Ryan Braun Kicks Off Milwaukee Habitat Build Season

Today Brewers All-Star Ryan Braun helped Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity kick off their build season in the Washington Park Neighborhood.

Braun spoke in front of a large crowd of volunteers who were on site to help completely frame two homes on the 2100 block of North 39th street during Milwaukee Habitat’s week-long May Blitz Build (5/16-5/20). Braun and the Brewers Community Foundation are sponsoring one of 10 new construction homes Milwaukee Habitat will begin work on in 2016. In addition to new construction, Milwaukee Habitat will be rehabbing 12 homes and completing 60 repair projects throughout the year; all part of their neighborhood revitalization strategy in the Washington Park neighborhood – block by block – not just for one family at a time, but for an entire community.

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The Brewers have been involved with Milwaukee Habitat since 2006. In addition to Ryan Braun kicking off their build season, the team will hold a garage build at Miller Park on June 10. On that day, Brewers players will be joined by their wives and Brewers employees to frame the garage that will accompany the home they are sponsoring on North 39th Street. The garage will be framed in the parking lot near Helfaer Field and will be on display for the Brewers night game against the New York Mets. The framed walls will then be transported to Washington Park, where they will be erected at the home.

“Ryan and Brewers Community Foundation have been great supporters of our work in revitalizing neighborhoods and improving the lives of the families we serve,” says Milwaukee Habitat Executive Director Brian Sonderman, “With over one hundred volunteers building that week, Ryan is sure to boost the energy of what’s shaping up to be a very exciting May Blitz build.”

Students from Horning Middle School Win “Strike Out Bullying” Contest

After hundreds of videos were submitted, Angel Engel, Carolyn Kiefer, Sam Flaig, Matthew Alvarado and Becky Pyritz of Horning Middle School in Waukesha have won the Brewers “Strike Out Bullying” contest. Students from all across the greater Milwaukee area were asked to create a commercial with a positive message to “Strike Out Bullying.” The five students from Horning Middle School video was selected and their school will receive a grand prize which includes a visit from Brewers players as well as tickets and transportation to the Thursday, May 19 game against the Chicago Cubs.

Students from all public and private schools in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha Counties were encouraged to create a video that demonstrated a positive message that will help end bullying.

Nicole Kaminski, the winning group’s teacher, submitted the video for the students via the form at brewers.com. The video was selected by a panel of judges assembled by the Brewers. It was assessed based on a concise and positive message that incorporated creativity and originality.

“The students from Ms. Kaminski’s class put together a compelling and unique video that demonstrated the terrible impact that bullying can have,” said Brewers Senior Director of Community Relations Katina Shaw. “We were impressed with the volume and quality of the submissions for this initiative. There clearly are some great efforts led by students and administrators to address this very serious issue.”

Thanks to this unique video several Brewers players, staff members and personnel will travel to Horning Middle School in Waukesha for a visit and an anti-bullying program.

To top it off, the team will provide tickets and transportation for 224 eighth grade students to the next day’s contest against the Chicago Cubs.

One student from the winning group will have the unique opportunity to throw out the first pitch before the Thursday’s game.

5/18/16 Update: Brewers reliever Michael Blazek and Brewers alum Larry Hisle were on hand for today’s event at Horning Middle School. Here are some photos from the assembly:

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Taking a Page Out of Pitching Coach Derek Johnson’s Book

If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I recently finished reading Brewers TV announcer and former player Bill Schroeder’s new book, “If These Walls Could Talk.” It is a fun, light read that will make you laugh out loud.

The second book on Cait’s Summer Reading List was also written by a member of the Brewers staff; however, it is on the opposite end of the baseball book spectrum.
That’s because new Brewers Pitching Coach Derek Johnson has quite literally written the book on pitching.

Published in 2013, Johnson wrote “The Complete Guide to Pitching,” while serving as associate head coach and pitching coach at Vanderbilt. The book is divided into three parts: the science of pitching, the art of pitching and total body conditioning.  The book is aimed at kids as young as 8 up through college and is at times, heavily technical; Johnson talks mechanics, pitch selection, fielding, and mental strategies.

Brewers Pitching Coach Derek Johnson also lists "author" on his resume.

Brewers Pitching Coach Derek Johnson also lists “author” on his resume.

While I’m not really the intended audience for the book, I still wanted to read it before sitting down with our new coach for an interview. I was surprised to come away with not only a new perspective on a very complex part of the game, but also some great insight into Johnson’s frame of mind as a coach.

After reading the book, I had so much I wanted to talk with him about that our interview lasted almost an hour. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed picking his brain!

FROM BARN BALL TO THE BIGS

Johnson, 44, was born in Illinois and graduated from Eastern Illinois University, where he was a lefty pitcher, earning All Mid-Continent Conference honors; majored in P.E. and minored in English; and would later get his first job as a coach.

“I always liked to write and I liked literature; I like to read,” Johnson said, of his choice to minor in English. Johnson said that he has also always wanted to write a book, but it wasn’t until an opportunity came knocking that he had the chance. But we’ll get to that.

Johnson has always had a strong passion for the game. He grew up in a small town called Arrowsmith, Illinois. His grandfather had a farm and Johnson spent a lot of time there.

“It was football in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring. I spent a lot of time by myself, too, and I kind of gravitated toward something I could do on my own. I threw a lot of balls up against the stoop, I threw a lot of balls up against the barn, I threw a lot of fly balls off pitches of roofs. I read a lot about it. I knew all sorts of stats when I was little. So growing up, that pretty quickly became my favorite.”

Like many little boys, Johnson dreamed of making it to the Major Leagues and, even though he had success in college, he decided to go the coaching route instead.

“I likely would have been a one or two year minor league player; I would have been released. Then I would have had to start my career. As it turns out, I started my career out right away. I was coaching the year after I was done playing. Looking back, it probably worked out for the best that way because I started coaching right away.”

