It’s been awhile since the last installment of “There’s No Offseason for…”
That’s the series where I aim to dispel what I call “the myth of the offseason” by profiling people and departments across the organization to help you understand what goes on at One Brewers Way during the winter months when baseball is not played at Miller Park.
I recently caught up with Senior Director of Media Relations Mike Vassallo who, at 40, has already been working in the industry for over 20 years.
We sat down to discuss how he got into baseball, the ins and outs of his job (in season and out of season), wrestling and more. Read on.
Ever since he was a little boy growing up in Long Island, Mike says he’s wanted to be in baseball.
“Obviously I wasn’t dreaming of being the Media Relations Director then…. As a kid, I wanted to be a player, like everybody else.”
Nonetheless, the baseball seed was planted and by the time he went off to college, Mike had tailored his aspirations to becoming a baseball announcer, enrolling in the broadcasting program at Oswego State University in upstate New York.
While still in school, a chance encounter with Hall of Famer and then Yankees broadcaster Phil Rizzuto would forever change the path of his career.
It was 1995 and Mike’s stepfather, who works at Pfizer (the pharmaceutical company), had arranged a summer job for Mike at the company, as he so often did, in whatever department needed help.
One night that summer, Mike had tickets to the Yankees game and planned to leave straight from work to meet his friend there, but he wasn’t yet entirely familiar with the subway system.
Enter Andy, an older gentleman who worked at Pfizer as a greeter in the lobby and manning the elevators, etc. Andy’s night job happened to be doing the same thing at Yankee Stadium, so Mike and Andy left work together on that fateful night and headed to The House That Ruth Built.
“I brought a baseball with me because I was a big fan of Phil Rizzuto….I knew Andy knew him and I wanted to get his autograph,” Mike recalls.
“So we got to the game and I’m outside the elevator. Phil Rizzuto comes off. Andy introduces me. I get my ball signed. I’m all happy. I step aside to wait for the elevator to go meet my friend and I overhear Phil say to Andy, ‘My assistant never shows up anymore. I think I’m gonna have to get a new one,’” Mike recounts, affecting Phil’s strong New York accent as he tells the story.
The enterprising 20-year old wasted no time.
“I think I might have even raised my hand….I said ‘I’ll do it for free!’ Of course [Phil] was taken aback at first because he had just met me five minutes before, but Andy said, ‘Oh, he’ll do a good job. Give him a chance.’”
And that’s how Mike got his first job in baseball as the personal assistant to Phil Rizzuto. For the rest of the summer, whenever the Yankees were on Channel 11, Mike was happy to be Phil’s gopher, getting him his coffee, keeping score for him during the innings he didn’t announce and whatever else needed to done.
That experience helped Mike get a real internship with the Yankees in 1997 which led to him getting an entry-level job in the Yankees Media Relations department where he worked in 1998 and 1999. (Fun fact: Mike says he didn’t dislike the Yankees, but he was a Mets fan growing up.)
From there, he took a job with the Cincinnati Reds as Assistant Director of Media Relations, where he worked for six years before joining the Brewers as Director of Media Relations in middle of Spring Training in 2006.
As the current Senior Director of Media Relations, Mike’s department includes Ken Spindler (Senior Manager of Media Relations) and Zach Weber (Manager of Media Relations).
These three guys are responsible for handling interviews and media requests, writing press releases, keeping stats and more.
“I kind of forgot about the broadcasting stuff because this worked out so well,” Mike says.
In particular, Mike is the primary contact for interviews with our players, Manager Craig Counsell and General Manager David Stearns.
Mike says that part of his job is not as demanding during the offseason as it is during the season—for the players at least.
“Sometimes in the offseason, it’s actually more demanding because of all the Hot Stove talk, so the requests for GM go up a little bit,” said Mike.
And of course, the stove will be heating up even more with next week’s Winter Meetings, so Mike will be traveling to Nashville with the Brewers contingent.
In season, Mike and his team are responsible for producing the game notes, which is a six-page packet containing updated statistical information and bio information of all the players that comes out for every game during the season.
While there aren’t game notes during the offseason, there is still plenty of stat and bio work to be done.
“I’m the lead writer on the media guide. I do all the bios for the 40-man roster and the non-roster players for the media guide. I’m working on that right now,” Mike said.
Those items will take Mike and his team right up to Spring Training.
For Cactus League play, Mike will typically relocate to Arizona for a good six weeks. However, this year will be a little different as he and his wife Jeana are expecting their first child, a baby boy due February 26.
So instead of heading down in mid-February as he usually does, Mike will wait until about two weeks after Baby Vassallo joins their team to travel down to Arizona to catch up with his staff and the Cactus Crew.
