December 2009

There is No Offseason for…Aleta Mercer

The Marketing Department is currently working on advertising, programs and signage for our  Brewers On Deck event, which takes place on Sunday, January 31 at the Midwest Airlines Center, so I thought who better to select for my next “There is No Offseason for” interview than the force behind it all, Brewers Senior Director of Entertainment and Broadcasting, Aleta Mercer.

Entering her 18th Season with the Club in 2010, Aleta has a myriad of responsibilities, from taking care of the talent and crews that work together to provide Brewers baseball on both radio and television (and the visiting talent and crews as well), to making sure that fans always find something enjoyable here at the ballpark, whether it is interactive games, entertainment on the video board, the music played between innings,  the mascots, pre-game presentations or any of the hundreds of other attractions Miller Park has to offer. 


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Here’s Aleta with two members of her staff, Deron Anderson, Director of A/V Production(left) and Drew Olsen, Manager of Entertainment and Broadcasting(right) on Opening Day 2008.

Aleta is also the lady who schedules the ceremonial First Pitches and books the talent for the National Anthem. Over her time here, Aleta’s worked with a wide range of celebrities and even animals, but she’s been most impressed with local Wisconsin talent.


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Aleta (left) gives pre-game direction to American Idol star Danny Gokey in May 2009.

“At this point, 18 years down the road, I really wish I had taken copious notes so I could say ‘Oh, I remember that!’ but I think that more than having celebrities that are my absolute favorite, I think our local talent is just outstanding. They are more than supportive. Beyond being so talented, they love Brewers baseball. I can give you a list of names, but guaranteed, I’d leave somebody off and that would be horrible, but they know who they are and they are incredible,” Aleta said.

In addition, Aleta says, “We actually end up with a lot of celebrities in the ballpark who don’t perform for us. The Anthem is a very difficult song…. You would be more surprised, I would think, by the number of celebrities that say they would just love to come out to enjoy the game instead.”

Although there are not a lot of MLB rules that pertain to what Clubs can and cannot do in the pre-game ceremonies, the most important rule is that the game starts on time. Once we declare our starting time, then that is the time we are held to.

“It is kind of funny, though,” Aleta mused.

“As much as we plan everything to the minute, it is with the understanding that we can’t be entirely married to it. We understand it is still live entertainment and that anything could happen. You know, the dog that is assigned to run the first pitch ball out there could just decide to run in circles and yes — it’s happened. At that point, you just have to smile and go with it. It’s kind of fun.”


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Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club in 2008,
Uno delivered the First Pitch at Miller Park in July of that year.
(For the record, he was very well-behaved.)

So you’re probably wondering what Aleta does in the offseason when there are no games to be broadcast, no Anthems to be sung and no crowds to entertain.

Well… see, that’s not exactly true.

“Right now our focus is on the Brewers On Deck program. It is kind of exciting and I would say it is very similar to what we do here at Miller Park in that when fans come to Miller Park, we know that primarily they are interested in the ball game. They are coming out to see baseball and our staff runs around and tries to figure out ways to bolster that, making sure that everybody has something fun and interesting to do.

Brewers On Deck is very similar in that we know that a lot of people who are going to the On Deck event want autographs and photographs, that sort of thing. We do our best to bolster that. We make sure that if you go to the event and you don’t end up with that one autograph that you wanted, that there is something else there that you will really enjoy.”


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Aleta has a large team assembled to help run the Brewers On Deck event and that team spans across virtually every department from Consumer Marketing to Stadium Operations and Community Relations; from Corporate Marketing, Retail, Media Relations to Brewers Charities, Inc. and more.

The Brewers On Deck event has taken many forms since it first began at Brookfield Square Mall in 2004. Each year, we learn a little more and try to grow the event to make it bigger and better than even before. Last year was the first year that the event was held at the Midwest Airlines Center in downtown Milwaukee. This year, we’re returning to the same location, but we have even more space to work with and more attractions to entertain fans once they get in the door.

