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Milovich says personal touch is vital for players



Published: Mon, June 18, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Scrappers GM wants the community to feel a part of the team.

By BRIAN RICHESSON

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

NILES -- Andy Milovich is continuously seeking ways to improve minor league baseball in the Mahoning Valley.

As the third-year general manager of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Milovich will look anywhere for answers and insight.

That explains an article, written by former tennis sensation Billie Jean King, that Milovich recently read and hopes to apply this season.

"The article talks about the importance of player involvement in the community," said Milovich, 32.

Scenario: In the article, a top-level professional athlete complains about the responsibility to promote the team at a mall function.

"That's the major difference you see in minor league baseball," Milovich said. "The fan experience is more intimate -- [players] sign autographs, talk to you, get to know you on a personal level."

That interaction is needed for fans to visit the stadium on a regular basis, Milovich said.

With first-year manager Dave Turgeon taking over the team, Milovich foresees the potential for that interaction to increase.

Turgeon is only 36 years old and may relate well to the fans, Milovich said.

High numbers: With the Scrappers drawing more than 200,000 fans to Cafaro Field in each of the last two seasons, Milovich and his staff have high expectations to meet.

"I don't think the novelty has worn off," Milovich said. "Everyone I've talked to -- down to my dentist -- can't wait for the season to begin.

"The thing that amazes me, even though people have asked if the novelty will wear off after the second year, I still run into ... people who haven't been to a game."

The Scrappers' front-office staff has focused on giving fans more choices this season -- from nightly themes consistent throughout the season to a variety of ticket packages.

"From a ticket standpoint, it's tougher and tougher for people to dedicate coming out here every day. It's the same in all sports," Milovich said.

"But, the more flexibility we can give the customers, the more likely they'll attend the game."

Cafaro Field hasn't undergone many changes for this season, although Milovich said a picnic-garden expansion project was completed.

Looking ahead: As far as Milovich's role in the Valley, the South Bend, Ind., native has become more involved with day-to-day operations of Palisades Baseball, which also owns the Double-A Erie SeaWolves and Class-A South Bend Silver Hawks.

Asked whether he'll remain with the Scrappers, Milovich said, "I would imagine I'd be here. I haven't really discussed what the plans might hold.

"If the arena project [in Youngstown] continues to develop, that might create a greater role for me here."




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