Right out of college, Johnson coached for his college team, where he found himself in a similar position to Craig Counsell when Counsell stepped into his role as manager last season—he was now coaching some of his former teammates.

“The trick of that was to be able to separate yourself because most of the guys on the team were your friends. So you’re walking a fine line. Even the first three or four years, you’re not that much older than the players. So, you had to really do a good job of separating yourself,” Johnson said.

From there, he coached at Southern Illinois University (1995-97) and Stetson University (1998-2001) before making a home at Vanderbilt for 11 years, serving as associate head coach in addition to pitching coach over his final three seasons at the school.

At Vanderbilt, Johnson received many accolades—he was named college baseball’s National Pitching Coach of the Year (2004) and National Assistant Coach of the Year (2010)—and helped lead the team to its first-ever College World Series appearance in 2011, guiding a staff that featured eight pitchers who were selected in the First-Year Player Draft.

To date, as a college coach, Johnson has guided the collegiate careers of 11 pitchers who have played in the Major Leagues, including David Price and Sonny Gray. Although Price and Gray are very different pitchers, Johnson says that his coaching style stays constant.

“You root yourself in fundamentals and fundamentals don’t necessarily change across the board,” Johnson explained. “Your personality doesn’t change. Some of the things that you say are the same. Some of the ways that you go about it are different. That’s really the trick of coaching…to try to push the right button and try to figure out what makes this guy work compared to this guy. Every situation is different and every guy is different, so we have a lot of layers that we’re dealing with all the time.”

Johnson graduated to pro ball in 2013 when he took the position of Minor League Pitching Coordinator with the Chicago Cubs. In that role, Johnson was responsible for all of the minor league pitching in the Cubs organization—from their academy in Venezuela to their Triple-A team in Des Moines, Iowa.

“That was obviously a new experience for me. I was a college coach for a long time and was used to having 15 or 16 pitchers. Now I have a 100. I couldn’t be with those 100 every day. I had to develop relationships with guys on the run. So again, just in terms of my education about how people work and how this pro game works and what my role, what my function was, I was learning a lot of things on the fly. It was a lot of fun. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to do it,” he said.

And in 2016, after college ball and spending some time in the minors, here Johnson is, pitching coach for the Brewers, fulfilling a dream he had as a kid.

“It took me 45 years to make it to the Big Leagues,” Johnson said with a smile.

LEARNING CURVE

Every new position has its learning curve and pitching coach is no different.

For Johnson, he’s working at a different level of the game, getting to know each individual on his pitching staff, and shifting back into game mode after traveling extensively in his role as Minor League Pitching Coordinator.

“Probably the biggest (difference between college and the Major Leagues) is that these guys are already kind of made in some ways. In college they’re very impressionable. You can almost do whatever you want. They’re that ball of clay, so to speak. In college you kind of have to teach them every aspect of the game. Here they know a lot, about all the parts of the game, so you don’t have to teach them as much. It’s more nuance, so your eye has to be even keener on some of the smaller details. At this point, too, it’s taking what they do really well and trying to make that great. In college you’re taking what’s okay and making it good. It’s further refinement in terms of what you’re trying to accomplish,” Johnson said.

Coming into this new role, just as Johnson had to work on developing relationships with all the pitchers in the Cubs Minor League system during his time with that organization, Johnson has also had to get to know all of the Brewers pitchers in a fairly short period of time. Over his career, he had run into a few of them in college or the minor leagues, but he had never worked with any of them directly.

And, after spending a couple of months with them, Johnson says, he’s still building those relationships.

“I know these players but I don’t know everything about them. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to get in the heat of the moment. We haven’t gone through every scenario yet. The season is—it’ s almost cliché to say—that it’s young, but at the same time, my relationship with them and my understanding of them…I’m still trying to get there. And it takes a while. I can even remember at Vanderbilt. The best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores and part of that is just because you’ve had a year to get to really know them. You know what makes them tick, you see what they’re like in the heat of battle, you see what they’re like in adversity, you see how they recover from something bad happening to them. We’re still kind of in the early stages of that. It’s easy to know someone as a person, like I’ve known them for 7-8 weeks, so I kind of know what they’re like, but I don’t know them and that takes awhile,” Johnson said.

As Johnson mentioned, at this level, it’s more about refinement. As part of the getting-to-know-you process, Johnson says he had conversations with all of his pitchers after first taking the position and then, once Spring Training rolled around, it was more about seeing what he had to work with—not necessarily making any major overhauls at this point.

“You’re not making any sort of wholesale changes with these guys, especially in Spring Training. You’re just kind of watching—what do they do, what’s their routine like, how do they work— and just try to figure out from there where we’re going,” Johnson said. “It’s been fun so far. I mean a real education, no question.”

Pitching Coach Derek Johnson works with Chris Capuano in Spring Training. Photo: Scott Paulus/Milwaukee Brewers

Pitching Coach Derek Johnson works with Chris Capuano in Spring Training.
Photo: Scott Paulus/Milwaukee Brewers

And it’s an on-going education. With the team in rebuilding mode and the roster also in flux due to injuries, it’s only been a little over a month into the season and already Johnson has seen 19 pitchers make an appearance on the active roster.

GAME DAY

On game day, you’ll find Johnson at the ballpark well in advance of the game watching video from the previous day, to try to confirm scouting reports or help make any sort of adjustments. He’ll also talk about that day’s game plan and make his notes on that.

“I’ve been doing a lot of quality pitch stuff with our starters, so it’s going back and determining how many quality pitches we’re throwing. That’s preparing us for whatever side work we have that day,” Johnson said.

Then it’s a matter of preparing the side work, going through it with the pitchers, and then it’s game time.

On a daily basis, Johnson works with both the starters and the relievers.