“Last year we had our Winter Warm-Up event that had limited access at the Riverside Theater. It was just met with wild acclaim and this year, we wanted to bring aspects of that program to On Deck, so we will have some of those same kind of programs — Game Shows, Fashion Shows — it will be a neat addition. We also have a Brewers Museum. It is just a fun way to look back on the history of Brewers baseball in Milwaukee,” Aleta said.

After On Deck, Aleta and her staff take a deep breath and immediately go to Arizona for Fantasy Camp, where they do a little video work with the participants and coaches. Brewers Fantasy Camp runs from January 31 through February 7. (Note: There is still time to sign up! For more information, click here.)

“It’s good fun to see fans enjoying their time as Major Leaguers,” said Aleta, who will return to Arizona just one week later for Spring Training.

“Part of what we do for Spring Training is we go down and ask players questions, we take video and we get to know players better so we can better present the players to our fans. Fantasy Camp is kind of a precursor to that because we do the same thing with those participants.”

When Aleta and her staff arrive at Spring Training, they do some headshot work, talk to the players and ask them questions about their likes and dislikes. Their goal is to get the players comfortable with seeing them and a camera so as her staff comes back to them during the year, the players will know that they are there to introduce them to the fans.

“This also gets us started on making plans for the season in terms of what we’re going to do on the video board, what we’re going to do between innings. February is when it really starts to come together,” said Aleta.

Aleta is not in charge of the Spring Training broadcast and entertainment — we’ll get to that in a another interview — and that’s just fine because once she has all of the player interaction her staff requires and she has met with broadcast partners and sponsors down in Maryvale, Arizona, it’s full steam ahead when she gets back to Milwaukee.

“When we get back, we are well into March.  That leaves us with a couple of weeks to get ready for the season.That’s when we bring in the Brew Crew and start working on the activities we’re going to do between innings and some of the mascot events. That’s when we really start rehearsing,” Aleta said.

In fact, if you find yourself down at Friday’s Front Row for lunch in March, don’t be surprised if you see a random Sausage Race break out, hear music blasting over the sound system or see messaging on the LED boards. That’s just Aleta preparing for the season.

“The other way that we ‘practice’ is with the Exhibition Games that we’ll have at Miller Park this year,” Aleta said, referring to the games on Friday, April 2 and Saturday, April 3 vs. the Detroit Tigers.

“The Exhibition Games are our first and final real ‘rehearsal’ before the start of the season.”

As you can see, Aleta is another member of our Front Office who works tirelessly year round to enhance the fan experience. Next time you make it out to Miller Park, make sure you take note of all of the little details that make everything that much more fun for you — that’s Aleta and her staff hard at work.

Also, make sure you check out all of the fruits of our labor at Brewers On Deck on Sunday, January 31. Be on the lookout for the lady that is calm, cool, collected and in charge. That’s Aleta Mercer. 

-Cait 

JohnandCait@brewers.com

Brewers On Deck takes place on Sunday, January 31 from 10am to 5pm at the Midwest Airlines Center in downtown Milwaukee. Advance tickets are just $15 for adults and $9 for kids. Autograph sessions will be staggered throughout the day with autograph tickets ranging from free to $25 (available only at the event). A portion of the proceeds goes to Brewers Charities, Inc. To purchase tickets, click here.

Scenes From LaTroy Hawkins Press Conference

Here are a couple of photos from today’s press conference that introduced the newest Brewer, RHP LaTroy Hawkins to Milwaukee Brewers fans.  Hawkins sounded excited to be in Milwaukee and play on a young team that is hungry to win.  He talked about how he has watched the Brewers grow and win over the last couple of years and how happy he is to join the team and help them win.

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Hawkins answers questions from the Milwaukee media earlier this afternoon.

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Hawkins and General Manager Doug Melvin pose for a photo.

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Hawkins chats with MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy.

