Results tagged ‘ Gary Vanden Berg ’

Longtime Brewers Groundskeeper Gary Vanden Berg Passes Away

Yesterday,  we were saddened by the news that Gary Vanden Berg, a member of our Milwaukee Brewers family for more than 30 years, passed away Monday night after battling a long-term illness.

Gary began his career with the Brewers in 1981 as the Assistant Superintendent of Grounds but served more than 20 years as the Club’s Director of Grounds. He was one of the five longest-tenured members of our Club, and he led a team that won multiple awards for excellence in their field of work. He was 59.

“Gary was one of the most loved individuals in this organization, and this is a tremendous loss for everyone connected to the Milwaukee Brewers,” said Brewers Chairman and Principal Owner Mark Attanasio. “Gary was one of the most dedicated and positive persons that we will ever know. We were fortunate to have Gary as a member of the Brewers family, and we all feel a tremendous sense of sadness today. Our prayers are with the Vanden Berg family and all of those who loved him.”

Gary Vanden Berg, pictured here in November 2009, will be greatly missed by the Brewers family.

Cait had the pleasure of  spending a morning with Gary for one of our first blog posts ever, back in November of 2009 for her first  “There is No Offseason for…” feature. From the story–and from anyone who has ever spent any time with Gary–it is clear that he was a person for whom his work was not just a job but his passion–and he was the best at what he did. Click here to read it.

Gary is survived by his wife, Lauri, and twin sons, John and Joel. A native of Fond du lac, he resided with his family in Cedarburg, Wis.

The Brewers will honor Vanden Berg’s memory by wearing a special “GV” uniform patch for the duration of the Postseason. Services and memorial arrangements are pending.

-John and Cait

johnandcait@brewers.com

The Myth of the Offseason, Continued

Now that we’re well into November and John is back from his trip to Arizona, I thought I’d revisit the  “There is No Offseason For…” series that I started last year about this time.

 

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In case you’re new to the blog or you’ve forgotten, this series stems from what John and I called “The Myth of the Offseason” in our very first post last November. (It is hard to believe this blog is almost one year old!)

 

Links to last year’s stories can be found here:

Gary Vanden Berg, Director of Grounds

Aleta Mercer, Vice President Broadcasting & Entertainment

Billy Friess, Director of Season Ticket Sales

Miller Park Tours

Brewers Enterprises

 

And now, loyal readers, my next installment is in your hands!

 

Whose “offseason” do you want me to write about next?

Chris Barlow, Director-Group Sales

Cecelia Gore, Executive Director, Brewers Community Foundation

Jeff Harding, Senior Graphic Designer

Diny Hurwitz, Data Analyst

Karl Mueller, Director of Video Scouting and Baseball Research 

Other (Got someone else in mind? Let me know!)

 

Vote by posting your comments below. I’ll feature the member of the front office with the most votes in my next story later this month!

 

-CAIT

johnandcait@brewers.com

 

 

An Event of Their Own: Cait’s Brewers Baseball Basics for Women Recap

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of speaking at Brewers Baseball Basics for Women, presented by Associated Bank, an event designed especially for our female fans who are interested in a behind-the-scenes look at Miller Park and the Brewers front office, as well as additional insight into some nuances of America’s Favorite Pastime. 

In short, the women taking part in the event put on by Brewers Enterprises had signed up for an entire day of fun at Miller Park, beginning at 9am and lasting through the game that evening.

To start their day, the ladies congregated behind the visitor’s dugout, where they were greeted by Vice President of Brewers Enterprises, Jason Hartlund and Penny Foust, Associated Bank CTP Vice President of Treasury Management.

They then heard from Vice President-Assistant General Manager, Gord Ash and Coordinator, Administration- Amateur Scouting, Amanda Kropp. The session covered information on day-to-day operations and the different tiers within the department–scouting, player development and the Major Leagues. The participants had the chance to ask questions and they took full advantage of the opportunity, inquiring about such baseball intricacies such as the infield fly rule, options and waivers and the draft process.

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Gord Ash speaks at Brewers Baseball Basics for Women.

Next, the women were split up into five different “teams” and headed off to different areas of the ballpark for sessions with women in the Brewers front office.

The teams rotated to visit each of the five sessions, traveling on a behind-the-scenes tour of Miller Park along the way, including a visit to the home clubhouse and a walk around the warning track to the home bullpen, where they reviewed different pitches with Bullpen Catcher Marcus Hanel.

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Tours of Miller Park usually feature a visit to the visitor’s clubhouse, but the ladies had a rare treat– a special trip through the home clubhouse, where they got to see the lockers, weight room, training room and dining room.