“Obviously the bulk of my time is with the starters, but I try to get out and watch the relievers play catch and kind of talk through different things that I saw the night before, or we have a pre-series meeting for scouting, so of course I’m there and (Bullpen Coach) Lee (Tunnell) leads that, but I chime in as much as possible.”

Johnson said his relationship with the relievers is one that he works hard at maintaining.

“I’ve heard where some coaches really don’t do that, it’s mostly hang with their starters and let the bullpen guy take care of the bullpen pitchers. I’m not sure that would work for me personally just relationship-wise. I want to get to know those guys and I want them to know we’re here to help if needed,” he said.

So what does a pitching coach do during the game?

Johnson said he’s not calling the game from the dugout. That’s on the pitcher and catcher. Actually…

“Truly, it’s on the pitcher. It’s a suggestion. The catcher is giving a suggestion and the pitcher is nodding his head yes or no and that’s the way it should be. We have places to grow there, chances to grow there as a staff as this year moves on,” he says.

Johnson says what he’s most focused on is looking ahead to match-ups for the bullpen.

“A lot of it is trying to figure out matches for our bullpen, as it goes. Sometimes it feels like you have to have a crystal ball because you have to look 5-6 hitters in advance for that. And then it’s trying to put out little brushfires during the game. Maybe what we could do from at-bat to at-bat. I’m really fortunate. I’ve got two older catchers who take a lot of pride in the way they call the game and what they know. I’ve got a lot of younger pitchers out there who have to execute. It’s a premium thing and they’re learning how to do that. I can focus on maybe making small adjustments from at bat to at bat but then you think ahead to who we’re going to pitch if this happens or if that happens…. There are a lot of layers,” he said.

And what’s really going on when he does make a visit to the mound?

Derek Johnson visits the mound in Spring Training. Contrary to what movies like ‘Bull Durham’ would have you believe, these guys are not discussing what to get Jimmy for his wedding present. PHOTO: Scott Paulus/Milwaukee Brewers

Derek Johnson visits the mound in Spring Training. Contrary to what movies like ‘Bull Durham’ would have you believe, these guys are not discussing what to get Jimmy for his wedding present.
PHOTO: Scott Paulus/Milwaukee Brewers

“Usually my thought on a mound visit is you’re looking for an out or you’re looking to slow the guy down; those are really the two reasons and they can both work together,” Johnson explained.

“He needs to slow down and you need an out. Again this is where getting to know guys and understanding their personality in the heat of the moment, or getting to know what his language is, so for me, that’s a really tricky one and it’s going to be different with every pitcher out there. I like to talk about what’s going to happen and kind of paint a picture of what’s going to happen with the next guy. Sometimes it’s just about saying ‘Hey I’m just out here to give you a break, that’s it. You’re doing fine. This hitter is… this is what we’ve done with him,’ maybe here’s a suggestion or two… in some cases, it’s going out and saying ‘Hey we definitely can pitch around this guy, this is what we have going on,’ so there’s some strategy things, too.  Really the trick is, it’s sort of the contact and the human element of it. I want to see where his eyes are at. I want to see his mannerisms to say ‘hey this guy’s vibrating right now; we need to maybe think about getting him out,’” he continued.

DETAIL-ORIENTED

Johnson stresses the importance of routine for a pitcher and we discussed what one might do between starts.

“Every guy’s a little bit different and they shape their routine differently, but typically, the day after (a start) is a pretty heavy recovery or starting the recovery process. The next day, a lot of our guys won’t throw. Some of them will throw, but just very, very lightly. I give them a choice, however they want to do that. So much at this level is kind of working off what makes them feel right. The key element of the whole thing is within four days they need to recover as best they can. As the season goes, that gets harder, so it changes and tweaks as the season goes, but typically that’s going to be his kind of day. The second day (after the start) is going to be a side day. He’ll throw 30-45 pitches depending on what they need and what we’re working on. One of the things we’ve tried really hard to do is evaluate the last game and pull things from it to be able to work on in the bullpen.”

Johnson doesn’t believe in doing the same thing in the bullpen every time. He likes to focus on what worked well and what can be improved.

Pitching Coach Derek Johnson works with Jimmy Nelson in the bullpen between starts.

Pitching Coach Derek Johnson works with Jimmy Nelson in the bullpen between starts.

He says that the next couple of days, there will be one or two strength sessions, with the day before the starter pitches being a lighter day.

“I have them work on some pick-off stuff on flat ground. Some guys choose to do a flat ground and then day five is pitch. So you’re getting a couple of strength sessions in, lots of arm care, the throwing varies from guy to guy and then any sort of skill work, drill work type stuff that we want to employ,” Johnson said.

Speaking of drills, it was obvious beginning in Spring Training that Johnson is a big proponent on working on fundamentals, an approach that should serve him well with a younger team.

“I think small things change everything. I think it’s easy to leave out details because there are so many of them. This game is great because it’s intricate. It’s great because there are so many nuances and ways to approach it, but I believe in the end that small things can change everything,” Johnson stated. “Really at this point in these guys’ careers, they’re obviously really pretty fine-tuned and they kind of are what they are in a lot of ways, too, so making wholesale changes, big adjustments, that’s not going to happen. But you can effect change through something small. It’s like the Butterfly Effect….That’s a big thing as a coach to do, to effect change positively and not negatively. So my feeling is you’ve got to keep it fun, you’ve got to keep it light, but you also have to take care of the detail parts of the game.”

CALL TO THE PEN

Although I’ve seen Johnson’s unique and thorough approach to the game in action for just a short period of time, hearing him talk it’s easy to see why he was sought out to write his book by the publisher, Human Kinetics.

Johnson said originally, they thought the book could be done in a year, but instead, it took five.

“It took five because I wanted to do it right. It took five because I revised it a lot,” Johnson said.