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Remember your grade school pictures?  Yes, we do the same thing in the Big Leagues.  Well it isn’t exactly the same, but here is Hawkins posing for his official Brewers headshot.

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Mark Mueller (l) and Karl Mueller (r) of the Brewers Baseball Operations staff join Hawkins in enjoying some fabulous Christmas Cookies courtesy of Ken Spindler of the Brewers Media Relations Staff.

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OK, so maybe I lied, Ken didn’t make the Christmas Cookies.  Thanks to Tom Olson, Kelli Kreuser and the rest of the SportService team at Miller Park for providing Christmas Cookies and Egg Nog for the hungry media who attended this and all of our press conferences!

Our second press conference of the week went very well on our end, it’s exciting to see the pieces of the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers come together here in December. 

–John

johnandcait@brewers.com

 

 

 

 

 

LaTroy Hawkins Will Receive Milwaukee Media Introduction Today

It’s been a busy week here at Miller Park.  This afternoon, we will host another press conference where General Manager Doug Melvin will officially announce the signing of RHP LaTroy Hawkins.  Hawkins will give the team some added depth in the bullpen with his veteran arm.  I will post additional pictures from the press conference when it is complete.

– John

johnandcait@brewers.com

Randy Wolf Set For Introduction to Milwaukee Media Today

The Randy Wolf signing is now official as the lefty passed his physical this morning in Milwaukee.  Wolf will be introduced to the Milwaukee media today at a 3 p.m. press conference at Miller Park.

 

Wolf’s contract is a three-year deal with a club option for the 2013 season. 

 

Here are a few numbers on Wolf:

  • The 33-year old went 11-7 with a 3.23 ERA in a career-high 34 starts with the Dodgers in 2009, 24 of those starts were quality starts tying him with Cliff Lee for the most among Major League lefties
  • His ERA in 2009 was his best since 2002 (3.20)
  • He owns a career record of 101-85 with a 4.13 ERA in 279 games (275 starts) and has spent time with Philadelphia (1999-2006), Los Angeles (2007, ’09), San Diego (2008) and Houston (2008)
  • His older brother, Jim, has been a Major League umpire since 1999 

 

In addition, Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin also announced the signing of veteran infielder Craig Counsell to a one-year contract.

Check out brewers.com and Adam McCalvy’s blog for more information on the Wolf signing.  I will also post some pictures following today’s press conference.

–John

johnandcait@brewers.com

Brewers Winter Meetings Wrap Up

The 2010 MLB Winter Meetings are in the books.  A productive week for the Brewers in Indianapolis came to an end today, officially with the Rule V Draft held earlier this morning.

The Winter Meetings are more than a time when teams get together, discuss free agents and trades.  The meetings are now sort of a winter festival in which teams don’t only plan for the game and the players on the field, but also give a chance to plan the business side of the game.  It is basically a cold weather gathering of baseball–there is everything baseball except for the game itself on the field.

My Winter Meeting experience was quite enjoyable.  We took steps to make our team better, I learned a lot and I caught up with old friends while making some new ones.

On the baseball side of the Winter Meetings, each team has a suite in one of two hotels.  Teams gather their baseball operations staffs in the suite and basically draw out plans for the upcoming season.  They consider free agents, field trade requests from other teams, talk to scouts and meet with agents.  The suite is kind of like the central location for each team–a home base of sorts for the week.  Many of these meetings begin around 8:30 a.m. and can last into the wee hours of the morning.

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The Brewers Baseball Operations staff in their meeting room suite.

Our suite was in the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis and housed the Brewers daily meetings involving around 10 members of the Brewers baseball operations staff.  The staff was well prepared heading into the meetings, having a good idea of what each team has and what each team needs in case the Brewers were approached for a trade.  At around 4:30 p.m. each afternoon, Brewers Media Relations Director Mike Vassallo and I would escort any media members up to the suite to talk to Doug Melvin and Gord Ash.  There, Doug would recap the day for the media.

