Results tagged ‘ Spring Training ’
It’s been awhile since the last installment of “There’s No Offseason for…”
That’s the series where I aim to dispel what I call “the myth of the offseason” by profiling people and departments across the organization to help you understand what goes on at One Brewers Way during the winter months when baseball is not played at Miller Park.
I recently caught up with Senior Director of Media Relations Mike Vassallo who, at 40, has already been working in the industry for over 20 years.
We sat down to discuss how he got into baseball, the ins and outs of his job (in season and out of season), wrestling and more. Read on.
Ever since he was a little boy growing up in Long Island, Mike says he’s wanted to be in baseball.
“Obviously I wasn’t dreaming of being the Media Relations Director then…. As a kid, I wanted to be a player, like everybody else.”
Nonetheless, the baseball seed was planted and by the time he went off to college, Mike had tailored his aspirations to becoming a baseball announcer, enrolling in the broadcasting program at Oswego State University in upstate New York.
While still in school, a chance encounter with Hall of Famer and then Yankees broadcaster Phil Rizzuto would forever change the path of his career.
It was 1995 and Mike’s stepfather, who works at Pfizer (the pharmaceutical company), had arranged a summer job for Mike at the company, as he so often did, in whatever department needed help.
One night that summer, Mike had tickets to the Yankees game and planned to leave straight from work to meet his friend there, but he wasn’t yet entirely familiar with the subway system.
Enter Andy, an older gentleman who worked at Pfizer as a greeter in the lobby and manning the elevators, etc. Andy’s night job happened to be doing the same thing at Yankee Stadium, so Mike and Andy left work together on that fateful night and headed to The House That Ruth Built.
“I brought a baseball with me because I was a big fan of Phil Rizzuto….I knew Andy knew him and I wanted to get his autograph,” Mike recalls.
“So we got to the game and I’m outside the elevator. Phil Rizzuto comes off. Andy introduces me. I get my ball signed. I’m all happy. I step aside to wait for the elevator to go meet my friend and I overhear Phil say to Andy, ‘My assistant never shows up anymore. I think I’m gonna have to get a new one,’” Mike recounts, affecting Phil’s strong New York accent as he tells the story.
The enterprising 20-year old wasted no time.
“I think I might have even raised my hand….I said ‘I’ll do it for free!’ Of course [Phil] was taken aback at first because he had just met me five minutes before, but Andy said, ‘Oh, he’ll do a good job. Give him a chance.’”
And that’s how Mike got his first job in baseball as the personal assistant to Phil Rizzuto. For the rest of the summer, whenever the Yankees were on Channel 11, Mike was happy to be Phil’s gopher, getting him his coffee, keeping score for him during the innings he didn’t announce and whatever else needed to done.
That experience helped Mike get a real internship with the Yankees in 1997 which led to him getting an entry-level job in the Yankees Media Relations department where he worked in 1998 and 1999. (Fun fact: Mike says he didn’t dislike the Yankees, but he was a Mets fan growing up.)
From there, he took a job with the Cincinnati Reds as Assistant Director of Media Relations, where he worked for six years before joining the Brewers as Director of Media Relations in middle of Spring Training in 2006.
As the current Senior Director of Media Relations, Mike’s department includes Ken Spindler (Senior Manager of Media Relations) and Zach Weber (Manager of Media Relations).
These three guys are responsible for handling interviews and media requests, writing press releases, keeping stats and more.
“I kind of forgot about the broadcasting stuff because this worked out so well,” Mike says.
In particular, Mike is the primary contact for interviews with our players, Manager Craig Counsell and General Manager David Stearns.
Mike says that part of his job is not as demanding during the offseason as it is during the season—for the players at least.
“Sometimes in the offseason, it’s actually more demanding because of all the Hot Stove talk, so the requests for GM go up a little bit,” said Mike.
And of course, the stove will be heating up even more with next week’s Winter Meetings, so Mike will be traveling to Nashville with the Brewers contingent.
In season, Mike and his team are responsible for producing the game notes, which is a six-page packet containing updated statistical information and bio information of all the players that comes out for every game during the season.