Speaking of travel Mike is also the primary media relations contact that travels with the team, making about three-quarters of the roadtrips during the season.
“My favorite part (of my job) and least favorite are the same thing—travel,” Mike says. “It’s my favorite part because I get to visit all these great cities and stadiums and it’s the least because it takes me away from home and my wife—and kid next year.”
In his two decades working in the field, Mike says the main thing that’s changed his job is social media.
Mike is also responsible for writing all the baseball-related press releases—roster moves, injury updates, etc.—and he says, “I can’t remember the last time that I did a press release about a trade where it wasn’t already on social media. I feel like our press releases now just confirm what’s already all over social media, whereas in the past, we’d write the press release and that’s how people would find out.”
While social media presents some challenges from that side of things, along with generating false rumors and making things tougher for Baseball Operations, etc., Mike is quick to point out that it’s also a positive thing (which is good since you know, I’m the Director of New Media and all).
“Whenever we have a player or a manager do an interview, I put it right there on Twitter….How would we get the word out so quickly in the past?”
Speaking of Twitter, that’s another part of Mike’s gig. Since he’s the first to know about roster moves and injury updates, as well as TV/Radio interviews, etc., he’s able to assist us in the New Media Department by putting that information up on Twitter right away. But it doesn’t stop there.
Known amongst the media for sprinkling the game notes with interesting tidbits, such as these….
Mike has great access and often helps us capture some great moments for social media as well:
With so much to cover and traveling on a smaller percentage of road trips, I definitely appreciate Mike’s creativity and contributions!
Another thing you might not know is that Mike has a hand in some of the music that ends up being played at Miller Park.
“I’m pretty much the person that collects the players’ music for the scoreboard, which is kind of fun because sometimes I suggest songs to them and they use them,” Mike said.
[For those of you who don’t know what we’re talking about, check out the list of Brewers walk-up music.]
Because he’s sometimes seen as the conduit for getting those song selections to the scoreboard folks, Mike’s also been able to marry one of his other passions with baseball—wrestling.
“I’ve liked it since I was 10 years old. 1985 Wrestlemania was the first one and it’s just something I never grew out of I guess…. I think we all have our guilty pleasures. I just take it for what it is. I just find it really entertaining,” Mike says.
So, oftentimes those songs Mike suggests to players involve wrestling.
“I’ve had quite a few over the years. The first one was Tim Raines, (an outfielder) with the Yankees. He was the first person that I remember approaching and saying, ‘Hey why don’t you use this song?’ and it was a wrestling song,” Mike said.
And that’s how Rock Raines started using The Rock’s theme song for a time.
Among the Brewers that he’s converted, Mike counts Todd Coffey (Ultimate Warrior), Nori Aoki (Fandango), Lyle Overbay (Adam Rose), and Shane Peterson (New Day).
“There have been probably at least 10 players over the years,” Mike says.
In his 20 years in the sport, Mike’s certainly experienced a lot, but among the things that stand out most for him include various Postseason appearances.
“I got spoiled right off the bat…We (the Yankees) won the World Series in 1998 and 1999,” said Mike.
But while he cherishes his Yankees World Series ring, he still counts the Brewers Wildcard season in 2008 among his fondest memories.
“It was awesome being part of that because we hadn’t made the playoffs in 26 years, so it was just real exciting but in a different way. With the Yankees it was just expected every year…. It was exciting but it wasn’t as exciting as ’08 where we just came out of nowhere and the whole thing when CC was here, that was a great experience,” Mike said.
Of course, 2011 ranks right up there for Mike as well—winning the division, Nyjer Morgan’s walk-off hit in Game 5 of the NLDS, etc.
But for Mike, many of his favorite memories are off the field, too—the relationships he’s made and maintained over the years.
“It’s all the friendships,” Mike says. “I get to hang out with Bob Uecker on the road. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Indeed. We may not have a true offseason in baseball, but we’re lucky to be surrounded by great people who share our same passion and help make long hours go by quickly.
To keep up with Mike both in-season and during the offseason, follow him on Twitter @MikeVassallo 13.
Stay tuned for more “There is No Offseason” profiles. Is there anyone in particular that you’d like me to highlight? If so, please let me know in the comments below!
Last week, we gave you the details of the Brewers Annual Clubhouse Sale, which will take place beginning this Friday, December 4 and running through Sunday, December 6 inside the visiting clubhouse at Miller Park. The sale will be open on Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The sale features savings up to 80% on sale merchandise items and gives fans a behind the scenes look at Miller Park as it is held in the visiting clubhouse.