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Here Doug Melvin and Gord Ash meet with writers in their daily media session.

Not only do our local media meet with Doug Melvin on a daily basis, but each manager does a round table session with media in the media room.  Ken Macha met with the writers on Tuesday.  Before he met at the round table, he did a quick interview on the MLB station on Sirius/XM and sat down with MLB Productions.  If you follow our twitter account (@brewercom), you may have received a heads up that Melvin was on the MLB Network’s Hot Stove show last night.

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Brewers Manager Ken Macha discusses the team with reporters at the Winter Meetings.

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Doug Melvin joins the MLB Network crew for an interview on Wednesday.

While these team meetings are going on, the other “meetings” of the Winter Meetings take place.  The Major League Public Relations departments have three days of meetings.  In those meetings, we listen to speakers, take surveys and adjust media rules for the upcoming season.  This year, one of our hot topics was dealing with social media and the proliferation of such sites as Facebook and the growing Twitter craze.  It’s really a good opportunity to see what some of our peers are doing in the industry.  Each market is a little different and it is interesting to hear the problems and challenges of each team.

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A “team photo” of the National League PR Staffs.

Other groups that have meetings include the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Professional Baseball Association of Trainers.  The Winter Meetings are not only for the Major League teams.  The Minor League teams host a large convention during the week that includes a trade show, various speakers and symposiums and a Minor League job fair. 

 
There is a little time for fun during the meetings.  Last night, we caught a Pacers game at Conseco Fieldhouse and there are always receptions and dinners going on that allow everyone to meet and talk baseball socially. 

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Mike Vassallo, Jim Misudek of the Atlanta Braves and I following the Pacers-Blazers game.

On the field, we made steps to making the Brewers a better team and I think the Winter Meetings were successful for the Brewers.  I really cannot go into detail as to what went on, but Doug Melvin and his team has done a great job of improving the team for the 2010 season and beyond.  A lot of the buzz around the meetings involved the Brewers and some of the moves the team considered.  Things will develop in the weeks ahead and I think Brewers fans will be excited about some of the results.

As I write this, I should be on my way back to Milwaukee.  No, I’m not on one of those fancy planes with WiFi, but instead, I’m stuck at the airport in Indianapolis.  Hopefully we will get “the bird off the ground” shortly and I will return home!

– John

johnandcait@brewers.com 

 

There is No Offseason for… Billy Friess

For my next installment of “There is No Offseason for…” I chose to interview Billy Friess, Director of Season Ticket Sales. In 2010, Billy will be entering his 12th Season with the Club and I don’t think he’s had an off day, much less an offseason. This guy has tremendous work ethic and a great dedication to his job.

And given his background, it’s no surprise that Billy has a strong passion for his work.

“I grew up with baseball as a huge part of my life and I’m so fortunate to call baseball my job,” Billy said yesterday, when we sat down to discuss what his calendar looks like from October through March.

Billy’s father, Jack Friess, has been coaching baseball at Cedarburg High School for over 30 years. Jack is a Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and even once played in the White Sox organization.

Billy was coached by his own father at Cedarburg High School and went on to play shortstop at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where, after some coaxing, he admitted that he’s still 10th all-time in hits.

Billy majored in Sport and Recreation Management at Marian and started his career in the minors with an internship with the Milwaukee Brewers’ now-Single-A affiliate, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. From there, he went on to start out with the Brewers as a Telephone Service Representative (TSR) in the fall of 1998.

“I started out as a TSR in the basement of County Stadium with a computer, keyboard and phone in a 24″ x 36″ cubicle. The first calls I made were to 1994 – the strike year – canceled accounts,” Billy recalls fondly.

Billy continued his climb through the ranks. Shortly after the 1999 Season, Billy was promoted to Account Executive and then, with the move to Miller Park in 2001, he became a Senior Account Executive. Then, in 2003, he became the Manager of Season Ticket Sales before being promoted to Director of Season Ticket Sales in 2007, the position he holds today.