The teams heard about the Brewers philanthropic efforts and community events and programs from Cecelia Gore, Executive Director of the Brewers Community Foundation and Katina Shaw, Director of Community Relations and Family Liaison.

Over in the Press Box, the teams learned about broadcasting, in-game entertainment and what it takes to pull-off 81 homes games and a major event like Brewers on Deck from Aleta Mercer, Senior Director of Entertainment and Broadcasting. (For more on Aleta, click here.)

The session with Marcie Pasbrig, the Catering and Sales Manager for DNC SportService and Leslie Bishop, the NYCE Stadium Club and Gehl Club Manager for DNC SportService took place in the NYCE Stadium Club where the teams learned about the catering and hospitality. They also had a chance to sample some of the delicious fare offered at Miller Park.

Miranda Bintley, Grounds Manager was supposed to speak about her job overseeing the playing fields in both Miller Park and Helfaer Field, but she was unavailable because she is soon expecting her first child, so her boss, Grounds Director, Gary Vanden Berg, pinch hit for her and “covered that ground”. (For more on Gary and his crew, click here.)

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Gary Vanden Berg speaks to a team in the home dugout.

As Senior Manager of Advertising and Marketing, I also had the pleasure of hosting a session about our advertising, ticket promotions, social media efforts and general marketing strategy.

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Our session took place in the Media Interview Room, so fans like Julie Hanrahan had fun posing in front of the backdrop.

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I could tell all of the women in attendance were  big Brewers fans. In fact, I had been asked to touch on the topic of retail in my sessions and  I jokingly said to each group, “Well, I was supposed to talk about retail, but just looking at this group, I see you’re all very familiar with our retail operations!”  Almost every woman there was wearing Brewers gear and it was great to see.

Because I was speaking to the different groups as they rotated through this high-powered lineup, unfortunately, I was unable to attend the other speakers’ sessions. However, the feedback I did receive later from both my colleagues and the attendees was very positive across the board.

“I was impressed with the questions the women asked,” Amanda Kropp commented to me. I agreed. All of the women who attended my sessions came prepared with plenty of great questions and also, valuable feedback.

The groups reconvened for a question and answer session with Brewers Manager Ken Macha, outfielder Joe Inglett and his wife, Kelly, emceed by Brewers TV Analyst Bill Schroeder.

Topics covered in that session ranged from what a typical day looks like for a player versus a manager and why the Brewers have been hit by pitches so many times this season to how many games the players’ wives typically attend during a season and what they do while their husbands are traveling on the road.

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Joe Inglett, his wife, Kelly and Manager Ken Macha take questions from the fans.

The morning concluded with a drawing for special prizes such as holding the finish line for the Klement’s Sausage Race and throwing out the first pitch at that night’s game. Each woman who attended the event also received a gift bag that included a bobble head, a 2010 Brewers Yearbook, a copy of the book, Down in the Valley by Gregg Hoffmann (a history of Milwaukee County Stadium), and a pink Brewers hat from Associated Bank.

The group was then released for a couple of hours before they returned with a guest to Helfaer Field for a special tailgate which included food and drinks, photo opportunities with the Klement’s Famous Racing Sausages and appearances by John Axford, Randy Wolf, Zach Braddock, Chris Narveson and George Kottaras. 

The participants and their guests then attended the Brewers-Pirates game at 6:10 pm, where their day of fun was capped off with an 8-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I’m thankful for this great opportunity to spread my love of the game (and my job!) to this group of women and I hope that they had as much fun as I did. 

I also hope that next year, we get even more women to come out to get a glimpse at the women behind-the-scenes at Miller Park and to learn more about the sport that Milwaukee has embraced for years.

 

-CAIT

johnandcait@brewers.com

John Previews the Brewers Community Foundation Week Auction

Rebranded for 2010, the Milwaukee Brewers Community Foundation is currently hosting its first ever Milwaukee Brewers Community Foundation Week.   A series of in-park events have been planned including raffles that benefit the Brewers Community Foundation.

Highlighting the week is a commercial-free telecast of Tuesday’s Brewers-Diamondbacks game on FS Wisconsin.  That’s right, on Tuesday fans tuning in at home will not see a commercial during the Brewers game.  Things could get quite interesting for Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder without any commercial breaks!

As a part of the telecast, a live auction will take place on brewers.com.  The auction is currently open and will run through Tuesday night.  If you happen to be attending the game that night, you will also be given the opportunity to bid on items via computer terminals set up at the ballpark. 

