Andy Milovich could not have asked for a better script to the 2016 World Series.
A lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, the long awaited championship put an end to 108 seasons of misery for the club, and for the northern Indiana native 47 years of waiting.
“The series was incredible, symbolic … you knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Milovich said. “You see Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians … you’d expect Game 7 of the World Series going 15 innings with multiple rain delays and finishing in two to three days.
“… As a fan, it is incredibly rewarding to be a part of.”
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Actually playing a role in a World Series title, though? Milovich — general manager of the Cubs’ Class A-Advanced affiliate Myrtle Beach Pelicans — could not hold a greater sense of pride, a feeling shared throughout the organization.
But to whom much is given, more is required. And while the club’s victory lap is ongoing, the process of keeping the club and its future bright is as well.
Winner of the past two Mills Cup titles, the Pelicans are seeking their own place in history. Along with filling more space in its trophy case, the club would earn distinction as the first in Carolina League history to win three in a row.
One other Cubs affiliate won their respective league, Class A-Short League Eugene winning the Northwest League, with two others — Class A South Bend and rookie-level Arizona League Cubs — making the playoffs.
“What was it … 108 years without a championship?,” said Myrtle Beach Pelicans So, I feel like seeing that banner that says World Series champs in spring training, it just makes you want to work harder and make it to the big leagues and play on the stage in Wrigley.
“Spring training is a different beast, you know. When you show up, you’re ready to go … and everyone is trying to get a spot. So it’s always go, go, go, battle hard. There is never any letdown time, you work hard that entire month in an effort to make the club.”
No matter where a player lies in the Cubs’ hierarchy, the club has shown each of them have value. Shipping top prospect Gleyber Torres to the New York Yankees farm system bore credence to this, seeing each player as a potential building block — whether in Chicago or elsewhere.
“I think they realize they are in a great organization and in a good spot in their careers,” said Myrtle Beach Pelicans manager Buddy Bailey. “The Cubs winning, obviously what is at the big league level feels like a tougher road to knock some of those guys out. But at the same time everyone is looking at the Cubs organization and our players.”
Said Milovich: “To see (former Chicago Cubs closer Aroldis) Chapman come over because of two or three players that played (in Myrtle Beach) for a couple of years and went to the (New York) Yankees means we are not only an affiliate, but a contributor to a World Series championship. It’s an incredible thing to be a part of, creates opportunities from a promotional standpoint and creates that much enthusiasm amongst Cubs fans who will want to visit Myrtle Beach to watch and enjoy miles of white sand.”
Needless to say, most players are focusing on the only thing they can control — their own play. And if that happens, everything else will take care of itself.
“The group of guys we have, they have one goal in mind,” said Myrtle Beach Pelicans catcher P.J. Higgins. “If everyone plays their game, and competes to the way they know how, we should not have any problem with that. I think we’re all out here trying to play hard, enjoy the game. … (Cubs organization) really work on and show the true professionalism of being a winner. We’re still going out there to compete, everyone has a good chip on their shoulder.”
Who: Myrtle Beach Pelicans at Lynchburg Hillcats
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Calvin Falwell Field; Lynchburg, Va.
Starting pitchers: Adbert Alzolay (MYB) vs. TBD