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As Director, Billy oversees ten Account Executives and six TSRs.

“My job is to give our ten Account Executives and six TSR’s all the tools they need to be put in a position to succeed each and every sales campaign,” Billy explained.

In keeping with our “no offseason” theme, Billy said the busiest time for his staff is August through Opening Day.

Marketing, Ticket Operations and Ticket Sales all fall under the Consumer Marketing umbrella here at the Club. This means that I am fortunate to get to work with Billy on many of his offseason projects, such as Season Seat Holder renewal packets and the advertising campaigns for his small plans, like our Holiday 4-Packs and our 9-Packs.

“In June and July we start gearing up for our selling season, putting together as attractive a renewal package as possible for our customers from a benefits end. We always try to incorporate something special as an incentive to get people to renew early.”

This year, every Season Seat Holder (SSH) who paid in full by November 20 has the option to receive a commemorative 40th Anniversary poster-size Milwaukee Brewers print and for the Full SSH’s who renewed by the deadline, there will be a special meet-and-greet with Robin Yount next summer, where he’ll personally sign those prints.

Over the years, Billy has rewarded renewal customers with various renewal benefits such as the opportunity to take batting practice at Miller Park, the opportunity to throw out the First Pitch, private autograph sessions with current players including Ryan Braun, recognition as the “Season Seat Holder of the Game” and more.

After the renewal process is well underway, Billy works with the fine folks in the Marketing Department ( :) ) to launch our Holiday 4-Pack campaign. The Holiday 4-Packs start at just $60 and include a ticket to four great games, including an all-fan giveaway game.  Plus, for every pair of 4-Packs one buys within the same plan, he or she will score a free Klement’s Famous Racing Polish Sausage ornament. There are five exciting plans to choose from and for the past four years, 4-Packs have been popular holiday gifts for Brewers fans.

 

Holiday 4-Pack.gifDid you ever wonder who came up with your 4-Pack “Matinee Plan” or “Weekend Plus Plan”? That’s Billy Friess. Billy works with his department to carefully determine which games will be included in each different plan type.

“We try to create different types of packages to appeal to the masses,” Billy said.

The 4-Packs and the 9-Packs (which will go on sale in January 2010) are smaller introductory packages, so while there are some benefits, it’s not until you move up to the 20, 40 and Full Season plans that the benefits really increase.

Most 20, 40, and Full Season SSH’s enjoy benefits such as a significant savings off the standard gate rate, flexible ticket exchange options, the opportunity to purchase individual game tickets before they go on sale to the general public, priority seating for the Postseason, a complimentary Metavante Club Membership, savings on Preferred Parking and Suite rentals and more. There are also special events for Season Seat Holders throughout the year.

In addition to making sure that SSH’s are taken care of with these cushy benefits, Billy also tries to create new Season Ticket offerings.

“This is a very value-conscious market, so we try to create offerings like the Terrace Ticket Treat and the Loge Level Double Play,” Billy said, referring to two popular SSH deals.  The Terrace Ticket Treat is four seats in the Terrace Reserved section for every Brewers home game.  The price breaks down to just $6 per ticket, making it a winner with families. New for 2010, the Loge Level Double Play is also a great deal and sure to be just as popular. Essentially, it’s a buy-one-get-one free Loge Level Season ticket package that applies to Sections 210 and 227.

“We also aren’t afraid to try new things like offering Opening Day for Free with our 9-Packs. Anything with value is going to appeal. We try to think out of the box, stay fresh and not just give a carbon copy of what we did the previous year,” Billy said.

Starting at just $135, Brewers 9-Packs include nine great games, plus the home opener on April 5 vs. the Colorado Rockies-for FREE.  Other benefits of the 9-Packs include regular pricing on Marquee games, a guaranteed seat location and more, making them uber-popular among fans.

