Spring Training Games Are Right Around the Corner: There is No Offseason for Joe Zidanic
Greetings from Arizona!
I’m happy to inform you that pitchers, catchers and Cait have all reported to Spring Training!
This week, we’ll be shooting our new TV spots for 2011 down here, but today was an off day for me.
I understand we’re getting some snow back in
Milwaukee, but don’t be too jealous of me–it’s about 50 degrees and
raining here as I write.
I figured that since it isn’t pool or golfing weather, I might as well do some work, so I
headed over to the ballpark to talk with some folks for the blog.
Clouds looking ominous over Maryvale Baseball Park today. It will be 70 and sunny by the time you get here, I promise!
My first stop was to meet with “Mr. Spring Training” himself, Joe Zidanic, our VP-Controller, who moonlights as our director of Spring Training.
Joe Zidanic: VP-Controller & “Mr. Spring Training”
That means that, in addition to his finance
responsibilities in Milwaukee, Joe is pretty much responsible for all of
the business operations in Maryvale: ticket sales,
sponsorship sales (along with Tom Hecht, our VP-Corporate
Marketing), advertising (which he works with our department on), hiring
staff, running the games and serving as the main liaison with the City
When Joe first came to the Brewers in April of
2003, his job was to work in the finance/accounting department as the
So then, how did he get this gig where he flocks to Arizona during two of Wisconsin’s coldest months while getting paid for it?
“In December 2004, I was handed the assignment to
come down here and run Spring Training for the months of February and
March,” Joe said.
“Prior to 2005, which was my first season running
things down here, Spring Training had really been kind of under the
radar so my job was to go in, document everything, develop policies and
procedures and create checklists. I did a good
job and I’m still doing it,” he explained.
I can’t imagine having to balance two separate
jobs, much less essentially relocate for two months of the year, so I
asked Joe how he does it.
“Luckily, I have a great staff in Milwaukee to
handle things and it’s a slower time of the year for us. We’ve already
published our financials, closed the fiscal year-end, closed the
calendar year-end for W-2′s and 1099′s
and have made progress in filing our taxes. It is kind of a nice, slower time for me to break away from the Milwaukee area.”
As far as relocation, Joe will settle into a room
in an extended stay hotel near the Glendale area for the duration of
I had enough trouble packing for just this week and I’m
probably going to end up paying extra for my luggage on the return
flight due to the great shopping down here (don’t worry, Joe, I won’t
try to expense that), so I had to ask: “How on earth do you pack for something like this?”
“Well, that’s a good question,” Joe said. “The
equipment truck leaves in January every year, so I just go to the closet
and get all my short sleeve shirts and shorts and throw them in a bag
and ship them down with everything else,” he said.
Joe’s Spring Training job doesn’t start just when
steps off the plane in Phoenix. He’s got to prepare in advance for those
games, just like we do for our regular season.
There are tickets to sell, promotions to plan, sponsorships to sell and more.
“As far as ticket promotions go, I work with our
ticket office here and back in Milwaukee to try and generate excitement
and ticket sales,” Joe said.
“Last year, we averaged about 4,500 to 5,000 fans
per game. We’re expecting that to be around the same this year, but it
really varies. Attendance will be slower in the beginning and then there
are some peak games in the middle where we’ll
almost reach capacity. It really depends on the week and things like
when Spring Break happens for the colleges in the Phoenix area and
around the United States. Generally, the most popular times are the
second and third weeks in March.”
Joe tells me that the most popular games are also,
not surprisingly, those against the Cubs (March 2 this year) and also,
the Diamondbacks (March 12) because of their local fan base.
“We did a survey out here a couple of years ago and
we’ll get about 50% of the fans coming from Wisconsin. The rest of the
fans will either be fans of the visiting team or local Phoenicians who
are down here,” Joe tells me.
That makes me proud–Brewers fans have always been good travelers!
So, what can you expect if you’re traveling down here this year?
Well, lots of fun and excitement, of course!
Just like our games in Milwaukee, there are giveaways and in-game promotions to entice fans.
“For giveaways, we work with Tom Hecht and his
group in Corporate Marketing. If there are leftover bobble heads from
the prior season, we will use those in the following season’s Spring
Training camp so that we don’t let anything go to
waste and we’re also picking up room in the warehouse back at Miller
Park,” Joe said.
So, if you missed out on your Robin Yount
(March 5), Cecil Cooper (March 8), Hank Aaron (March 21) or Italian
Sausage (March 26) Bobbles at Miller Park, there’s a second chance for you to get them
at Maryvale Baseball Park!
During the games, Joe’s crew will also run popular promotions such as: the
Junior Announcer, which is similar to what we have at Miller Park,
where a child will announce batters during an inning of the game; Jimmy
Buffet’s Margaritaville‘s “Name that
Jimmy Buffet Song”, which is always a fan favorite; the City of Phoenix
golf promotion where a lucky fan who buys a game program that has a
Bernie Brewer autograph on the City’s golf ad will receive a coupon for
free golf at a local City of Phoenix golf course;
and a Hooters promotion where a lucky row is chosen to receive coupons for free wings at the local Hooters restaurant.
Another popular promotion down here is the Miller Lite Thirsty Thursdays, which means that on Thursdays, you can get a game ticket, a beer and visor for just $20. There are three
Thirsty Thursdays this year–March 3 vs. the A’s, March 10 vs. the Rockies and March 17 vs. the White Sox.
In addition to the Miller Lite Thirsty Thursday promotion on
St. Patrick’s Day, the players will be also be wearing a special green
hat, which will eventually be auctioned off to fans.
And just like in Milwaukee, there is even a special
tribute game. On March 22 vs. the San Diego Padres, there will be
a Cerveceros Day in Maryvale, paying tribute to Hispanics in baseball. The Brewers will wear
special Cerveceros jerseys, which is the Spanish translation of ‘Brewers.’ (Note: Our regular-season Cerveceros Day is slated for June 11 vs. the Cardinals at Miller Park.)
“Cerveceros Day is popular down here,” Joe said. “We will use our electronic billboard campaign to promote it. Maryvale is a largely Hispanic area, so we try and reach out to the community and have special things
there. We have had a Mariachi band in years past and we’ll try and do that again this year.”
All in all, there are 17 home games played at Maryvale
and if you make a trip of it, you can catch the Brewers on the road,
too, at one of the other nine Spring Training facilities in the Cactus League, which are all
within an hour of each other.
As you can see, there are lots of things to look forward to if you’re planning on making it down here.
As for Joe, with two jobs in the organization, he
certainly has a lot on his plate, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a
little fun while he’s down in Arizona. When I was talking with him this
morning, I couldn’t help but notice this photo,
hanging in his office.
Turns out that yesterday, Joe, who is also a huge sportsman, went on a javelina hunt where, as you can see, he was successful!
That’s great that Joe had some time to himself his
weekend, because things are really ramping up now and he’ll hit the
ground running next week, starting with the first game on Monday,
Do any of you have any plans to come down to
Arizona? Post your stories of this year’s trip or from years past in the
comment field below. We’d love to hear from you!
If you don’t have plans yet, make some! Click here to get your tickets now!