Executive Director of the Brewers Community Foundation Cecelia Gore and the Brewers front office has worked hard to put together some unique items.  The auction is filled with some of the most unbelievable experience and once-in-a-lifetime, behind the scenes opportunities offered by the Brewers for Brewers fans.

Fourteen items are available to fans looking to participate in the online auction.  When I first saw the list, I was really excited and almost shocked that some of these opportunities were even being made available!  If anything it shows the commitment by the Brewers organization to the Brewers Community Foundation and the organizations to which they contribute.

I thought I would give you some of my thoughts on my favorite items up for auction:

Party in the Clubhouse - So we have all been to dinner parties before.   Some have been fun, and others we just dread attending and are pretty boring and have a lot of awkward conversation.  You can blow your friends away with this dinner party in the Visiting Team clubhouse at Miller Park (just make sure you clean up or Phil Rozewicz might be after you). 

Up to 50 guests will enjoy the comforts of a Major League Clubhouse with food and non-alcoholic beverages.  Cash bar can be made available upon request.  Additionally, 25 members of your party will have the opportunity to take batting practice in the Brewers batting cages against Jim Gantner, Jerry Augustine and Marcus Hanel.  Brewers GM Doug Melvin will also make a visit.  Dinner, batting practice, visits from former Major Leaguers all make for a dinner party that all of which all your friends will WANT to attend.  Sounds like a fantastic deal.

Hitting Clinic with Dale Sveum & Casey McGehee and Pitching Clinic with Trevor Hoffman & Rick Peterson - These two items are certainly once-in-a-life time opportunities.  To have a half-hour instructional session with these professionals is priceless.  No matter what your skill level, these two packages will make the dreams come true of any Brewers fan.  

Sveum and McGehee will spend a half-hour with the winner of this prize and teach the finer points of hitting.  I have seen these two work together on hitting from the first day of Spring Training on and both of them truly are masters of their craft. 

Peterson and Hoffman between them have over 30 years of Major League Coaching and Playing experience.  The chance to work with a future Hall of Famer in Hoffman and a pitching guru like Peterson will most definitely help the delivery of Little Leaguers with Big League dreams and Bill Schroeder’s “Fantasy Leaguers” alike.

Authentic Game-Used Baseball - I know it is pretty difficult to catch a foul ball or a home run at a Major League Baseball game.  Once in awhile one comes my way in the press box (Ken Spindler normally catches it while Mike Vassallo and I duck out of the way for safety).  This is a pretty good opportunity to own a game-used piece of Brewers history.

FOX Sports Wisconsin Broadcast Package - Being a proud graduate of Marquette University’s College of Communication, this is probably one of my favorite packages.  The winner here will be given the opportunity to conduct a pre-game interview with a Brewers player or coach prior to a pre-selected Brewers game and have it air during “Brewers Live!” on FS Wisconsin.  The winner will also get a tour of the FS Wisconsin television truck and tickets to the game.  This is your opportunity to show Brewers fans watching across the country that you have what it takes to be the next Telly Hughes

Racing Mini Sausages Opportunity - One of the best parts of Sunday day games (besides the press box breakfast) is watching the Famous Klement’s Sausage Race featuring what Official Scorer Tim O’Driscoll likes to call “the little weenies.”  Every Sunday, the regular sausages participate in a relay race with the mini sausages.  This is an amazing opportunity for your child and four friends (aged 5-8, 60 pounds or under) to run in the Famous Klement’s Sausage Race at a mutually agreed upon 2011 Sunday home game.  This package includes 20 Loge Level tickets to that game and a pre-race visit from the Famous Racing Sausages to your child’s school (within a 45 mile radius from Miller Park).  If your family has five kids, a photo of this event would make a pretty unique family photo.

Coach First Base at Spring Training – Brewers First Base Coach Ed Sedar’s job gives him arguably the best seat in the house, but that’s not to say he has an easy job.  This package will give you the chance to perform your best Ed Sedar impression and coach first base during the 2011 Brewers Inter-squad Spring Training Game at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix.  Also included in the package are two round trip airfares on AirTran Airways for your travel to Phoenix, one full Brewers uniform with personalized jersey and a behind-the-scenes tour of Maryvale.  Spring Training is one of my favorite times of the year and I highly suggest to any Brewers fan to make the trip.  This is a great chance to make the trip and a special memory. 

Groundskeeping Experience - If there is one thing you must know about the Brewers Director of Grounds Gary Vanden Berg and his army of groundskeepers, they work hard to make sure Miller Park is ready for every game at Miller Park.  They take care of every inch of the field, grooming, raking and painting the meticulous surface everyday–hours before the first fan arrives and hours after the final out. 