While there aren’t game notes during the offseason, there is still plenty of stat and bio work to be done.
“I’m the lead writer on the media guide. I do all the bios for the 40-man roster and the non-roster players for the media guide. I’m working on that right now,” Mike said.
Those items will take Mike and his team right up to Spring Training.
For Cactus League play, Mike will typically relocate to Arizona for a good six weeks. However, this year will be a little different as he and his wife Jeana are expecting their first child, a baby boy due February 26.
So instead of heading down in mid-February as he usually does, Mike will wait until about two weeks after Baby Vassallo joins their team to travel down to Arizona to catch up with his staff and the Cactus Crew.
Speaking of travel Mike is also the primary media relations contact that travels with the team, making about three-quarters of the roadtrips during the season.
“My favorite part (of my job) and least favorite are the same thing—travel,” Mike says. “It’s my favorite part because I get to visit all these great cities and stadiums and it’s the least because it takes me away from home and my wife—and kid next year.”
In his two decades working in the field, Mike says the main thing that’s changed his job is social media.
Mike is also responsible for writing all the baseball-related press releases—roster moves, injury updates, etc.—and he says, “I can’t remember the last time that I did a press release about a trade where it wasn’t already on social media. I feel like our press releases now just confirm what’s already all over social media, whereas in the past, we’d write the press release and that’s how people would find out.”
While social media presents some challenges from that side of things, along with generating false rumors and making things tougher for Baseball Operations, etc., Mike is quick to point out that it’s also a positive thing (which is good since you know, I’m the Director of New Media and all).
“Whenever we have a player or a manager do an interview, I put it right there on Twitter….How would we get the word out so quickly in the past?”
Speaking of Twitter, that’s another part of Mike’s gig. Since he’s the first to know about roster moves and injury updates, as well as TV/Radio interviews, etc., he’s able to assist us in the New Media Department by putting that information up on Twitter right away. But it doesn’t stop there.
Known amongst the media for sprinkling the game notes with interesting tidbits, such as these….
Mike has great access and often helps us capture some great moments for social media as well:
With so much to cover and traveling on a smaller percentage of road trips, I definitely appreciate Mike’s creativity and contributions!
Another thing you might not know is that Mike has a hand in some of the music that ends up being played at Miller Park.
“I’m pretty much the person that collects the players’ music for the scoreboard, which is kind of fun because sometimes I suggest songs to them and they use them,” Mike said.
[For those of you who don’t know what we’re talking about, check out the list of Brewers walk-up music.]
Because he’s sometimes seen as the conduit for getting those song selections to the scoreboard folks, Mike’s also been able to marry one of his other passions with baseball—wrestling.
“I’ve liked it since I was 10 years old. 1985 Wrestlemania was the first one and it’s just something I never grew out of I guess…. I think we all have our guilty pleasures. I just take it for what it is. I just find it really entertaining,” Mike says.
So, oftentimes those songs Mike suggests to players involve wrestling.
“I’ve had quite a few over the years. The first one was Tim Raines, (an outfielder) with the Yankees. He was the first person that I remember approaching and saying, ‘Hey why don’t you use this song?’ and it was a wrestling song,” Mike said.
And that’s how Rock Raines started using The Rock’s theme song for a time.
Among the Brewers that he’s converted, Mike counts Todd Coffey (Ultimate Warrior), Nori Aoki (Fandango), Lyle Overbay (Adam Rose), and Shane Peterson (New Day).
“There have been probably at least 10 players over the years,” Mike says.
In his 20 years in the sport, Mike’s certainly experienced a lot, but among the things that stand out most for him include various Postseason appearances.
“I got spoiled right off the bat…We (the Yankees) won the World Series in 1998 and 1999,” said Mike.
But while he cherishes his Yankees World Series ring, he still counts the Brewers Wildcard season in 2008 among his fondest memories.
“It was awesome being part of that because we hadn’t made the playoffs in 26 years, so it was just real exciting but in a different way. With the Yankees it was just expected every year…. It was exciting but it wasn’t as exciting as ’08 where we just came out of nowhere and the whole thing when CC was here, that was a great experience,” Mike said.
