Results tagged ‘ chicago cubs ’

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

 

 

 

 

Double Clutch Menu Item For the Cubs Series: Taylor Street Fried Italian Sausage Sandwich

The Cubs are making the trip north on I-94 for Fan Appreciation Weekend at Miller Park.  Chicago is known for many specialty food items and the Double Clutch this weekend will not disappoint as it combines two popular Chicago foods in one special meal.

The featured menu item this weekend is the Taylor Street Fried Italian Sausage Sandwich, with tomato jam and fresh mozzarella. This meal is $10.

Fried Italian

As always, the Spaghetti-in-a-Meatball is also available all weekend at the Double Clutch also for $9.50.

The Double Clutch is located on the Loge Level outside section 215.

 

-Cait

johnandcait@brewers.com

Double Clutch Menu Item for the Cubs Series: Chicago-Style Panini

The Cubs are in town this weekend and the Double Clutch stand is serving up a Chicago Style Panini. This one sounded a little strange on paper, but seeing in person, it was a much different story.

Looks great!

Looks great!

It’s a Chicago Dog, split open with sliced Italian Sausage, sliced tomato, sport peppers, provolone cheese, neon relish, celery salt and sliced onion, for $10. The famous Miller Park house made chips are served on the side.  It is a very interesting take on a Chicago classic. If you are a traditionalist, you might not be open to this. If you are willing to take a chance, it will be well worth it.

Fresh off the grill.

Fresh off the grill.

 

The Spaghetti in a Meatball is also available all weekend for $9.50.

As always, the Double Clutch is located outside section 215 on the Loge Level for the three weekend games of the Cubs series at Miller Park.

–CAIT

johnandcait@brewers.com

Double Clutch Menu Item For the Cubs Series: Chicago Greektown Dog

The Cubs are making the trip north on I-94 for a weekend set with the Brewers that begins tonight.  Chicago is known for many specialty food items and the Double Clutch this weekend will not disappoint as it combines two popular Chicago foods in one special meal.

The featured menu item this weekend is the Chicago Greektown Dog.  The dish starts with a Chicago-style all-beef hot dog wrapped in gyro meat (think “The Beast,” but a dog wrapped in gyro meat!).  Then, it is topped with tzatziki sauce, feta cheese, kalamata olives and Miller Park’s famous house made chips.

Gyro + hot dog + delicious.

Gyro + hot dog + delicious.

This a unique twist on a classic ballpark meal and is $9.50.  It is worth a shot and will only be available this weekend!  As always, the Spaghetti-in-a-Meatball is also available all weekend at the Double Clutch also for $9.50.

The Double Clutch is located on the Loge Level outside section 215.

On the other side of the press box (just outside section 222),  at the new and improved “Smokehouse,” fans can enjoy a Meatloaf Sandwich this weekend.  The sandwich is topped with house made chipotle bacon ketchup (which is incredible) and served on a corn dust bun with a pickle and side of cole slaw.  In addition, the three “staples” of this stand will be available all weekend including BBQ Beef Brisket, Italian Pork and Smoked Chicken.  These sandwiches are all priced at $10.50.

Mom might be a bit jealous of this meatloaf!

Mom might be a bit jealous of this meatloaf!

Enjoy the weekend!

–JOHN

johnandcait@brewers.com

We Wear Our Sunglasses at Night… Friday Night, That Is, for Student Nights at Miller Park

One of the most popular deals just got even cooler.

Every Friday home game is a Student Night at Miller Park where high school and college students can purchase $9 Terrace Reserved tickets and $11.50 Loge Bleachers tickets, courtesy of Time Warner Cable.

And in 2014, thee first 250 students to redeem their tickets from Time Warner Cable Student Night Section 233 will receive a free pair of Brewers sunglasses!

Judging by the feedback we got from our first Student Night of the season on Friday, April 11, this is going to be a hot ticket this year:

Did we mention it is #RetroFriday AND #StudentNight? #Brewers #wewearoursunglassesatnight

A photo posted by brewers (@brewers) on

It was a Retro Friday and everyone wanted a piece of the action, even these guys:

We’ll be changing up the glasses most weeks, so you can try to collect them all. Here, Wily Peralta models the shades for this week’s game vs. the Chicago Cubs:

Get your tickets now at brewers.com/students.