If you have ever wondered what it takes to keep the beautiful green grass at Miller Park the envy of every homeowner in Wisconsin, this package is for you.  The winner here will have the opportunity to assist the crew with watering and preparing the field during pregame and then again with changing the bases in the 4th inning.  The winner will then take home the base they changed along with two official Brewers grounds crew t-shirts and a vial of authentic Miller Park dirt.  Two premium tickets are also included.  If Vanden Berg sees that you are a hard worker, you might be able to get some tips on cutting those intricate patterns seen in the Miller Park outfield in your own backyard.

The auction is open now and will run through Tuesday night at Midnight CT.  Some items have some bids while others have yet to see a bid placed.  There is still some time, but I’m guessing once Tuesday’s game comes around and FS Wisconsin Is talking about the auction, a lot of those items will heat up.

Tune in to Tuesday’s broadcast on FS Wisconsin and on brewers.com and support the Brewers Community Foundation by bidding on some great items. 

–JOHN

johnandcait@brewers.com

 

 

There is No Offseason for… Gary Vanden Berg

In our first post, John and I attempted to dispel the myth of baseball’s offseason for members of the Brewers Front Office. I got to thinking that I ought to expand on that and had the idea for a new series, the goal of which is to explain more about what’s going on right now at One Brewers Way.

I decided to start off with Gary Vanden Berg, Director of Grounds. Gary’s been working for the Brewers since 1981 and 2010 will mark his 30th season with the Club. That means he’s worked the field at both County Stadium and Miller Park and has seen the fields though various events/milestones such as the 1982 World Series, the great flood at County Stadium, a tractor pull, the 2002 All-Star Game, the 2008 NLDS, two strikes, various rock concerts, bowling tournaments and much, much more. Gary’s son, John Vanden Berg, was even drafted by and played for the Brewers for four years and got as high as Double-A Huntsville.

Marketing doesn’t have the opportunity to work with Grounds Crew very often, so first, I had to look up Gary’s extension.

“Hi Gary, it’s Caitlin Moyer from Marketing, how are you?”

“I’m good,” Gary answered, and before I could start in with the reason for my call, he continued.

“I’m coming to the party.  I know, I need to bring in my RSVP card.”

I’m on the Employee Events Committee. We’re in the midst of planning our holiday party, but…that wasn’t why I was calling.

“That’s great.  You’re not late. But hey, listen, that actually wasn’t why I was calling… I don’t know if you heard, but John Steinmiller and I have this new MLBlog? We’re writing about stuff that goes on in the Front Office.  Our first post was yesterday and we wrote about how you know how people always ask us what we do in the offseason and then we say ‘There is no offseason’?”

I paused as Gary chuckled knowingly.

“Well, so anyway, I thought it would be a neat idea to do a weekly series called ‘There is No Offseason for… {Insert Front Office Name Here}’ where I follow a different member of the Front Office and write about what they’re doing right now. I thought I’d start with you, so, like, ‘There is No Offseason for… Gary Vanden Berg’. What do you think? Could I interview you for the blog?”

“Sure! That sounds like a fun idea,” Gary said.

“Cool.  Thanks a bunch!  So, uh, Gary…what do you do in the offseason? I mean, I’m not really sure what Grounds is up to right now and all. Is there anything interesting that I could come observe and write about?”

“Well, we’re actually going to be covering and sandbagging the field on Tuesday, why don’t you meet me down there at 9am?”

“Sounds great! Thanks a bunch!”

So that’s how I ended up down on the field this morning, where I got my crash course in turf management.

The Grounds Crew staff was already hard at work when I met up with Gary for our “interview” and he filled me in on everything they’d been working on this offseason.


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Gary Vanden Berg, Director-Grounds

“We spent a lot of time outside this fall. We are responsible for the entire grounds. There are 265 acres here.  A lot of our job is landscaping. Mike Boettcher is our Landscape Manager. We try to make it as close to a Disney-atmosphere as you can out there, but our staff is pretty small so we try to keep adding a few new things all the time.”

The Grounds Crew staff consists of just three full-time employees-Gary, Mike and Miranda Bintley, Grounds Manager– and several part-time and seasonal staff members. This fall, the Grounds Crew moved 15 trees and over 150 rose bushes in order to prepare for projects that will be done in the spring. They were also involved in removing the ivy from the batter’s eye.

The bulk of their time as of late, however, has been spent getting the field to be ready to be what Gary calls ‘put to bed’. 