He says that for the most part, writing the book came easy because he had a lot of the material already; however, the most difficult part was trying to appeal to such a wide audience of 8-year-olds to college players.

“Baseball is very incremental in a lot of different ways, so what you’re giving to an 8-year-old for them to understand is completely different compared to how you’re coaching a college kid. So to write that book is really hard….I had to cut a lot out.  So, it’s a good book, but it wasn’t exactly the book I would’ve wanted to write. I would’ve left the 8-year-old out, to be honest. I would’ve wanted to be more technical, but still I’m very proud of it,” he said.

While the technical/mechanical side of pitching also didn’t apply to me directly, I did find a lot of the foundational and mental components of Johnson’s book to be fascinating.

I think that this passage in particular tells you a lot about what Johnson brings to the Brewers: “I believe that to be successful, a pitcher must first possess and exhibit four essential traits: (1) a work ethic that will not take ‘no’ for an answer; (2) the ability to prepare at a championship level every day; (3) accountability for himself and his career; and (4) a sense of humility for himself and the game. In turn, these traits create a mind-set, a mentality. The pitcher must have the mind-set of a champion—the mind-set of a warrior.”

At one point in the book, Johnson describes a hypothetical situation that he would give his college pitchers at the beginning of a new season, designed to help them keep the game as small and as manageable as possible:

“I first ask the pitchers how long it takes to deliver a pitch from start to finish….They usually respond by guessing 2 or 3 seconds per pitch, depending on the outcome. Next, I ask them how many pitches a starter would normally throw in a game to which they reply, ‘Approximately 100.’ I then stress that if each pitch and outcome takes approximately 2 or 3 seconds and the pitcher throws 100 pitchers, then the pitcher must be ready to focus intently and stay present for approximately 200 to 300 seconds, or 3.3 to 5 minutes per game. I point out that is this very obtainable! I finish by explaining that the pitcher can spend the rest of the time using positive self-talk, practicing white noise (nothingness), or planning for the next inning while sitting in the dugout.”

Fascinated by this (Hey! That’s pretty smart. I could even apply that approach to my golf game!), I asked him more about it. Johnson explained his thought process:

“You have to focus, you have to concentrate, you have to bear down. I’ve heard coaches say, ‘Three hours, that’s all it takes’ and I got to thinking about that one time and you know, it’s really not true. It’s not three hours. When you break it down to the small parts of the game, and say ‘I need to be totally immersed for five minutes,’ I think that helps pitchers manage it. If you’re ever tried to concentrate for three hours…that’s not easy. I don’t know many that can, so anyway, that’s where that came from,” he said.

Johnson also stresses the importance of catchers in his book and talked about how fortunate the Brewers are to have two great catchers in Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado helping the young pitching staff along.

“They both work really hard. They do their homework. They understand scouting. They’re looking at video of opposing hitters and trying to come up with a game plan of what we’re going to do. The toughest part about a game plan—number one is executing it and number two is to take the individual who is going to pitch that night and customizing it to him. So it’s really knowing our pitchers very well, what they can and what they can’t do on any given day. Unfortunately, you have guys who have A and B and C games and sometimes that C game is tough. You’re kind of wobbling through it. But our guys do a good job with doing their homework on the opposing hitters and trying to figure out things that we’re going to do against them. Then there’s the in-game part of it, too. You’re evaluating from at-bat to at-bat, you’re evaluating from pitch to pitch, because some of these guys will sit on pitches. Some guess. There’s always a little bit of cat and mouse going, but I think our guys are well-equipped. They work hard at the scouting part of it. I feel like our younger players are in very capable hands,” he said.

Goal-setting is something else that Johnson talks about in his book, and that’s something he has emphasized now at the Major League level as well. (You’ll also recall new Brewers Bench Coach Pat Murphy also spoke about the importance of goals in his interview, too.)

“I talk about ‘double vision’ in the book and that’s having your eye on today and your eye on the future. That’s to me a really important part because these guys are trying to stay in the game as long as possible. So you do have to take care of today, but you have to understand the broader picture and the future part of it, too,” Johnson said.

Johnson also discusses the concepts of team unity vs. team chemistry in his book and he believes that the dynamic of our team has been pretty good so far.

“Chemistry happens in my mind as a result of a process, as a result of things that happen along the way that bond, or don’t. But unity can happen just in terms of it all pulling in the same direction. We talked about that in Spring Training. There are going to be some rough patches, but I think we’ve had some older guys who have really stepped up, both on the pitching staff and on the position side and I think it’s held the boat together. I mean, we’ll see, because chemistry is a process of things that happen over time, but I think right now we’re unified enough and we’re trying to stay on the same page. I’ve had really good looks at that and it’s good,” Johnson said.

THE NEXT CHAPTER

While his staff has had its share of pitching struggles so far in this young season, Johnson has acknowledged this publicly and believes better days are ahead.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want to do right by these guys and try to help them perform as best they can. I feel as responsible for his as they do. That’s just the way I am…. I want to believe there will be better days ahead…. I’m not the one throwing the pitches, but at the same time, I’m the one responsible for it or partly responsible. I’d like for it to be going better. It sure would help me out a lot. But that’s what I’m here for,” Johnson told Journal Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt in a recent interview.

With a young team and a lot of new faces, it can be difficult to build the team chemistry, but Johnson and the rest of the coaching staff have clearly brought this team together in a short amount of time. Now, it’s a matter of further fine-tuning those skills of the pitching staff through a focus on routine and fundamentals.

-Cait

@CMoyer

 

 

 

 

Fun Times Had at the “Koos for Kids” Event at Hitters Baseball Academy

Tonight, following the Brewers-Padres game, many Brewers players and coaches headed over to the Hitters Baseball Academy in Racine to take part in a special event benefiting bullpen catcher and Racine native Marcus Hanel’s charity–and raised over $55,000 in the process.