-Cait

JohnandCait@brewers.com

Zubazpalooza Set for May 30 at Miller Park

Yes, you read that right….by popular demand, Zubazpalooza is back this season!

Come out to Miller Park and “Embrace the Awesomeness” of Zubaz pants as your Crew takes on the Chicago Cubs on Friday, May 30.

Fans that purchase a special Zubazpalooza package will receive a Loge Outfield Box ticket to the game, plus a pair of Brewers Zubaz pants for just $34.

Each game ticket will be accompanied by a voucher to be redeemed for a pair of Zubaz on Friday, May 30.

Fans will be seated together as a group in Sections 231 & 232. Based on the success of last year’s promotion, the limited tickets for this event are expected to sell quickly, so you’ll want to visit brewers.com/specialevents to secure yours today.

While last year’s Zubaz were our primary colors…

ZUBAZ FANS

 

this year’s Zubaz are our retro colors and feature the Brewers ball and glove logo.

Brewers Zubaz 2014

Zubaz-social

 

Zubaz pants and shorts were made popular in the early 90s, created by two Minnesotan bodybuilders, Dan Stock and Bob Truax.

“We started the Zubaz brand out of a gym that we owned in Minnesota and our first customers were guys who loved the fit and comfort, something they couldn’t find in “normal” clothes due to the size of their bodies. The classic zebra pattern is one of the first prints that we did and it came to symbolize the Zubaz brand name as a crazy look for people who wanted to ‘Dare to be Different,‘” Dan and Bob say on Zubaz.com. “We always said that the look is what attracted people to their first pair and the comfort was what brought them back for their 2nd pair… or 3rd, 4th or 5th pair.”

After a few years, Dan and Bob eventually left the clothing business to move on to other endeavors, but decided to bring Zubaz back in 2007, introducing them to a whole new generation of fans.

Brewers Zubaz pants are not currently sold in stores and, with officially licensed  NFL team Zubaz pants retailing for $39.99 on Zubaz.com, this Zubazpalooza package, which includes pants and a game ticket for just $34 is a steal.

To purchase, please visit brewers.com/specialevents or call (414) 902-GAME (4263). Also, as a reminder, you can continue to visit brewers.com/specialevents all season long for the latest in our special events.

So, what do you think? Did you rock Zubaz back in the day? Will you be rockin’ ’em at Miller Park on May 30?

-Cait

JohnandCait@brewers.com

Sunday, April 21: George Scott Bobblehead Day

The second bobblehead of the 2013 season will come on Sunday, April 21 as the Crew takes on the Chicago Cubs. The bobblehead will feature Brewers alum & All-Star, George Scott.

The former first baseman played for the Brewers from 1972-1976 and won the Gold Glove Award all five years in a row during his time in Milwaukee. George also won the award in 1967, 1968 and 1971 during his time with the Boston Red Sox.

Hence, his bobblehead will feature George in a Brewers uniform with his five Gold Gloves.

Over his 14-season career, George, who was known as “Boomer,” played in the American League for the Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees. He posted a .268 batting average with 271 home runs (which he called “taters,” coining the term), and 1051 RBI in 2034 games.

Speaking of Gold Gloves, two Brewers players were yesterday named finalists for the 2012 Rawlings Gold Glove Award. Left fielder Ryan Braun and third baseman Aramis Ramirez were one of three finalists for the Gold Glove at their respective positions.  The awards will be announced tonight on a special edition of ESPN Baseball Tonight at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2. Tune in tonight to see if Braun and Ramirez will join Scott to make Brewers Gold Glove history.

Individual tickets will go on sale in February, but if you’d like to secure your tickets for this game early, the George Scott bobble is included in the following ticket packages:

20-Game Sunday Plus Plan

Double Bobble Holiday 4-Pack  [Holiday 4-Packs go on sale on Tuesday, November 13!  Call (414) 902-HITS (4487) for details!]

1/23/13 Update: This just in! A photo of the George Scott Bobblehead! What do you think?

IMG_4964

-John and Cait

johnandcait@brewers.com

Holiday 4-Packs On Sale Tomorrow!

This year, the time between the end of the baseball season and the holidays is  shorter than ever.

That’s a great thing, of course, but it is hard to believe that it’s already time for our Brewers Holiday 4-Packs to go on sale tomorrow at 10 am CT!