Of course, 2011 ranks right up there for Mike as well—winning the division, Nyjer Morgan’s walk-off hit in Game 5 of the NLDS, etc.
But for Mike, many of his favorite memories are off the field, too—the relationships he’s made and maintained over the years.
“It’s all the friendships,” Mike says. “I get to hang out with Bob Uecker on the road. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Indeed. We may not have a true offseason in baseball, but we’re lucky to be surrounded by great people who share our same passion and help make long hours go by quickly.
To keep up with Mike both in-season and during the offseason, follow him on Twitter @MikeVassallo 13.
Stay tuned for more “There is No Offseason” profiles. Is there anyone in particular that you’d like me to highlight? If so, please let me know in the comments below!
Today we announced the team’s 2016 Spring Training schedule today, which begins on Wednesday, March 2, against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team. This marks the second consecutive year that the Brewers will open their spring schedule vs. UWM.
The schedule includes 29 Spring Training games in Arizona (28 Cactus League games), two exhibition games at Houston’s Minute Maid Park (March 31 and April 1) and the spring finale against the organization’s Double-A affiliate, the Biloxi Shuckers, at MGM Park in Biloxi, Mississippi on Saturday, April 2.
The Brewers will play 15 games at Maryvale Baseball Park. Cactus League play begins on Thursday, March 3, with split-squad contests vs. the division rival Chicago Cubs at Maryvale Baseball Park and against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium.
The majority of the spring games will begin at 1:05 p.m. Arizona time. The Brewers will play three night games this spring, including a 6:05 p.m. (local time) start on St. Patrick’s Day against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Milwaukee will play an evening game on Monday, March 21, against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Talking Stick (6:40 p.m. local time) as part of the team’s second split-squad date (the Brewers will host the LA Angels of Anaheim earlier that day). The third night game will take place on Monday, March 28 against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark (7:05 p.m. local time).
The two off days will take place on Tuesday, March 15 and Wednesday, March 23. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Spring Training on Friday, February 19. All position players have a report date of Wednesday, February 24. The first full workout is scheduled for Thursday, February 25.
Tickets for the Milwaukee Brewers’ home Spring Training games will go on sale at 9 a.m. CT on Monday, December 7 at Brewers.com and by phone at 1-800-933-7890. Sales at the Maryvale Baseball Park Box Office will begin on Monday, February 8. Tickets are available in five seating areas: Diamond Box ($27), Field Box ($24), Infield Reserved ($18), Outfield Reserved ($14) and Lawn Seating ($8). In addition, there will also be a limited number of advanced parking passes available for $5. Information on Spring Training Season Tickets can be obtained by calling the Milwaukee Brewers Ticket Office at 414-902-4000.
Please note that games and times are subject to change.
Hank, “The Ballpark Pup,” will return to his old grounds in Phoenix, Arizona, this Saturday to make an appearance at Maryvale Baseball Park. The appearance will be tied to an “adopt-a-pet” event and fundraiser for the Arizona Humane Society.
“Brewers fans and dog lovers in Arizona made it clear that they wanted to have a chance to see Hank again, and we are happy to make this a reality,” said Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger. “We are very grateful to our friends at Southwest Airlines for giving Hank an opportunity to visit his old hometown and look forward to raising funds and awareness for the Arizona Humane Society.”
Hank will appear at the adopt-a-pet event at Saturday’s game, and will be available for photos for approximately 30 minutes on the right field concourse immediately following the Famous Klement’s Sausage Race in the middle of the sixth inning. Fans will have an opportunity to take a photo of Hank in exchange for a voluntary donation to the Arizona Humane Society. (NOTE: Because of the heat and concern for Hank’s well-being, only a limited number of fans will be able to be accommodated).
Hank’s story started when he first appeared at camp on February 17, 2014, the day of the first workout for Brewers pitchers and catchers. That morning, he wandered up to staff at the Brewers Maryvale facility after clearly being a homeless stray for an extended period of time. Hank’s story quickly went viral, and his connection to the team became official when he found a permanent home in Milwaukee. His arrival in Milwaukee via a Southwest Airlines flight on March 16 was a celebrated event, with hundreds of fans waiting outside of security to meet Milwaukee’s most famous four-legger.