As usual, I’ll get a sneak peek at some of the items on sale and will give you a full preview of the sale here on the blog, so look for that to come later this week once they’re all set up….
And, like in the past, I have a special opportunity for you to gain early entry into the sale! That’s right, the first 100 readers to e-mail me at CaitCoversTheBases@Brewers.com (be sure to include your first and last name!) will have the chance to come to Miller Park on Thursday, December 3 from 5-8 p.m. If you are selected, you’ll receive an email containing instructions by 7pm CT on Monday, November 30.
11:55am CT Update: Wow! You guys are fast! I’ve already received 100 emails from folks seeking early entry. If you were one of them, you’ll get an email containing further instructions by 7pm tomorrow (Monday, 11/30). If you weren’t quick enough, don’t worry, there will be enough time to shop at the Brewers Clubhouse Sale all weekend long. Hope to see you there!
I know a lot of the items at this sale are limited and the line is pretty long on Friday morning, so this is just one way to thank you for reading the blog and showing how much I appreciate your support by extending this offer to you.
Shoppers can access the Clubhouse Sale by entering Miller Park at the Hot Corner entrance near the Brewers Team Store by Majestic and following the posted directions to the visiting clubhouse. Cash and credit cards will be accepted (no personal checks). Admission and parking is free.
Today, Brewers Community Foundation is teaming up with Hunger Task Force and CBS 58 to help feed Milwaukee-area families in need by hosting the “Thanksgiving Drive Thru Food Drive” at Miller Park.
The drive has been in full swing since 4:30 a.m. this morning with lots of donations pouring in.
And, those who showed up not too long ago got a little surprise:
Ryan Braun came in last night from his offseason home in California to be here this morning to assist with the food collection and greet those fans making a donation.
“It’s a special time to give back a little to the community. I’ve always enjoyed being a part of the community here. Anytime you get around the holiday season, it’s just special to have a positive impact on other people. Something I’ve definitely enjoyed doing the last few years,” he said.
This is the third year in a row that Ryan has been back to Milwaukee for this event.
“It’s fun. Hunger Task Force does some amazing things in the community. Brewers Community Foundation does such a great job, just being involved and giving back and having a positive impact. Just being a part of that is something that I’ve always enjoyed and continue to have fun doing,” Ryan said.
The slugger, who also met with media this morning, says he feels good and is recovering well from the back procedure he had after this season ended.
“Just doing my rehab and physical therapy four days a week and definitely feel pretty good right now,” he said, saying that he doesn’t expect it to have much of an impact on his typical offseason training program.
Other than that, Ryan said he’s enjoyed spending time with his family, including his 14-month-old daughter Celine Elysse.
“It’s a little chaotic. My daughter is now mobile, so just chasing her around most of the time….It’s amazing. Anyone who is a parent has seen the transition, I’m sure,” he said. “Every day right now it’s a new word, it’s a new phrase, a new expression. She’s very social. We’ve got our hands full. It’s a lot of fun.”
Following today’s event, Ryan said he will travel to Utah to spend Thanksgiving with his in-laws.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, over on Snapchat, Ryan had this special message for Brewers fans today:
Food can be dropped off at Helfaer Field at Miller Park tonight until 6 p.m.
Each vehicle stopping by to donate food items will receive a Brewers bobblehead, a gift bag and other items while supplies last.
The Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Admirals today announced the continuation of the “2-Man Advantage” ticket package that was originally introduced for the 2008 season. The joint ticket opportunity is a part of the partnership established by the two teams in 2005.
The ticket package includes one “Stern & Bow” ticket to one of three Brewers promotion nights at the BMO Harris Bradley Center for an Admirals home game and one Terrace Reserved ticket to one of three select Brewers games at Miller Park during the 2016 season, all for only $22. The package is valued at $37.50. The dates available to fans for the ticket deal are as follows:
Saturday, January 9, 2016– Milwaukee Admirals vs. Iowa Wild at 7:00 p.m. –
Brewers/Admirals Ice Scraper Giveaway (First 2,500 Fans)
Brewers/Admirals Travel Coffee Mug Giveaway (First 2,500 Fans)
Brewers BuyOne, GetOne Free Ticket Voucher (All Fans)
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Milwaukee Brewers vs. Miami Marlins at 7:10 p.m.
For more information or to purchase tickets, please call the Brewers Ticket Office at 414-902-4000 or visit Brewers.com/admirals. These packages are also available by contacting the Milwaukee Admirals Ticket Office at 414-227-0550. Packages will be available beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, November 25 at 9 a.m. and continue through Thursday, March 17, 2016.