Marcus has always had a desire to help children and so, about 12 years ago, he formed “Koos for Kids,” a charity focusing on helping terminally ill and disadvantaged children in the area.

Fans attending tonight’s event received dinner, autographs from Brewers players, entertainment from the Jesse White Tumblers, and the opportunity to participate in auctions and raffles. Of course proceeds from the event went to the Koos for Kids organization, where they are used to give back to the community. 

Over the years, Koos for Kids has been able to help numerous terminally ill children by purchasing them laptops, iPads, zoo passes, airline tickets, animals…whatever it might be that makes their days a little brighter.

Hanel was also excited to announce that Koos for Kids is offering a scholarship program: “ We’ll be giving $2500 each for college to two kids of need in Racine. They will get an opportunity to advance and go to school. It’s a pretty cool thing so we’re excited to implement that.”

Here are some photos from tonight’s event:

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Koos for Kids has also purchased over 3000 winter coats for disadvantaged children in the local area, as well as organized and run the Challenger Baseball League, where over 60 children with special needs can come and be part of a team and learn the game of baseball.  And there are countless other ways they have helped the local community, thanks to the support of many businesses and caring individuals.

To learn more about Koos for Kids, keep informed of upcoming events and find out how you can help, click here.

-Cait

@CMoyer

 

Melisa Palacios Named Brewers Honorary Bat Girl

Major League Baseball recently announced the winners of the 2016 Honorary Bat Girl Contest, which recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and who demonstrate a commitment to supporting the fight against the disease. Winners were selected to represent each of the 30 MLB Clubs and many were recognized on-field at Major League ballparks on Mother’s Day.

Since the Brewers were on the road in Cincinnati last Sunday, we were pleased to recognize our Honorary Bat Girl–Melisa Palacios— in a pregame ceremony this morning, prior to the start of the Brewers vs. Padres game.

Melisa Palacios

Fans from across the United States and in Canada shared inspirational stories of hope and motivation in their experiences in the fight against breast cancer, as well as the reasons they, or their nominees, should represent their favorite team.

Here was the nomination for Palacios:

“We would like to recognize her outstanding efforts in raising awareness of breast cancer and giving comfort, knowledge and joy to those affected with this disease. Breast cancer first hit home for Melisa’s family when one of her husband’s relatives was diagnosed. Little did they know how personal breast cancer would be in their life. Since the 1st diagnosis in the family Melisa and her husband have been creating breast cancer awareness clothing to sell. They donate the profits to the All Saints Cancer Center in Racine. It has been a very successful venture giving thousands of dollars to a worthy cause. In 2013 Melisa’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2014 Melisa was diagnosed with breast cancer. Through surgery and chemo treatment Melisa stayed strong and came back stronger. She continued to be there for her family and help support others. She was the first responder to help others through this long, hard journey with advice, dinners or a shoulder to cry on. Melisa is a fighter for herself, our co‐workers and anyone else afflicted with breast cancer. Melisa uses her experience and knowledge to help others. She has recently started a support group, Pink Ladies Palace, where breast cancer fighters and survivors communicate and share their stories and experiences. She has joined the dragon boat team, Pink Paddling Power. Melisa didn’t just survive her battle she became a warrior for the fight. We believe her selfless acts of kindness and work should be recognized. It is staggering how the efforts of one person can truly make the difference for so many people. Melisa is committed to a lifetime to fight the battle of breast cancer. Melisa does all of this with a smile on her face and an appreciation for life. Melisa is one of those people that just don’t go through life blindly they make a difference in many lives along the way.”

The winners were selected by a panel of judges, including special guest judges, who chose the winning submissions based on the following criteria: originality, quality of writing, demonstration of commitment to breast cancer awareness and public appeal (as determined by online fan votes).  Health & wellness expert and star of Just Jillian on E! Network, Jillian Michaels, as well as Gregor Blanco of the San Francisco Giants, Robinson Chirinos of the Texas Rangers, Zach Duke of the Chicago White Sox; Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves; Kevin Gausman of the Baltimore Orioles, Curtis Granderson of the New York Mets, Jeremy Jeffress of the Milwaukee Brewers,Scott Kazmir of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Taijuan Walker of the Seattle Mariners, Jered Weaverof the Los Angeles Angels, Sam Ryan & Chris Rose of MLB Network and Lindsay Berra & Alyson Footer of MLB.com served as guest judges for the contest. Michaels is an ambassador for Stand Up To Cancer, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization.

On Mother’s Day, players and on-field personnel also wore the symbolic pink ribbon on their uniforms along with pink wrist bands. Players wore specially-designed uniforms that incorporate pink into the Clubs’ regular logos. Commemorative base jewels and dugout lineup cards were also pink. Games featured a pink-stitched Rawlings baseball, the official ball of MLB, as the official game ball. Many MLB players also used pink bats, and pink Louisville Slugger bats, the Official Bat of Major League Baseball, were stamped with the MLB breast cancer awareness logo. Many authenticated, game-used Louisville Slugger pink bats and other pink items from Mother’s Day games are being auctioned exclusively on MLB.com/auction to benefit the fight against breast cancer.

The Honorary Bat Girl program was introduced in 2009 to raise additional awareness and support for the annual “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer” initiative celebrated on Mother’s Day. In eight years, thousands of unique testimonials have been submitted and more than 3 million fan votes have been cast. Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer is a Major League Baseball initiative supported by MLB charitable partners, Stand Up To Cancer and Susan G. Komen. This initiative raises awareness about the breast cancer cause, while also raising funds to support breast cancer research.

 

Andy Grammer’s In The House for Tonight’s Postgame Concert

Thanks to the success of last season’s inaugural series, we’re pleased to bring back postgame concerts this season!

Tonight, we welcome one of the music industry’s hottest stars to Miller Park as multi-Platinum pop artist Andy Grammer will perform a full-length, free postgame concert, courtesy of Pick ‘n Save, following the Crew’s matchup with the San Diego Padres.