The Brewers have worked closely with the Arizona and Wisconsin Humane Societies since that first day when Hank arrived, and their collective staff members have provided counsel on how best to care for Hank’s basic needs as he adjusted to his new surroundings. Hank’s circle of caregivers in Phoenix also worked tirelessly to ensure that he had the best care possible until his “forever home” was determined.
Hank made frequent appearances at Spring Training games in a concourse booth, where fans lined up for an opportunity to have their photo taken with him in exchange for a voluntary donation to the Arizona Humane Society. It wasn’t long before a line of “Hank gear” (which now numbers over 30 items, from t-shirts to Bobbleheads to books) was produced and made available through Brewers retail stores. It was all for a good cause as 20% of the gross sales are donated to the “Hank Fund,” a charitable resource developed by the Wisconsin Humane Society.
In addition, Hank has appeared at photo opportunities, book signings, and numerous charitable events to also help raise money for the Fund.
Hank’s year culminated in Los Angeles as he was named “Dog of the Year” at the nationally-televised World Dog Awards.
Spring Training is finally upon us!
Are you headed to sunny, Phoenix, Arizona to see the Crew in Spring Training? Show us your favorite photo and you could be chosen to win a Brewers prize package!
Create an original photo from Spring Training in Phoenix, Arizona. Then, tweet your photo to us on Twitter and/or post it to Instagram using hashtag #CACTUSCREW for your chance to win!
You’ll also want to make sure you follow the #CactusCrew hashtag for Spring Training news, updates and chatter!
Spring Training tickets are available at brewers.com/springtraining.
If you’re not headed to AZ this year, don’t sweat it. You can listen to, and even watch, some of the Brewers Spring Training games: click here for the complete Spring Training broadcast schedule.
Today was photo day at Maryvale Baseball Park!
The day starts out earlier than normal as various photographers come in to shoot headshots and posed shots of the players.
Photos were taken by media outlets like the Associated Press, Getty Images and USA Today along with the Brewers team photographer Scott Paulus, our scoreboard folks, MLB Network and Topps baseball cards. Players rotate through the various stations:
In addition, we had fun using the Twitter Mirror, a special Twitter app used by events like the Oscars and the GRAMMYs, which transforms an ordinary tablet into a special selfie station.
We overheard players say “Yes, selfie station!” and “I’m coming back here later,” so we think they had fun… but of course, we’ve also got pictures to prove it:
Brewers Senior Director of Media Relations Mike Vassallo and I also got in the fun:
We stopped Kyle Lohse, a long-time Photo Day veteran, and asked him if he had a minute to give us for some advice on navigating photo day. Here’s what he had to say:
Hank isn’t making the trip to Spring Training this year, but the donation he put on the equipment truck for Arizona Humane Society was delivered today. Ashleigh Goebel and Barker the Basset Hound were on hand to accept it:
With a big snow storm dropping up to 10” on snow on us earlier this month and that pesky groundhog predicting six more weeks of winter, it is easy for us Wisconsinites to get a case of severe cabin fever.
But one sign that Old Man Winter is on his way out is the annual packing of the Brewers equipment truck for Spring Training.
What was once a simple job, is now an event that is the unofficial start to Spring Training and an event that has everyone thinking Brewers Baseball. Equipment Manager Jason Shawger and Manager of Team Travel and Clubhouse Operations Matt Smith and their staff have planned this day for months, working on inventory of equipment and organizing all the gear to make sure today’s pack goes without a hitch.
The truck is leaving Miller Park today, packed full with everything the Brewers will need to run the operation at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix. Here are some more photos from today’s event:
Another thing on a lot of folks’ minds this year when thinking about Spring Training is Hank the Ballpark Pup. It’s been almost a year now since Hank first wandered into our Spring Training facility and changed our lives—and the lives of many other stray animals— forever.
Many people have been inquiring as to whether or not Hank will be making a return trip to Arizona this year. The answer is no, he will not.