In addition to this special ticket package, the Admirals will sport the “M” logo on their jerseys as the Brewers are the exclusive jersey sponsor of the team. Announcements during the game, dasherboard signage at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, radio spots during broadcasts and in-game promotions where fans can win Brewers prize packs are also a part of the partnership between the two clubs.
The Milwaukee Admirals are a member of the American Hockey League and are an affiliate of the Nashville Predators of the National Hockey League.
Today we announced the team’s 2016 Spring Training schedule today, which begins on Wednesday, March 2, against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team. This marks the second consecutive year that the Brewers will open their spring schedule vs. UWM.
The schedule includes 29 Spring Training games in Arizona (28 Cactus League games), two exhibition games at Houston’s Minute Maid Park (March 31 and April 1) and the spring finale against the organization’s Double-A affiliate, the Biloxi Shuckers, at MGM Park in Biloxi, Mississippi on Saturday, April 2.
The Brewers will play 15 games at Maryvale Baseball Park. Cactus League play begins on Thursday, March 3, with split-squad contests vs. the division rival Chicago Cubs at Maryvale Baseball Park and against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium.
The majority of the spring games will begin at 1:05 p.m. Arizona time. The Brewers will play three night games this spring, including a 6:05 p.m. (local time) start on St. Patrick’s Day against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Milwaukee will play an evening game on Monday, March 21, against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Talking Stick (6:40 p.m. local time) as part of the team’s second split-squad date (the Brewers will host the LA Angels of Anaheim earlier that day). The third night game will take place on Monday, March 28 against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark (7:05 p.m. local time).
The two off days will take place on Tuesday, March 15 and Wednesday, March 23. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Spring Training on Friday, February 19. All position players have a report date of Wednesday, February 24. The first full workout is scheduled for Thursday, February 25.
Tickets for the Milwaukee Brewers’ home Spring Training games will go on sale at 9 a.m. CT on Monday, December 7 at Brewers.com and by phone at 1-800-933-7890. Sales at the Maryvale Baseball Park Box Office will begin on Monday, February 8. Tickets are available in five seating areas: Diamond Box ($27), Field Box ($24), Infield Reserved ($18), Outfield Reserved ($14) and Lawn Seating ($8). In addition, there will also be a limited number of advanced parking passes available for $5. Information on Spring Training Season Tickets can be obtained by calling the Milwaukee Brewers Ticket Office at 414-902-4000.
Please note that games and times are subject to change.
Today we announced that our annual Clubhouse sale will take place next week on Friday, December 4 through Sunday, December 6 inside the visiting clubhouse at Miller Park. The sale, which will feature savings of up to 80% off regular prices, will be open on Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
This is the 35th year of the popular sale where fans can save on Brewers apparel, souvenirs and headwear as well as rare, Brewers Authentic Game-Used and Team-Issued merchandise, including jerseys and bats. In addition, custom laser-etched bats will be available and 2016 Kids Club kits can be purchased in both the Clubhouse and Brewers Team Store by Majestic. Brewers sales representatives will also be on hand to field requests for Holiday 4-Packs, 10-Packs and more at a Season Seat Holder booth.
Coupons of 10%, 20% and 30% off will be offered to the Brewers Team Store by Majestic for those spending $100, $200 and $300, respectively, at the Clubhouse Sale. These coupons may be redeemed only on the same day of purchase.
The Brewers Team Store by Majestic will feature a variety of activities during each day of the Clubhouse Sale. Fans can register to win one of four prize drawings that will be held at the Team Store each day. Prizes will include shopping sprees and special Authentic Collection packages. For those with cameras, fans can take photos with the Klement’s Famous Racing SausagesTM on December 4 from 10-11 a.m. and with Santa on December 5 from noon – 2 p.m. at the Team Store.
Brewers Suiteholders and Season Seat Holders will gain special early access to the Clubhouse Sale on Thursday, December 3. In addition, as in years past, we’ll have an opportunity for blog readers to gain early access as well–stay tuned!
All shoppers can access the Clubhouse Sale by entering Miller Park at the Hot Corner entrance near the Brewers Team Store by Majestic and following the posted directions to the visiting clubhouse. Cash and credit cards will be accepted (no personal checks). Admission and parking is free.
I’ll also be doing my annual Clubhouse Sale preview leading up to the event, so stay tuned!
During the offseason, the Brewers Team Store by Majestic at Miller Park is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. For more information, contact the team store at (414) 902-4750.
We’ll be sure to provide “pup”dates and photos from the production as we get them!
*Promo is good for up to 8 adult tickets for December 1-13 performances, excluding Dec. 5 and 6. Not valid on previous purchases or combined with any other discount. Taxes and fees not included. Subject to availability. Promo code expires December 13.