From hustling street performer to Platinum-selling recording artist, Grammer’s ascent to stardom has been nothing short of remarkable. The 32-year-old singer/songwriter has gone from relative unknown to industry icon performing alongside Taylor Swift, Train, and Colbie Caillat in just a few years’ time. With his 2011 self-titled debut album, Grammer became the first male pop star in a decade to reach the Top 10 at Adult Pop Radio on his first two singles, ‘Keep Your Head Up’ and ‘Fine By Me’, certified Platinum and Gold respectively. Grammer would reach even greater heights with the release of his second album, Magazines or Novels, which featured the Number 1 smash-hit, ‘Honey, I’m Good’. One of the best-selling songs of 2015, ‘Honey I’m Good’ achieved triple-Platinum status and soared into the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Grammer would continue his success with the release of his chart-topping song, ‘Good to be Alive (Hallelujah)’, the second single off his deluxe edition Magazines or Novels.

Grammer arrived early and had the chance to go on the field during batting practice:

He also threw out a ceremonial first pitch:

Andy Grammer gets ready for his ceremonial first pitch.

Andy Grammer gets ready for his ceremonial first pitch.

Grammer also took part in a few special meet and greets during tonight’s game before performing a full-length concert following tonight’s game against the Padres.

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For those of your scoring at home, Grammer’s ‘Good to be Alive’ is also the Brewers “Win” song this year, so let’s hope we get to hear it twice tonight!

I’ll be sure to update this post with photos from the Meet & Greets, as well as the concert itself, so stay tuned.

5/15/16 Update: Due to the game going into extra innings, the concert didn’t start until after 11pm, but that didn’t stop Grammer from rocking out until after 12:30pm. Here are just a few photos from his show, taken by Brewers photographer Scott Paulus:

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Thanks to Andy and to all of the fans who came out for the game and concert! See you back at Miller Park in just a few hours!

-Cait

@CMoyer

 

PLAY BALL! BREWERS ANNOUNCE DONATION OF OVER 20,000 BAT & BALL SETS AND BOOKS TO LOCAL CHILDREN

The Milwaukee Brewers announced the donation of over 20,000 plastic bat & ball sets to every student, grades K-5 through the 2nd Grade, in the Milwaukee Public School system. The announcement was made earlier today at a press conference at the Brown Street Academy by Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger. Members of the team’s front office including Manager of Youth Outreach Larry Hisle, Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools Dr. Darienne Driver, Brown Street Academy staff, local officials, Chevrolet (sponsor) representatives as well as players Chris Capuano, Chris Carter and Alex Presley were on hand for the announcement and ensuing mini-clinics.

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Each child will receive a brand new “Play Ball” bat and ball set, delivered to each Milwaukee Public Elementary School, courtesy of the Brewers and Chevrolet. In addition, the team announced that 125 schools all over the city will receive a set of baseball-related books. The effort is part of “Play Ball Weekend,” a Major League Baseball initiative, which is taking place today through Sunday.

Major League Baseball and USA Baseball launched “Play Ball” as the sport’s largest effort to encourage widespread participation in both formal and informal baseball activities.  The goal of the program is to give kids the opportunity to enjoy the game in a fun environment by highlighting the many ways baseball can be played and introduce kids to the sport who otherwise may not have the chance to experience it. Additionally, the program offers a healthy and active lifestyle option where many of those opportunities are offered less frequently.

“The goal of this program is to get kids engaged with the game by giving them the tools to play and the resources to learn about the sport,” said Schlesinger. “It doesn’t take nine kids to play the game, and it doesn’t require expensive or elaborate equipment. Major League Baseball and the Milwaukee Brewers are committed to connecting with area children through the ‘Play Ball’ program, and we look forward to what we know will be a fun and successful long-term initiative.”

Following the press conference, the players engaged with the children and put on a mini-clinic. The players demonstrated basic skills and taught useful lessons about the game.

In addition to today’s press conference, the team will continue to celebrate “Play Ball Weekend” with an on-field ceremony prior to tomorrow’s contest against the San Diego Padres. Nine players from the local Milwaukee RBI program will join Brewers players as they go to their respective positions on the field. The players will then present the kids with one of their very own Brewers caps.

5/14/16 Update: Play Ball Weekend continued today at Miller Park as Brewers players sported Play Ball t-shirts during batting practice, the Play Ball logo was painted in the grass, there’s a special patch on the jersey and the special pregame ceremony took place. Here are some more photos from this evening:

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For more information about Play Ball Weekend, the RBI Program or the Brewers involvement in the community, please visit Brewers.com.

MILLER PARK HOMESTAND HIGHLIGHTS: MAY 12 – 19

Come join the Brewers as they return home to take on the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs at Miller Park during the current homestand. The Crew will host the Padres for a four-game series from tonight through Sunday before renewing the I-94 rivalry against the Cubs on Tuesday, May 17, as part of a three-game series. Highlights include the Andy Grammer postgame concert following Saturday’s game, a Jonathan Lucroy Kids’ Replica Jersey giveaway, a Ryan Braun photo card giveaway, and much more.
Brewers Community Foundation (BCF) Week returns for its seventh year, beginning this evening. BCF Week features activities at each game through May 19 to support the Foundation’s charitable impact in the community. One of the highlights is the “Ultimate Auction,” which takes place at Brewers.com/bcfweek and continues through Tuesday, May 17 at 11:59 p.m. CT.  Fans have the opportunity to bid on and win one-of-a-kind memorabilia items and unique experiences.  Fifteen exclusive packages are available, including a meet & greet with Hank “the Ballpark Pup,” a trip to 2017 Fantasy Camp in Maryvale, Arizona, a chance to win Chairman and Principal Owner Mark Attanasio’s five front row seats next to the Brewers dugout and a chance for a fan and seven friends to win a personal tour of the Miller Park roof before gates open.  A complete list of “Ultimate Auction” items can be found at Brewers.com/bcfweek.