However, in his place, Hank did send along a care package to his friends at the Arizona Humane Society. Those boxes were loaded onto the truck today as well:
The truck is scheduled to arrive in Phoenix on Sunday and will be unpacked Monday. Pitchers and catchers report to camp Friday, February 20 and the first official workout is Thursday, February 26. Soon enough, the pictures on this blog and the rest of our social media channels be showing Brewers players at camp, working out. Green grass and sunshine are just around the corner.
Enjoy this photo gallery from today’s event at Miller Park and keep thinking Spring!
Today we announced the Club’s 2015 Spring Training broadcast schedule that will include 16 radio broadcasts on 620 WTMJ and the Brewers Radio Network, 13 additional audio webcasts, and 12 games televised by FOX Sports Wisconsin.
All games played in the Cactus League are scheduled for 1:05 pm Arizona Time (except for March 13, March 23 and March 24, which will start at 7:05 p.m., 1:05 p.m. and 6:40 p.m. Arizona Time, respectively).
The only games that will not be broadcast on either radio, TV or webcast are the Wednesday, March 4 exhibition against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a road split-squad game on Sunday, March 15 at the Rangers (NOTE: The Brewers home game against the A’s that day will be broadcast on radio and TV).
Hall of Fame announcer Bob Uecker and his partner Joe Block will call the games on the Brewers Radio Network, and Jeff Levering will fill in on select games. Television announcers Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder will call the games on FOX Sports Wisconsin. Anderson, Block, Schroeder and Levering will team up on the Brewers.com webcasts. (NOTE: FOX Sports Wisconsin will simulcast the March 5 game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from FOX Sports West and the March 17 game against the San Diego Padres from FOX Sports San Diego.)
Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Spring Training on Friday, February 20. All position players have a report date of Wednesday, February 25. The first full workout is scheduled for Thursday, February 26.
Tickets for the Milwaukee Brewers home Spring Training games are on sale now via the internet at Brewers.com and by phone at 1-800-933-7890. Normal business hours are from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. CST. Sales at the Maryvale Baseball Park Box Office will begin on Monday, February 9, 2015. Tickets are available in four seating areas: Field Box ($23), Infield Reserved ($17), Outfield Reserved ($13) and Lawn Seating ($8) In addition, there will also be a limited number of advanced parking passes available for $5. Information on Spring Training Season Tickets can be obtained by calling the Milwaukee Brewers Ticket Office at 414-902-4000.
Please note that games and times are subject to change.
The holidays are rapidly approaching, but if you haven’t finished your shopping yet, don’t panic: I’ve put together a Brewers Gift Guide for you, so this year, you can give the gift of the season…The baseball season, that is!
Even though it is the offseason, there really are a variety of options out there, so let me help you find that perfect present for every fan on your list.
For Every Fan
There is a reason they’re called Holiday 4-Packs–because they’re the perfect holiday gift for any and every Brewers fan on your list.
Starting at just $60 & featuring some of the season’s biggest games, when you get them a Holiday 4-Pack, you’re not just giving them tickets to a game, you’re giving the gift of Brewers Baseball, family time, memories and summer. Plus, for each pair you purchase, you’ll get a free ornament featuring Hank the Ballpark Pup.
Want to give a 4-Pack as a gift, but don’t know your recipient’s schedule? We’ve got you covered. With the Fan’s Choice 4-Pack, your recipient can choose their games at a later date. These are only available for a limited time, so be sure to check out brewers.com/4packs today.
Everyone always loves gift certificates! Brewers gift certificates are good towards the purchase of tickets to ANY 2015 Milwaukee Brewers regular season baseball game at Miller Park as well as Spring Training home game tickets in Arizona.
Brewers On Deck Tickets
They don’t have to wait until April 6 to see the Crew in Milwaukee. Get them some tickets to spend some quality time with your favorite Brewers at Brewers On Deck, Sunday, January 25 at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee. A host of Brewers players as well as coaches, alumni, front office executives and broadcasters will be attendance for the Brewers annual Fan Fest. And with autographs, photo opportunities, coaches’ clinics, interactive games and more, Brewers On Deck features something for the entire family.