The Brewers Kids Club is the perfect gift idea for kids 14 & under.
For just $25, the Kids Club kit includes six Terrace Reserved ticket vouchers to select games, an official Kids Club cap, drawstring bag, water bottle, membership I.D. card with lanyard, Racing Sausages poster, and many other exclusive Kids Club opportunities–including participation in a parade around the warning track on August 28!
To purchase, call (414) 902-4000 or visit brewers.com/kidsclub.
The kits are also available at the Brewers Team Store by Majestic and Miller Park.
On Saturday, June 18, Kenny Chesney returns to Milwaukee for what promises to be the concert of the year, and now the anticipation level has jumped even higher. It was announced this morning that Little Big Town, fresh off winning three major awards at the CMA Awards earlier this month, has been added to the bill, joining Chesney and previously-announced CMA “Female Vocalist of the Year” Miranda Lambert and Old Dominion.
Chesney’s stop in Milwaukee will come as part of his 2016 Spread the Love Tour. After breaking nine attendance records and selling over 1.3 million tickets on last year’s Big Revival Tour, the King of Summer is back at it again with 13 more stadiums and an even bigger lineup in 2016 as he joins forces with the biggest female country artist on the planet in Miranda Lambert and 2015 breakout artist Old Dominion.
Just two weeks ago, Little Big Town was named “Vocal Group of the Year” for the fourth time at the CMA’s. The group also won “Song of the Year” for their hit, “Girl Crush,” which was awarded to the song’s writers, Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose. Members of the group have been nominated for the award in this category every year since 2006. The same song was also named 2015 “Single of the Year.”
The Knoxville, Tennessee born Chesney has recorded numerous studio albums, including 11 that have been certified platinum. He has produced countless chart-topping singles such as “Anything But Mine,” “How Forever Feels,” “Live A Little,” “When The Sun Goes Down,” “Somewhere With You,” and “Never Wanted Nothing More.” Chesney was honored by the industry when he received the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award four times (2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008). Last year, Chesney released his 16th studio album, The Big Revival. The album, which debuted at #1 on Billboard Country Airplay chart, includes smash hits “American Kids,” “Till It’s Gone” and “Wild Child.”
Lambert is the six-time reigning CMA Female Vocalist of the Year. The country music star and singer/songwriter earned Best Female Country Vocal Performance honors for her single “The House That Built Me” at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards and won Best Country Album for Platinum at the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards this year.
Old Dominion is a five-member band which consists of Matthew Ramsey (lead singer), Trevor Rosen (acoustic guitar, keyboards), Whit Sellers (drums), Geoff Sprung (bass guitar) and Brad Tursi (lead guitar). Their debut single, “Break Up With Him,” reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.
Miller Park has played host to multiple concerts, including George Strait’s Country Music Festival (2001), N’Sync (2001), Bruce Springsteen (2003), Randy Travis (2004), Bon Jovi (2005), Kid Rock/Sugarland (2008), Farm Aid’s 25th Anniversary Concert (2010), Paul McCartney (2013), Kenny Chesney (2013) and One Direction (2015). It has also hosted numerous other non-baseball events, including international soccer matches in 2014 and 2015.
Brewers Community Foundation to Join CBS-58 and Hunger Task Force to Help Feed Milwaukee This Holiday Season
Brewers Community Foundation is teaming up with CBS 58 and Hunger Task Force next week to help feed Milwaukee-area families in need as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.
On Wednesday, November 25, the three organizations will host the “Thanksgiving Drive Thru Food Drive” at Miller Park. Food can be dropped off at Helfaer Field at Miller Park on November 25 between 4:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
“Brewers Community Foundation is honored to partner with Hunger Task Force and CBS 58 to feed those in need in our community,” said Brewers Community Foundation Executive Director Cecelia Gore. “On behalf of Mark and Debbie Attanasio and everyone here at the Brewers, we thank everyone for their donations and support.”
Each vehicle stopping by to donate food items will receive a Brewers bobblehead and other items while supplies last. A number of Brewers special guests will be on hand throughout the day to collect donations as well.
“Once again, our friends at CBS 58 and the Brewers Community Foundation are spending the day before Thanksgiving collecting donations from big-hearted folks making a difference right before the holiday,” said Sherrie Tussler, Executive Director of Hunger Task Force. “It’s an easy, fun way to donate and help a family before gathering together with your own.”
“The Drive Thru Food Drive is a simple way for our viewers to give back to those in need this Thanksgiving,” said Mark Strachota, Vice President/General Manager of CBS-58. “CBS 58 is proud to partner with the Brewers and the Hunger Task Force in this effort.”