Results tagged ‘ Craig Counsell ’

There Is No Offseason for…Mike Vassallo

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.

Here sits Senior Director of Media Relations Mike Vassallo. After 20 years in the business, his office is a treasure trove of cherished memorabilia.

Here sits Senior Director of Media Relations Mike Vassallo. After 20 years in the business, his office is a treasure trove of cherished memorabilia.

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.

Holy cow! How time flies. Here’s Mike with Phil Rizzuto, the man who took a chance on him back in 1995.

Holy cow! How time flies.
Here’s Mike with Phil Rizzuto, the man who took a chance on him back in 1995.

 

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.

Winning the World Series is the ultimate goal for anyone in baseball. Mike Vassallo, pictured here with Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner, was fortunate enough to reach this pinnacle during his first full season in MLB.

Winning the World Series is the ultimate goal for anyone in baseball. Mike Vassallo, pictured here with Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner, was fortunate enough to reach this pinnacle during his first full season in MLB.

 

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!

-Cait

@CMoyer

Seventh All-Fan Giveaway Revealed: Craig Counsell Bobblehead Slated for August 14

In case you haven’t been following along, next season’s All-Fan Giveaway reveal is underway!

On Monday, we revealed the 1980s Vintage Brewer bobblehead and a bobblehead featuring the Brewers franchise leader in home runs, Ryan Braun. On Tuesday, it was the Barking BobbleHank and Greg Vaughn Bobblehead. Yesterday, we revealed the Bob Uecker Talking Alarm Clock and Jimmy Nelson Bobblehead.

And this morning, we have for you All-Fan Giveaway number seven: A Craig Counsell Bobblehead!

MB16_AllFan_Counsell_FB

Yes, for those of you scoring at home, we have given out a Craig Counsell Bobblehead in the past, but here’s the twist: Half of the fans at the game against the Reds on Sunday, August 14 will get a bobble of Craig as a retired Brewers player and the other half will get a bobble of him as manager.

Make sure to follow us on our website at brewers.com/allfans and across all of our social media platforms the rest of this week–including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram– to be the first to see our 2016 All-Fan Giveaway schedule, plus have a chance to win tickets to those games.

If you don’t win, don’t worry.  Individual tickets will go on sale in spring. However, if you’d like to secure your tickets for this game early, the Craig Counsell Bobblehead is included in select season ticket packages which are on sale now.

Be sure to check back in the coming months as we also unveil the image of the actual bobbles when we get them!

Stay tuned to the blog, our social channels and brewers.com/allfans all week as we unveil more of our schedule!

– Cait

@CMOYER

“Inside the Brewers” Event at Miller Park Tonight; Submit Your Questions Now

Tonight we will be hosting  a special “town hall” meeting with Manager Craig Counsell and General Manager David Stearns. Brewers ticket plan holders, Suiteholders and VIPs have been invited to Miller Park for a unique opportunity to hear from the team’s field manager and general manager.

Brewers broadcaster Brian Anderson will serve as host and emcee for the event and those in attendance will have the chance to have their questions answered by both David and Craig.

Although the event is by invitation only and not open to the general public, if you’re not here tonight, you can still submit questions in advance via social media. Post them in the comments below, look for our designated posts on Facebook and Instagram, or Tweet your question to @Brewers using the hashtag #InsidetheBrewers.

In addition, tonight’s event will be streamed live beginning at 6:30pm CT at brewers.com/insidethebrewers.

-Cait

@Cmoyer

“INSIDE THE BREWERS” COMING TO MILLER PARK OCTOBER 29

Today we announced that we will be hosting  a special “town hall” meeting with Manager Craig Counsell and General Manager David Stearns on Thursday, October 29. Brewers ticket plan holders, Suiteholders and VIPs have been invited to Miller Park for a unique opportunity to hear from the team’s field manager and general manager.

Brewers broadcaster Brian Anderson will serve as host and emcee for the event and those in attendance will have the chance to have their questions answered by both David and Craig.

Although the event is by invitation only and not open to the general public, fans at home will be able to submit their questions through social media on the day of the event (#InsideTheBrewers), as well as watch the event streamed live on brewers.com that evening.

Stay tuned as we get closer to the event for more details on how you can submit your questions and/or tune in.

-Cait

@Cmoyer

Brewers Minor League Awards Presented

We congratulate Jorge Lopez and Orlando Arcia as recipients of the 2015 Robin Yount Performance Awards, given to the Brewers Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year.

Before tonight’s game, Brewers Manager Craig Counsell presented the awards to Jorge Lopez and Biloxi Shuckers Manager Carlos Subero, who was here to accept the award on behalf of Orlando Arcia.

Brewers Manager Craig Counsell was on hand to present the Minor League Awards.