You also can’t go wrong with the gift of Brewers gear. Shop at the Brewers Team Store at Miller Park or online at brewers.com for some of the latest & greatest new merchandise–we’ve got everything from jerseys and caps to footwear and accessories!
For the Kids
A Brewers Kids Club Membership (14 & Under)
For just $25, get them a membership to the Brewers Kids Club! They’ll receive an I.D. card with lanyard, Brewers Kids Club card, Hank the Dog magnet, Milwaukee Brewers poster, drawstring bag and water bottle, plus six Terrace Reserved ticket vouchers. In addition, they’ll have access to a few special events and unique opportunities, such as a tour of Miller Park, a party with the mascots, a pre-game parade and more. Click here to purchase/learn more.
For the Dog Lover (& Dog!)
Hank the Dog Merchandise
We all fell in love with Hank the Ballpark Pup this year and if there’s an especially big fan of Hank on your list, you’ll want to check out some of the newest Hank items available in the Brewers Team Store:
Plus, Hank merch is the gift that keeps on giving: 20% from the sale of Hank-related items benefits the Wisconsin Humane Society.
Big Screen Video
Did one of your friends, family members or colleagues make it up on the Brewers scoreboard during a game this season? Surprise him or her by ordering a copy of that video–turn that memory into a lasting memento!
Looking for an extra-special gift? How about planning a trip to Spring Training in sunny Phoenix, Arizona? Spring Training tickets are on sale now.
Fantasy Camp (30 years +)
Send them to Brewers Fantasy Camp this January! This package includes airfare to and from Milwaukee and Phoenix, hotel, instruction and coaching from Brewers legends and much, much more.
And there you have it, a whole host of ideas to make Brewers Baseball your one-stop for holiday shopping. I hope this was helpful to you!
For more ideas and links, you can also visit brewers.com/giftguide.
The Milwaukee Brewers are in the middle of Cactus League play preparing for the upcoming season, but the Club already has one game on their 2015 exhibition slate. The Brewers today announced plans to play an exhibition game against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team at Maryvale Baseball Park on a date to be determined.
“This game will be great for baseball in the state of Wisconsin,” said Brewers President and General Manager Doug Melvin. “It’s a good opportunity for our organization to support the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee program, and will give our players a chance to connect with some of the state’s top young amateur talent.”
This is the first time the Brewers have faced a collegiate team in an exhibition game since 1983 when they played the Arizona State University men’s baseball team. It will mark the first time the Brewers have ever played the Panthers in an exhibition.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity to play the Milwaukee Brewers,” UWM Athletic Director Amanda Braun said. “UWM and the Brewers have had a long-standing partnership and we are proud to add to that partnership. The Panthers are the only Division I baseball team in the state, so we are Milwaukee neighbors with the Brewers in the baseball community and this will be a great way to celebrate the start of the season for both of us in 2015. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the team, our fans and the UWM community. It’s also great for Brewers fans and a nice way to bring our alumni together in a fun way in early spring.”
The Panthers play regular season games each year at Miller Park. This year, the Panthers are set to play at Miller Park on May 15 vs. Wright State after the Brewers game at noon that day. The Panthers compete in the Horizon League and went 29-21 last season, including a Horizon League championship. Their first home game of this season is scheduled for March 26 vs. Edgewood at Henry Aaron Field in Milwaukee.
“First and foremost, I want to start by thanking the Milwaukee Brewers organization for this opportunity,” UWM baseball head coach Scott Doffek said. “I also want to thank Tom Luljak and Amanda Braun for helping to arrange this. This will be a fun day and a great experience for our team. All of our student-athletes look up to the Major League players and aspire to one day play at that level. This will also be a wonderful way to showcase our University and to engage our alumni in Arizona in a unique way.”
In the 2013 MLB First Year Player Draft, the Brewers selected Josh Uhen from UWM in the fifth round. Uhen was named the Horizon League’s top pro prospect by Baseball America and was the highest-ever draft choice in Panther baseball history. Five players from the UWM baseball program have been selected by MLB teams over the past three seasons.
Now, back to the last time the Brewers played a college team in an exhibition. In that game versus Arizona State on March 22, 1983 the Brewers won 6-3 behind a three-run homer by Roy Howell.