“We’ve rebuilt the pitcher’s mound as well as both of the mounds in the bullpens. We’ve also made sure the field measurements were accurate. We did all of our resodding this fall as well, putting replacement grass in the area between the mound and home plate and some of the player spots in the outfield. Then, we top-dress the grass–that’s adding sand to the surface of the grass. It helps to smooth and level out the grass a little more and protects the crowns from the winter.”

“Next, every year, we try to make the infield dirt better. This is the same infield dirt that came from County Stadium. It’s been modified every year. It’s a unique blend. You couldn’t buy anything like this. It has an awful lot of calcined clay mixed in which helps to give the field body and when it’s really wet, it helps to make it play well.”

“About five weeks ago, we rolled and tilled it all up, added more clay to give it more body and then we had to laser-level it so she is completely flat again. There is a lot of work involved, trying to get all the edges done and get everything back to the way it is supposed to be.”

Thumbnail image for DSC04201.JPGToday signified the end of those preparations. It was time to tuck the field in and put it to bed. The Grounds Crew spent the morning covering the field with special turf covers (which help keep the grass from turning yellow, keeps the grass a little warmer and, in times of sunlight, can act a little bit like a greenhouse) and placing sandbags down to keep the covers from coming loose. They also placed 2″ insulation over the infield dirt to help make it more playable come spring; the insulation prevents the frost from going as deep.

Once the Crew tucks the field in for the winter, it won’t take them the covers off again until spring.

Thumbnail image for Grounds 2.JPGUntil then, Gary and staff will check the covers each day and keep a close eye on the weather.

Every winter, says Gary, is different. Last year, Gary was able to close the roof during the months of January and February because the grass was completely dormant. If the grass is completely dormant, then it doesn’t matter if it gets any light and keeping the roof closed and the snow out is actually a benefit to the grass.

If it isn’t completely frozen, even if the grass isn’t growing, the grass still needs to have light and thus, Gary has to keep the roof open until that happens.

The amount of snow that falls also plays a role in the care of the field–and also factors into how busy the Grounds Crew gets during the offseason because the Grounds Crew is also responsible for all snow removal around the grounds, including the concourses and parking lots for employees and year-round venues like Friday’s Front Row and the Brewers Team Store by Majestic.  

When they’re not braving the elements, the Grounds Crew has some administrative tasks to take care of, from hiring their next crop of interns to ordering and storing all of the products to be used during the 2010 season.

Gary is also looking forward to attending the Sports Turf Management Association Conference in January, where he’ll have the opportunity to get together with other Major League Baseball groundskeepers for three days and discuss things that are happening around the League. 

Before he knows it, it’s time for the season to start again.

“We have exhibition games this year, so it is always a little more difficult. The grass in Wisconsin doesn’t like to be played on too early. It’s just too cold. It’s hard to get the ground temperatures up to where the grass will start to grow again. Part of what these covers do is help me prepare for the spring,” Gary said.

Gary says that each year, he also meets with the Manager because every Manager wants to run the field a different way. Gary takes his cue on how to prepare the field based on what the Manager wants to do. 

“Some Managers want the grass a little longer and some a little shorter. Some want the area in front of home plate a little harder or a little softer. Those are all things that we have the ability to change and still stay within the rules. “

As for current Brewers Manager Ken Macha?

“Ken is the one of the easiest I’ve had to work with. I don’t remember him saying much to me about the field last year at all. For him, he wants the players to be comfortable when they’re out here playing and as long as they’re happy, I think he’s okay with it,” Gary said.

After we finished up our interview, I stuck around to take some photographs and even tried my hand at helping the Grounds Crew by placing a few sandbags.

Thumbnail image for Caitlin.JPGI figured out rather quickly that I’m more cut out for Marketing–those bags are heavy!  I returned to my desk and my “real job,” feeling very glad that I don’t have to do heavy-lifting or be exposed to the elements on a daily basis, especially on a chilly November morning like today. I will definitely leave all of that to the pros!

At lunchtime, I went back out to check on their progress and the quick-working Grounds Crew was already finished.  

Thumbnail image for Put to Bed.JPGThe field has officially been put to bed for 2009. 

“This has been one of the busier offseasons we’ve had,” Gary said to me during our time together. I would have to agree. Not just for Grounds Crew, but for Marketing and the entire organization. And it’s only November.

Stay tuned for the next installment of “There is No Offseason for…” and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

-Cait

Is there someone you’d like to see profiled in this feature?  E-mail us at johnandcait@brewers.com.

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