Myrtle Beach Pelicans GM, manager hope to replicate success of 1993 Toros

ablondin@thesunnews.comApril 1, 2014 

JANET BLACKMON MORGAN — jblackmon@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

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The last time Myrtle Beach Pelicans general manager Andy Milovich and manager Joe Mikulik were on the same baseball team, they won a championship.

That was in 1993 with the Houston Astros’ Triple-A affiliate the Tucson Toros.

Fate has brought the two together for another season in Myrtle Beach 21 years later, and they hope to replicate their past success this year in the Advanced Single-A Carolina League.

“We actually won a championship together, so who knows, we could reunite again and hopefully bring a championship to Myrtle Beach,” Mikulik said. “That would be kind of fun.”

In 1993, Milovich was nearing the end of graduate school at the University of Georgia and accepted an internship for a fall league team called the Tucson Javelinas in part because his brother was attending the University of Arizona at the time.

The Javelinas shared a stadium with the Toros, so Milovich worked part-time with the Toros the summer before the fall league season began.

Mikulik was an established player with the Toros still awaiting his shot at major league baseball. He spent all or parts of seven seasons in Tucson and was instrumental in championships in 1991 and ’93.

“Joe was basically the mayor of Tucson,” Milovich said. “He was hands-down the most popular guy on the team and the one that everybody in town knew and loved. He was a hero in Tucson. I got to know him a little bit there.”

Their friendship extended away from the diamond as they were adversaries in a fantasy football league. Milovich got the upper hand in that competition.

“I think he drafted nothing but Dallas Cowboys because he was a Cowboys fan,” Milovich said. “I think his draft was especially bad. I was fresh out of college so I was still keeping up with all of the sports and Joe was immersed in baseball.”

Mikulik defended selecting his beloved Dallas players since the Cowboys were coming off a Super Bowl win and were in the midst of three championships in four years, but he doesn’t believe he got the team’s Hall of Famers.

“That’s when the Cowboys were good, but I don’t know if I ever got Emmitt Smith or Troy Aikman,” Mikulik said. “I don’t think I ever drafted those guys.”

Milovich recalled Mikulik playing with him on a slow-pitch softball team after the Toros’ season, though Mikulik doesn’t recall being on the squad and questions Milovich’s participation.

“He was probably like keeping score or something, or maybe he was coaching third base,” Mikulik joked. “He might have said he played but don’t let him fool you.”

After more than a decade, Mikulik and Milovich reconnected in the low-A South Atlantic League in 2004. Mikulik managed the Asheville Tourists from 2000-12 and Milovich was the general manager of the West Virginia Power from 2004-12.

“I remembered him and when he came to town I went down and said hello and he remembered me from Tucson,” Milovich said. “We got to reconnect and really spend some time together then.

“It’s such a small world and such a small game, and there are so many great personalities and people and it’s fun to get reunited with them.”

They both joined the Texas Rangers organization in 2013 and crossed paths a few times last year when Mikulik was a roving instructor and Milovich was the Pelicans’ first-year GM, and they caught up in the clubhouse after games to exchange stories and share a few laughs.

“I think through minor league baseball, the relationships you engage in along the way are probably the most important thing,” Mikulik said. “The wins and losses and the championships are gravy, but the relationships you have along the way, you can’t lose that. That’s important.”

Mikulik was named the Pelicans manager in January.

“When they announced Joe was going to come our way I was real excited,” Milovich said. “One, he’s a great guy; two, he’s a great manager and his teams always perform well, and he’s a good community guy. He gets it. Everything we try to do in terms of getting out in the community and doing things, he believes in, and everything these players need from a development standpoint he’s been there and done it, so he’s going to be a great fit all the way around.”

Mikulik is a confessed golf junkie, so the sport may replace fantasy football as an off-field activity for the executive and coach. “I imagine we’ll play this summer because he plays quite a bit,” Milovich said. “I think they played [Tuesday] morning so he’s been in town two days and has at least one round in. I’ve been in town for 14 months and I’ve only got two rounds in, so it’s time to get together.”

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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