling and to what the fans want to see. And it’s just more fun to be in the ballpark when you’re watching great baseball and future major leaguers. So it all fits together really well and it’s something we take great pride in.”

When an elite on-field product combines with a top of the line fan experience in the stands, success is plenty attainable for Minor League clubs. Fortunately for the Pelicans, the team owns a talented group of their own — one stationed in the offices at the ballpark.

To craft the best possible promotional schedule for the upcoming season, Milovich and the Pelicans staff meet throughout the offseason in what the general manager calls a “no holds barred critique” of all aspects of the fan experience. Simply put — what went well in the previous year, and what didn’t.

“We use that as a start for our promotional planning process,” Milovich described of the all-hands-on-deck evaluation. “We’ll get together every three or four weeks, come back and talk about the promotions as a group with what we want to do, what we think works and what we think can work. Everybody on our staff plays a role in it.

“That truly is the most fun that we have aside from opening the ballpark and watching the experience in action.”

In terms of fan engagement, the offseason is where the experience truly forms and comes to life.

Those meetings are unique, as the goal is to develop fresh and distinctive ideas to enhance fan experience, even if those ideas seem a bit far-fetched.

In 2017, there’s no reason to believe energy and excitement – two of the main details Milovich lists as the cornerstones of the creating planning process – won’t be at an all-time high.

Among the highlights on the promotional schedule: “Thanksgiving in May” (May 12), “Baywatch Night” (May 18), “Father’s Day Redemption Night” (June 22), “Old School Hip Hop Night” (Aug. 24) and “Bring Your Own Instrument Night” (Aug. 26).

All promotions can be found on the official team website, including a special three-day celebration of the Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series victory, dubbed by the team as “Cubs-A-Palooza”. Not surprisingly, this particular event is what Milovich says is the one he’s most looking forward to.

The celebration will span from June 23 to 25, featuring appearances from former Cubs greats Andre Dawson and Bill Buckner. The Pelicans have also announced the event’s third day as “Cubstock,” a “Woodstock themed night with a Cubs twist.”

Whether it’s a themed promotional game, a night focused on spotlighting a particular cause (the Special Olympics and American Cancer Society among the many), or the team’s many locals-friendly promotions, this season looks to be among the best put on by the Pelicans.

“What we ultimately are trying to do is looking to connect with different people for each promotion,” Milovich says. “A lot of the promotions we have will have a community angle to them… We can not only have fun but deliver a meaningful message and have a positive impact on people’s lives.”

The Myrtle Beach home league schedule officially kicks off on April 13, but the Pelicans will participate in an exhibition matchup against the Charleston Riverdogs at 6:05 p.m. on April 5 before hitting the road to kick off the regular season on the April 6.

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