Brewers Manager Craig Counsell was on hand to present the Minor League Awards. (PHOTO: Scott Paulus/Milwaukee Brewers)

Jorge was named the 2015 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He spent the 2015 season with the Biloxi Shuckers, our Double-A Affiliate in the Southern League. There, he went 12-5 with a 2.26 ERA in 24 starts for the Southern League South Division Champions this season and his 2.26 ERA was only behind teammate Tyler Wagner for the lead.

Jorge struck out 137 batters, while walking 52. As he finished the season, he led the league in WHIP, tied for the league-lead in wins and placed third in strikeouts.

Jorge was named a mid-season and postseason Southern League All-Star as well as the Most Outstanding Pitcher of the Year. In addition, he was named Brewers Minor League Pitcher of the Month for each of the last three months of the season. Jorge made his Major League debut and became the 18th player in franchise history to earn the win his Big League debut.

We also surprised Jorge by airing a congratulatory message from Jorge’s girlfriend and young son in Cincinnati.

Brewers beat writer Adam McCalvy has the backstory.

The 2015 Minor League Player of the Year is Orlando Arcia who also spent the 2015 season with the Biloxi Shuckers. Orlando finished his first season at the Double-A level batting .307 with 37 doubles, 7 triples, 8 homers, 69 RBI and 25 stolen bases in 129 games.

The 21-year-old finished his 2015 campaign among the Southern League leaders in several categories, including doubles, at-bats, total bases, extra-base hits, RBI, slugging percentage, runs and average. Orlando hit .400 with 3 homers and 10 RBI in the Shuckers quest for the Southern League Championship.

Orlando was named the recipient of the 2015 Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove Award for defensive excellence after an impressive all-around season at the plate and in the field, including just 13 errors in 585 total chances. This is the second consecutive season that a Brewers prospect has won the award. Orlando was named both a mid-season and postseason Southern League All-Star this year.

Accepting the award on Orlando’s behalf was Biloxi Shuckers Manager, Carlos Subero, who we also recognized tonight.

Carlos was recently named Southern League Manager of the Year. He led the Shuckers to a Southern League South Division First Half Championship and a 43-25 record, withstanding a 54-game road trip and into the Southern League playoffs during their inaugural season.

We also recognized area scout Charlie Sullivan who, along with Manolo Hernandez, were responsible for signing Jorge Lopez.

Jorge, Orlando and Carlos: Congratulations on a successful 2015 season!

 

Brewers Players Visit the Miller Park Parking Lots

Before tonight’s game, Brewers players and coaches were escorted on golf carts throughout the parking lots to surprise fans with gifts as a way of thanking everyone for their season-long support. After batting practice, the players hopped on the carts and went for the ride.

Every Brewers player and coach handed out Brewers goodies to fans in the parking lots to show appreciation for their support. Many gave high fives and some even stopped for a quick snack at a tailgate.

 

 

The Attanasio family also participated in the event:

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The gesture caught most fans by surprise as they really didn’t really expect to see Brewers players cruising through the lots on golf carts. It was a fun treat to see the reaction of the fans when they saw the players. There were a lot of double takes! It was also fun to see the reaction of the players, some of whom had never seen the extravagant tailgating that goes on before every Brewers game.

Were you in the parking lots tonight?  Share your story with us in the comments section below!

-Cait

@CMoyer

Ryan Braun Named “We Energies High-Energy Player of the Year”

Prior to tonight’s contest against the Chicago Cubs, Ryan Braun was named the 2015 “We Energies High-Energy Player of the Year.” The award honored Braun who was voted as the Brewers player that best personifies the characteristics of hard work, a positive attitude and an aggressive approach to playing the game as voted on by fans, media members and We Energies.

Barry McNulty, We Energies Director of Corporate Communications, presented Braun the award in an on-field ceremony prior to the first pitch against the Cubs. The ceremony also featured members of the Brewers organization including Manager and 2009 We Energies High-Energy Player of the Year Craig Counsell and Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger.  Zach Stevens, winner of the “We Energies High-Energy Player of the Year” Grand Slam Prize, was also present.

The Brewers outfielder received 56.8 percent of the total vote, whereas the other finalist, first baseman Adam Lind, received 42.3 percent. Braun was named to his sixth All-Star game and hit for a .285 average, .356 on base percentage and a .356 slugging percentage in 140 games in 2015. The eight-year veteran hit 25 home runs, giving him a total of 255 career home runs and making him the all-time franchise leader in the category, passing former leader, Robin Yount. Braun recorded his fourth career 20 stolen bases and 20 home run season, previously accomplishing the feat in 2009 (32/20), 2011 (33/33) and 2012 (41/30). He was also one of two players in the Major Leagues in 2015 with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases, joining only Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

This is Braun’s third We Energies High-Energy Player of the Year award, as he previously won the award in 2008 and 2012. Other past winners include Jonathan Lucroy (2014), Carlos Gomez (2013), Nyjer Morgan (2011), Rickie Weeks (2010), Craig Counsell (2009), Prince Fielder (2007) and Bill Hall (2006).