“The 9-Packs with Opening Day for Free are probably my favorite plan that we offer.  The packages that are the most marketable are the ones that I like the best. The Fan’s Choice Plan, where you pick the 20 games you want, is also an easier sell and meets the needs of a lot more people; plans with lots of value and flexibility, those things are what I like the best,” Billy said.

Billy’s such a good salesman, he’s even sold himself. 

“Billy, if you weren’t working here, would you buy Season Tickets?” I asked.

Without missing a beat, Billy answered, “Absolutely!”

He even had his seats picked out.  “I’d probably buy a Fan’s Choice 20-Game Plan in the Terrace Box.”

Besides selling tickets, Billy says he also likes to spend the offseason focusing on coaching his staff by listening to their phone calls and providing feedback and also, through providing an intense sales training program.

“At the end of October, we kick off our campaign with sales training. We bring in a local trainer who does a great job of customizing his training to fit our needs, identifying what our challenges are going to be and helping us to overcome any objections that we might get this upcoming season,” Billy said.

In addition to the week of training, Billy’s staff stays on top of their game with weekly learning tracks filled with ideas, sales techniques and the like. 

All of the training has certainly paid off as Billy led his staff to achieve a franchise-record season ticket base in 2009.

“I truly believe we have the best sales staff in all of baseball – a very dedicated staff that works well as a team and genuinely cares about our department and organization,” Billy said.

As we were wrapping up, Billy’s phone rang and his attention immediately turned to the person on the other line.

 


Billy Friess 2.JPG“What can I do for you?” Billy asked. After typing away at his keyboard, I heard him say, “Section 216? You got it.”

I backed slowly out of his office, leaving him to finish his call with another satisfied customer, no doubt.

-Cait

For more information on Brewers Season Ticket Packages, please call (414) 902-4100, or click here.

Is there someone you’d like to see profiled in this feature?  E-mail us at johnandcait@brewers.com.

Is There a Game Today?

Well to answer that silly question, no.  There is obviously no game today at Miller Park.  But, if you were driving past Miller Park today on I-94, you might have noticed the stadium lights have been on all day–rare for the offseason.

The reason for the lights is that the ballpark is being used today for a Coors Light commercial shoot.  Around 100 “extras” and 50 crew members have been at Miller Park since early this morning working on what will be just 2 to 3 seconds of the final commercial.  Pay close attention to those ads in the coming months and you might spot some familiar green seats! 

– John

johnandcait@brewers.com

 

Clubhouse Sale Gives Fans Chance To Score Savings on Brewers Gear

For the past 28 years, the Brewers have held a “Clubhouse Sale.”  It gives fans an opportunity to handle some Christmas shopping and at the same time, see a part of Miller Park they might not usually see: the Visiting Team Clubhouse.

This Friday and Saturday, from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., the Visiting Clubhouse at Miller Park will be transformed into a retail store offering fans savings of up to 75% on Milwaukee Brewers merchandise.  Not only will there be great Brewers merchandise available for purchase, but also an opportunity to buy rare, game-used items like jerseys and bats.

This is a unique opportunity to not only get some holiday shopping done, but also a chance to see a part of Miller Park that is normally hidden to the average fan.

In addition, representatives will be available to handle requests for Holiday 4 Packs–another fantastic Holiday gift idea.  Shoppers can access the Clubhouse Sale by entering Miller Park at the Hot Corner entrance near the Brewers Team Store by Majestic and follow the signs to the Visiting Team Clubhouse.  Cash and credit cards will be accepted (no personal checks).    If you can’t make it to the Clubhouse Sale this weekend, please note that the Brewers Store by Majestic is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. –  6 p.m. 

 
Check back here on Thursday afternoon when we post pictures and preview some of the items available at the Clubhouse Sale.  I promise I won’t take any of the good stuff before the doors open on Friday!

–John

johnandcait@brewers.com

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