Our Holiday 4-Packs have always been popular, but coming off of this exciting season, demand for these packages is likely to be at an all-time high as you can send the Brewers fans on your list to see the reigning NL Central Division Champions in 2012 at Miller Park and you’ll have a champion of a gift perfect for their opening day!

This year, there are five attractive 4-Packs to choose from and, if orders are placed by Tuesday, December 20, 4-Packs will be delivered in time for Christmas in special holiday carriers, ready for giving.

“The Holiday 4-Packs have been one of our most popular packages and gift items as they offer fans the first opportunity to secure terrific seat locations for many of the most anticipated games in 2012,” said Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger. “Package options are designed to fit many different schedules, and it’s a great way to take care of the baseball fan on everyone’s holiday list.”

Three of the five Holiday 4-Pack Plans—the Coast to Coast Plan, the Matinee Plan and the Weekend Plus Plan—include at least one All-Fan Giveaway Date while the new Double Bobble Plan includes two All-Fan Giveaway Dates. The Marquee Plus Plan includes two games against the Chicago Cubs at non-Marquee pricing. All five plans include at least one Gold or Marquee priced game at retail price, adding additional value to each 4-Pack.

Holiday 4-Packs range in price from $64 – $168 and are available in the Field Outfield Box, Loge Infield Box, Club Outfield Box, Terrace Box, Loge Bleachers and Terrace Reserved seat locations. 

Just remember that Holiday 4-Packs include one ticket to four great games and no one wants to go alone, so make sure you grab at least two! You’ll also get a free Klement’s Famous Racing Sausage TM Hot Dog ornament gift-with-purchase with every pair of 4-Packs you buy.

 

Get this Klement's Famous Racing Sausage Hot Dog ornament FREE with every pair of Holiday 4-Packs you buy!

For more information, or to purchase, you can also visit brewers.com/4packs .

Cheers!

-Cait

JohnandCait@brewers.com

 

Brewers Road Crew heads to Chicago and Boston, are you making the trip!?

The Brewers are looking to close out their six-game homestand on a winning note this afternoon at Miller Park.  Following the game, the team will board busses that will take them to Chicago to begin a seven-game road trip tomorrow.

The team will play four games in Chicago against their Central Division rival, the Cubs, before kicking off Interleague play in Boston against the Red Sox with three games next weekend.  This road trip will see the Brewers take a step back in history and play in Major League Baseball’s two oldest stadiums, Wrigley Field in Chicago, built in 1914 and Fenway Park in Boston, built in 1912.

From what I have seen in my travels with the team over the last six seasons, Brewers fans love to travel.  Every city we go to, there are Brewers fans making their presence felt, and, in talking to players and coaches, they notice and appreciate the support while away from Miller Park.

Nothing is better than seeing true Brewers fans hanging out before games during batting practice, cheering on the team after a Brewers road win and walking the streets in whatever city we are in (Sidenote: Brewers fans, and Wisconsin sports fans in general, are always decked out in their team gear.  It’s unreal.  I don’t know if any state in the United States of America has as much team gear as Wisconsin does.  There is no doubt that Wisconsin sports fans die for wearing team apparel while supporting their team on the road.).

Summer is now in full swing and I know from hearing people talk, that the Brewers will be well supported in Chicago and Boston with fans planning on making the trip.  Chicago is just a short drive from Milwaukee and always has a number of Brewers fans in the crowd.  Boston is a historic place that Brewers fans don’t get to visit too often.  Both places will be great for the Brewers Road Crew.

I will be on the road trip with the team and I will be looking for Brewers fans in both cities.  If you plan on going to the games, send us your photos or tweet them using #BrewersRoadCrew hashtag.  I will collect your photos throughout the trip and post them here on the blog.  Are any fans planning meeting up anywhere before any of the games?  Let us know; I will post any Brewers fans pregame events in Chicago and Boston that fans might be planning.

So sit back and enjoy today’s Brewers-Cardinals game and hopefully I will see some of you this week on the road!

–JOHN

johnandcait@brewers.com

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.

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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.jpg

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
of Phoenix.

When Joe first came to the Brewers in April of
2003, his job was to work in the finance/accounting department as the
Club’s controller.

 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
Spring Training.

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!

cecil2.jpeg

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.

Thumbnail image for im_cerveceros_200.png

And just like in Milwaukee, there is even a special
tribute game. On March 22 vs. the San Diego Padres, there will be
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.

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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,
February 28.

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!

 -CAIT

johnandcait@brewers.com

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