Prostate cancer isn’t the sort of thing that lends itself to a baseball promo, especially one tinged with humor and a little whimsy. But the Myrtle Beach Pelicans managed to build the year’s best MiLB promo around a prostate exam for VP/GM Andy Milovich – while singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during a seventh-inning stretch, no less – and raising funds and awareness. For this unique and heartfelt promo, the Pelicans are recognized for Best MiLB Promotion of the Year in the 2014 annual awards from Ballpark Digest.
“Turning Prostate Cancer Awareness Night into something that garnered nationwide headlines and raised money for a worthy cause is quite the feat,” said Kevin Reichard, Ballpark Digest publisher. “By pushing fans to support a local kid with medical challenges of her own and then turning it into a major event makes this a truly noteworthy promotion.”
“Prostate Cancer Awareness Night was an unbelievable experience that originated from a joke during a weekly radio appearance,” said Pelicans Vice President & General Manager Andy Milovich. “Thanks to the power of social media, it generated international awareness for an incredibly important men’s health issue in less than a week.”
During the radio appearance, Milovich challenged listened to like Fierce Fallon Emery’s Facebook page; he jokingly added that he would undergo a prostate exam during a game if the page reached 10,000 likes. It did – which triggered planning for the in-game exam.
“Fallon Emery is an incredibly special girl that means a lot to me and our community. Tying this promotion into a way to help her was very important to me because of my family’s relationship with her,” Milovich said. “To hear her say ‘This was the greatest day of my life’ after our Coaches vs. Cancer Night to benefit her speaks to the power of sports and the obligation we all share to benefit our communities.”
Milovich was on-air with Pelicans Radio Broadcaster Nathan Barnett before and after the exam, and there was live video and radio broadcast of Milovich during the exam.
Besides raising $6,500 for Fallon Emery, the promo also raised awareness of prostate cancer in the community, as the team heard from prostate cancer survivors, family members of those that have been lost and individuals encouraged to schedule their first screening as a result.
“It’s incredibly humbling to hear someone say ‘you definitely saved someone’s life today,’ but we embraced the promotion with the thought that ‘if it could allow one child to have a father with whom they could play catch, then it’s worth it,’” Milovich added.
It was also one of those promos that spread like wildfire in Minor League Baseball: Dave Echols (Charleston RiverDogs), Dave Oster (Lake Elsinore Storm), John Katz (Savannah Sand Gnats) and Greg Coleman (Erie SeaWolves) all followed suit in their ballparks.
“There’s a lot of heart in the baseball community, and this promotion is a prime example,” Reichard said. “No one associates fun with a prostate exam, but the Pelicans tackled a tough subject and turned it into a successful, impactful promo.”
This was a good year for MiLB promos. We also found these promos worthy of recognition:
- The Wilmington Blue Rocks (High Class A; Carolina League) held a most unusual and noteworthy Home Run Derby as part of the California/Carolina League All-Star Game festivities: Batters were in center field, hitting into the seating bowl. To make things even more interesting, the team added a Hitting Challenge: a timed, point based competition themed out to a west coast/east coast theme with a lot of random obstacles, mascots/personalities roaming the field that put the leagues’ best against each other with local celebrity captains. Add in some Royals greats — George Brett, and former Blue Rocks Mike Sweeney and Johnny Damon — and you had an event raising $8,500 for Boys & Girls Club of Delaware.
- The Potomac Nationals (High Class A; Carolina League) hosted “Beard-A-Palooza Weekend,” which included the inaugural “Beard Olympics” and the “Jayson Werth BobbleBeard Giveaway” from Friday, June 13th through Sunday, June 15th. Beard-related events took over Pfitzner Stadium all weekend long. After the official, on-field opening Beard-A-mony, a “Parade of Beards” culminated in the lighting of the Beard Torch. The beardamonial first pitch led up to a hairy national anthem. The themed weekend’s shaggy centerpiece was certainly the Jayson Werth BobbleBeard Giveaway. Werth’s “BobbleBeard” likeness featured an actual hairy beard that served as the hallmark of the collectable figure. It took just 13 minutes to distribute a 1,000 count of the bushiest giveaway item in the history of Minor League Baseball.
- The Brooklyn Cyclones (short season A; NY-Penn League) held a “25 Years of Seinfeld,” complete with plenty of references to the television show — Soup Nazi, puffy shirts, Junior Mints, marble rye and, of course, shrinkage). The team held a cereal-eating competition (who can finish an entire bowl, milk and cereal, in the quickest time) and an Elaine Dancing competition to find out who is Brooklyn’s worst dancer with the winner going home with “A Big Salad.”