Thursday, May 12 vs. San Diego Padres – 7:10 p.m.
Season Seat Holder Appreciation Day – Season Seat Holders receive 25% off food, beverage and merchandise during select games by simply presenting their Season Seat Holder ID Card. Season Seat Holders also enjoy the opportunity to enter Miller Park 30 minutes prior to the general public to watch the Brewers take batting practice. For more information, visit brewers.com/sshappreciation.

Friday, May 13 vs. San Diego Padres – 7:10 p.m.
Play Ball Press Conference The Milwaukee Brewers are excited to partner with all 30 Major League Baseball teams for “Play Ball Weekend,” set for this Friday through Sunday. To start the festivities, the Brewers will host a press conference on Friday at a local school where the team will announce a major donation of baseball equipment and books to thousands of students at local Milwaukee Public Schools. The donations are part of Major League Baseball’s “Play Ball Weekend,” which focuses on encouraging participation in all forms of the game, particularly informal participation. The official announcement will be made at a press conference at Brown Street Academy Playground (2029 N. 20th Street) on Friday, May 13 at 12:30 p.m. In addition, Brewers players Chris Capuano, Chris Carter, Alex Presley and Will Smith will be on hand to interact with kids from Brown Street Academy and engage in a mini-clinic. Brewers partner Chevrolet is a sponsor of “Play Ball.”

Miller Lite Beerpen – Every Friday home game, fans 21 and older can be a part of the Miller Lite Beerpen in the right-field Loge Bleachers. Fans can buy a Loge Bleacher ticket at the regular price and receive a free Miller Lite Brewers hat. For information, visit brewers.com/beerpen.

Student Night – Every Friday home game, high school and college students can purchase $10 Terrace Reserved tickets and $15 Loge Bleachers tickets. They also can enjoy a happy hour at certain concession stands from the time gates open through the end of the first inning. Happy hour pricing includes hot dogs, nachos, 12oz sodas and 12oz beers for $3 each. For more information, visit brewers.com/students. Excludes the Miller Lite Beerpen and Cubs game.

Brewers Coupon Book Giveaway – The first 25,000 fans 18 and older will receive a Brewers Coupon Book with a variety of special offers and Brewers ticket savings.

Rock the Ballpark – The Brewers and Summerfest have teamed up once again this year. For just $24, get a Terrace Reserved ticket to one of select 2016 Brewers games and one Summerfest General Admission ticket, good any time during Summerfest 2016, June 29-July 3 & July 5-10. For an additional $5 per package, upgrade your seats to the Loge Bleachers. Ticket package is not available for purchase on the day of the game.

Saturday, May 14 vs. San Diego Padres – 6:10 p.m.
Play Ball Weekend – Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent, Dr. Darienne Driver will take part in a pre-game recognition ceremony with Katina Shaw, Brewers Senior Director of Community Relations, in support of Play Ball Weekend.  The Brewers will announce their partnership with Milwaukee Public Schools by making a significant donation of equipment and books to children in the Milwaukee Public Schools (details will be announced at the press conference tomorrow). Chevrolet is a partner in “Play Ball Weekend.”

Andy Grammer Postgame Concert – Following the game, multi-Platinum pop artist Andy Grammer will take the stage to perform a free postgame concert, courtesy of Pick ‘n Save.

Autograph Saturday for Kids presented by U.S. Bank – Prior to the game, kids 14 and under can receive autographs from select Brewers players and coaches. Autograph sessions will begin shortly after gates open and last for approximately 20 minutes. For each Autograph Saturday game, one child will be selected to win a VIP package compliments of U.S. Bank®. The VIP package includes four Loge Level tickets to that night’s game, on-field batting practice viewing and more! Fans can register at Miller Park Field Level Guest Relations or online at Brewers.com/autographsaturdays.

Sunday, May 15 vs. San Diego Padres – 1:10 p.m.
Brewers Honorary Bat GirlMelisa Palacios was selected at as the winner for the Milwaukee Brewers 2016 Honorary Bat Girl Contest, which recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and who demonstrate a commitment to supporting the fight against the disease. Melisa will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Sunday’s game.

Koos For Kids FundraiserThe 12th annual Koos for Kids fundraiser will be held at Hitters Baseball Academy in Caledonia from 4 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Koos for Kids, a charity founded by Racine native and Brewers bullpen catcher Marcus “Koos” Hanel, hosts an annual fundraiser for terminally ill and disadvantaged children. The event will include dinner, a silent auction, raffles and appearances by Milwaukee Brewers players and coaches. For more information, visit koosforkids.com.

Jonathan Lucroy Kids’ Replica Jersey – All kids 14 and under in attendance will receive a Jonathan Lucroy Replica Jersey, courtesy of Kwik Trip.
Kids Eat Free Sunday – Every Sunday home game, all kids 14 and under will receive a voucher upon entrance to Miller Park good for a free hot dog, apple slices, a bottle of water and an ice cream treat, courtesy of Pick ‘n Save, Blue Bunny & Heinz.
Prairie Farms Dairy Kids Base Run – Kids 16 and under can run the bases after Sunday home games, courtesy of Prairie Farms Dairy.

Monday, May 16 – Off Day
Bill Bruton to be inducted into Braves Honor Roll – The Milwaukee Brewers and the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association will induct former Milwaukee Braves outfielder Bill Bruton into the Braves Honor Roll.  An induction ceremony will take place at Miller Park on Monday, May 16, beginning at noon at the site of the Braves Honor Roll, which is located on the Miller Park Field Level Concourse along the third base side.  Bruton will become the 15th member of the Milwaukee Braves Honor Roll. Bruton family members will be attending Monday’s ceremony.