Aramis Ramirez Honored Before Tonight’s Game

Tonight we were pleased to honor Aramis Ramirez for his 15+ years in Major League Baseball and his accomplishments here with the Brewers.

Aramis Ramirez walks out to a great hand by Brewers and Pirates fans alike. Photo: Sara Stathas/Milwaukee Brewers

Aramis Ramirez walks out to a great hand by Brewers and Pirates fans alike. Photo: Sara Stathas/Milwaukee Brewers

Aramis was a Milwaukee Brewer from 2012 through the middle of this season. During that time, he batter .284 with 65 home runs and 262 RBI in 455 games.

In 2012, Aramis’ 103rd RBI as a third baseman marked a franchise record. That year, Aramis led the National League with 50 doubles and all Major League third basemen with a .977 fielding percentage.

Aramis gave Brewers fans more to cheer about in 2013 as he notched career hit 2,000 with a solo home run on June 26 vs. the Chicago Cubs.

In 2014, Major League Baseball fans voted Aramis in to the All-Star Game and he became the first player in Brewers history to start the Mid-Summer Classic at third base.

Before tonight’s game against Aramis’ current team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin, along with Brewers Manager Craig Counsell, presented Aramis with the third base from his final game as a Brewer at Miller Park, along with a plaque listing his Brewers achievements.

Doug Melvin and Craig Counsell present Aramis Ramirez with a plaque and a base, honoring his accomplishments during his time with the Brewers. Photo: Sara Stathas/Milwaukee Brewers

Doug Melvin and Craig Counsell present Aramis Ramirez with a plaque and a base, honoring his accomplishments during his time with the Brewers.
Photo: Sara Stathas/Milwaukee Brewers

 

Milwaukee Public Library Super Readers Recognized

Today we, along with the Milwaukee Public Library, were proud to honor the Super Summer Readers in a special pregame ceremony before the Brewers vs. Reds finale.

Craig Counsell poses with the 2015 MPL Super Readers.

Craig Counsell poses with the 2015 MPL Super Readers.

These youngsters visited their Milwaukee Public Library, read during the summer, and reached the highest level of the Super Reader Program: Alchella Townes, Atkinson Library; Analise Block, Bay View Library; Amaiaca Wright, Capitol Library; Vanesha Conn, Center Street Library; Vechai Chang, Central Library; Samael Meier, East Library; Andrew Calderon, Forest Home Library; Chaylin Williams, Martin Luther King Library; Cole Fulford, Mill Road Library; Serena Cardenas, Tippecanoe Library; Jazmyn Riley, Villard Avenue Library; Cam’ron Gray, Washington Park Library; and Jose Martinez Zablocki Library.

These lucky Super Readers were selected from the near 20,000 children that made reading a part of their summer vacation.

The Milwaukee Public Library thanks Brewers Community Foundation and Milwaukee Brewers Manager Craig Counsell, along with his wife, Michelle, for their generous support of the Super Reader Program.

Remember parents–the best back-to-school supply is a library card–and it’s free. Visit the Milwaukee Public Library where they help people read, learn and connect.

Congratulations, Super Readers! Keep it up!

 

Craig Counsell Visits with Brewers Season Seat Holders

Today was the Brewers Season Seat Holder luncheon, the second of two such events this season where Season Seat Holders with packages of 20+ games have the opportunity to attend.

The event, which took place in the Skyy Lounge, included a plated lunch, a Q &A with Brewers players, and the opportunity to win prizes.

Today, Season Seat Holders were treated to a Q & A with Brewers manager Craig Counsell.

Craig Counsell addresses Brewers Season Seat Holders at today's luncheon.

Craig Counsell addresses Brewers Season Seat Holders at today’s luncheon.

Here are some highlights:

Craig spoke about how great and supportive the Brewers fan base has been–through thick and thin. “Fans coming to the park means something. We know it means something in the kind of players we are going to eventually get. It does! The more fans that come to the park the better players we are going to get. That’s the cold, hard facts….When there are people in this park it is a great atmosphere and a great experience for everybody to play in.”

In talking about life experiences outside of baseball that have prepared him to be a manager, Craig said: “My life has been working in baseball. Look, to me and I think for a lot of you, one of the most powerful experience you have is parenting. When you’re managing young men there are times when methods that you use in parenting apply to managing young men. Discipline is part of it.”

Brewers SSH Luncheon

One Season Seat Holder asked if Craig had given any thought to giving Segura a day off and filling in at Shortstop himself and Craig replied, “I have given NO thought to that. That is very nice of you to say, but most of you saw me play that last year. You don’t really want me out there; I assure you of that. It wasn’t that pretty. It was time for me to stop playing. I loved it and you wish it could last forever.”

Thanks to those who came out today, fun was had by all. And special thanks to my intern, Aaron Oberley, for his help on this post!

Cheers,

-Cait

@CMoyer

 

 

 

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