- The perfect promotion for Sconnies came from the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Low Class A; Midwest League) during the Salute to Cows night. The staff got creative with their decorations using inflatable cows to enhance the front entrance, cheese sampling to all fans, the opportunity for milk mustaches given by the mascot, and a real-life cow and her calf greeting fans as they entered the parking lot. Also, the first 1,000 fans received a cow patterned batting helmet giving “Cheesehead” a whole new meaning. And if that wasn’t ‘cheesy’ enough, the team wore cow-patterned themed jerseys that were auctioned off with proceeds benefiting the Freedom Food Pantry. To end the night, fans were given chocolate milk as an exit giveaway. On-field activities included: corralling cows, milk chugging contest, and competitively mooing.
- Minor League Baseball’s Promotion of the Year was Bark in the Park from the El Paso Chihuahuas (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). You probably saw some of the nationwide coverage of the jersey donned by the team, featuring the face of a Chihuahua dog, kicked off the Bark at the Park festivities, a promotion that saved a life, raised money and brought national, regional and local attention to pet owner education. With the help of the Humane Society of El Paso, a No Kill shelter, the Chihuahuas adopted a Chihuahua who was scheduled to be euthanized. A “Name the Dog” contest followed and raised almost $2,000 with the name “Lola” chosen. The jersey was auctioned off in front of a sold out crowd on August 3rd with proceeds going towards the Humane Society. In total, the Chihuahuas helped raise more than $20,000, sold out the Bark at the Park game, saved a life, and raised awareness for pet ownership responsibility.
- The New Orleans Zephyrs (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) honored the 35th anniversary of the Chicago White Sox’s Disco Demolition Night with Disco Resurrection Night. The goal was to turn Zephyr Field into the World’s Largest Disco party and show that disco is alive and pumping in New Orleans. The festivities included a disco tailgate party, disco parade on the field, a dizzy disco ball race, best disco outfit contest, grooviest disco dance move contest, and a post-game disco party on the field with 70’s band LavaLamp.
- In another anniversary, the Lake County Captains (Low Class A; Midwest League) hosted Minor League Baseball’s only Major League 25th Anniversary tribute and their annual “Salute to Cleveland Sports History Night” on August 1. The night was highlighted by a Jobu bobblehead giveaway for the first 1,500 fans. (Jobu, of course, was the spiritual leader of Cleveland Indians outfielder Pedro Cerrano in Major League). On this night the Captains raised over $6,000 for Captains Charities as part of the festivities. Captains players wore replica 1989 Cleveland Indians-themed road uniforms that were inspired by those worn in the movie and were auctioned off during the game. As part of the jersey auction fans could also purchase raffle tickets to win an autographed baseball from 1982 American League Cy Young winner Pete Vuckovich who played Yankees first basemen Clu Haywood in Major League. In addition, for only $10 each fans could purchase one of 32 pieces of a removable jersey from a life-sized cutout of mascot Skipper. The Captains also sold 100 pairs of paper batting gloves for $1 each which were hung on the wall behind guest services just like Willie Mays Hays in the movie.
- The Dayton Dragons (Low Class A; Midwest League) launched the Dragons MVP Program, creating an educational tool for area fourth- and fifth-grade teachers, motivating students for success in the classroom. Teachers were given discretion to select Dayton Dragons MBPs in their classrooms; the winners received four tickets to a special promo night, a MVP field day at Fifth Third Field, and an MVP hat. The team held 12 MVP Nights at the ballpark, and almost 950 classrooms participated in the program.
- The Vermont Lake Monsters (short season A; NY-Penn League) created the Little Lake Monsters Community All Star team, where kids were signed to a one-day promotional contract with the team, took batting practice and infield, and were issued their own baseball cards, among other things.
Each year Ballpark Digest honors noteworthy accomplishments in the baseball world, whether it be Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent baseball, summer-collegiate baseball or college baseball. Here’s a list of the 2014 awards, both already awarded and to come:
Broadcaster of the Year: Steve Klauke, Salt Lake Bees
Best New Logo / Branding: Akron RubberDucks
Organization of the Year: Big Top Baseball
Best MiLB Promotion: Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Nov. 6: Best Marketing
Nov. 7: Best New Food Item, Editor’s Choice
Nov. 10: Best Ballpark Improvement, Executive of the Year
Nov. 11: Best Ballpark Renovation
Nov. 12: Team of the Year, Best New Ballpark (Announced in weekly newsletter)