Tuesday, May 17 vs. Chicago Cubs – 7:10 p.m.
Habitat for Humanity Press ConferenceRyan Braun and Brewers Community Foundation will join Habitat for Humanity for the press conference at 2114 N. 39th Street, to help kick-off the Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity’s “Blitz Build,” the official kickoff marking the 31st year of Habitat building houses in Milwaukee.

Rock the Ballpark – The Brewers and Summerfest have teamed up once again this year. For just $24, get a Terrace Reserved ticket to one of select 2016 Brewers games and one Summerfest General Admission ticket, good any time during Summerfest 2016, June 29-July 3 & July 5-10. For an additional $5 per package, upgrade your seats to the Loge Bleachers. Ticket package is not available for purchase on the day of the game.

Ryan Braun Photo Card – The first 15,000 fans in attendance will receive a Ryan Braun Photo Card, courtesy of Sentry.

Wednesday, May 18 vs. Chicago Cubs – 7:10 p.m.
Strike Out Bullying School Visit – After hundreds of videos were submitted, 8th graders Angel Engel, Carolyn Kiefer, Sam Flaig, Matthew Alvarado and Becky Pyritz of Horning Middle School in Waukesha have won the Brewers “Strike Out Bullying” contest. Middle and high school students from all across the greater Milwaukee area were asked to create a commercial with a positive message to “Strike Out Bullying.” Thanks to their unique video, several Brewers players and front office personnel will travel to Horning Middle School in Waukesha for a visit and anti-bullying program. To top it off, the team will provide all the eighth grade students with a Brewers t-shirt, complimentary game tickets to the next day’s home game against the Chicago Cubs, along with transportation to and from the school. One student from the winning creative group will have the unique opportunity to throw out the first pitch before the game on Thursday, May 19.

Brewers Wives Dinner Delivery – As part of the Brewers Wives Dinner Delivery program, Brewers Wives will deliver a hot meal to the families at the Sojourner Family Peace Center. The Wives will serve the meals to families and provide gift bags filled with Brewers memorabilia. The meals are being donated by Maggiano’s Little Italy.

Season Seat Holder Appreciation Day – Season Seat Holders receive 25% off food, beverage and merchandise during select games by simply presenting their Season Seat Holder ID Card. Season Seat Holders also enjoy the opportunity to enter Miller Park 30 minutes prior to the general public to watch the Brewers take batting practice. For more information, visit brewers.com/sshappreciation.

Thursday, May 19 vs. Chicago Cubs – 12:40 p.m.
Kids & Senior Citizens Discount Days – Returning in 2016 for most weekday afternoon home games, kids 14 and under and seniors 60+ save 50% on tickets. Excludes Opening Day, Labor Day, All-Inclusive Areas and Uecker Seats.

Strike Out Bullying First Pitch CeremonyOn Thursday, a member from the winning Strike Out Bullying contest creative team from Horning Middle School will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

JOIN MATT GARZA AT THE BREWERS BOWL-A-THON

The Milwaukee Brewers invite fans to join Matt Garza and his teammates for the Brewers Bowl-A-Thon on Sunday, August 14. Participants will enjoy a unique opportunity to pal around on the pins with their favorite Brewers players, all while helping raise money for Meta House, a nationally recognized, gender-responsive substance abuse treatment program dedicated to helping women through the progression of recovery.

Last year’s event was fun-filled and tickets went fast, so you’ll want to be sure to secure your spot now.

There are several packages from which to choose for interested participants, from the simple “Dug-Out Ticket,” which includes admission to the event and complimentary appetizers and beverages, to the “Grand Slam Sponsor Package.” The Grand Slam package includes a bowling lane for up to five guests, shoe rental, sponsorship opportunities, T-shirts, a VIP reception and much more. It also includes five field level tickets to a future Brewers home game and an opportunity to watch the Brewers take batting practice on the field. To top it all off, Matt Garza will take a picture with the group at their lane.

Other great packages such as the “Brew Crew” and “The Batter” include unique prizes and features, all while helping raise money for a worthy cause.

Meta House has been blazing new trails in women’s substance abuse treatment since their doors opened in 1963. The agency is noted as one of the first residential treatment facilities in the country designed specifically for women. In 1988, Meta House became one of the first substance abuse treatment centers to include children in the residential setting. Meta House ends the generational cycle of addiction by healing women and strengthening families.

For more information on the Brewers Bowl-A-Thon, visit Brewers.com/bowling or call (414) 902-4532.

Brewers Team Store Searching for Most Passionate Brewers Family with New Contest

This year, the Brewers Team Store at Miller Park is searching for the most passionate Brewers family with their brand new “Brought Up a Brewer” contest.

From now through June 5, you have the chance to submit a family photo of your whole Crew wearing their favorite Brewers gear, along with a 100-words-or-less essay on how your family has been the most passionate Brewers fans throughout the generations.

MB-16_Brought-Up-A-Brewer-Facebook
So. Is 99.9 percent of your wardrobe navy blue and harvest gold? Has your family dressed up as the Famous Racing Sausages the last five years for Halloween? Have you named your pets (or children) after your favorite Brewers? Needless to say, if your family has any unique traditions, memories, or quirks, we want to hear about them.

Fans should bring their photos and essays to any of the Brewers Team Stores at Miller Park by June 5. Plus, as an added incentive, the first 100 entrants will receive a $5 off coupon for their next team store purchase.

Five finalists will be announced on June 7, while the Grand Prize winner will be selected by a panel of Brewers judges and later presented during an on-field pregame ceremony before the June 12 game between the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets.

Each of the four runners up will receive a $100 shopping spree to the Brewers Team Store while the Grand Prize winner will receive a $250 shopping spree, six tickets to the June 12th game, an autographed baseball, as well as a special goodie bag.

No purchase neccessary to enter. See store for complete details.

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