Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review of Brewers On Deck 2011

Papa Cheese (my Dad) and I attended Brewers On Deck 2011 at the Frontier Airlines Center. For those of you that don’t know, Brewers On Deck is basically a meet and greet for fans with most of the players, coaching staff, front office personnel, media people, and owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. The event drew record crowds with 11,299 fans (previous attendance record was 10,600 set in 2010) attending this year mostly to meet the new coaching staff and pitchers that are supposed to make the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers a playoff team.

Brewers On Deck 2011 had a main stage, an interactive stage, the 620 WTMJ stage, a team museum, memorabilia alley, a team store, an interactive FS Wisconsin stage, a Kids Zone, numerous concessions stands, 6 autograph stages, and of course the Klement's Racing Sausages.

There were many highlights with very few low lights at Brewers On Deck 2011. I took a bunch of pictures on my iPhone at the event that I will pepper in throughout the post to give those that were unable to attend the event an even better glimpse at what happened during Brewers On Deck 2011.

Main Stage Review:
There were a number of different Q&A sessions with various people within the Brewers organization. We were able to attend most of the sessions. Here is a quick look at each session we attended.

"Meet the coaching staff" hosted by Brian Anderson:
It was nice to see new manager Ron Roenicke and the rest of the coaching staff. Host Brian Anderson did a good job of moving things along and making sure we heard at least something from each of the coaches. Unfortunately the coaching staff kept everything close to the vest. Apparently they haven't talked about how they will slot their starters or their opening day lineup. Really? I have a hard time believing those discussion have not been ongoing all off-season. I understand that they do not want to give away too much information, but why not at least give us some information? The only real nugget we learned was that new manager Ron Roenicke wants to be more aggressive on the base paths than Ken Macha. That is not even that big of a nugget because Macha was one of the most conservative coaches in the last decade.

"Who Wants to be a Brewer?" with Casey McGehee, Ed Sedar, and hosted by Cory Provus:
This was a Brewers trivia knock-off on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. It was a good concept to pair a Brewer with a contestant with each correct answer giving the contestant an even better prize. Decent game but there is too much other good stuff to cover so let's move on.

"Meet Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin, Gord Ash, and the Newest Brewers Pitchers" hosted by Bob Uecker:
I can't describe how nice it was to see Bob Uecker on his feet and healthy again. As I covered in an earlier Sunday Funday, Brewers fans should thank their lucky stars to still have Uecker in the fold. Uecker mixed in some funny nuggets while owner Mark Attanasio, general manager Doug Melvin, assistant general manager Gord Ash, pitcher Zack Greinke, and pitcher Shaun Marcum answered an array of questions. I was impressed with everyone on stage besides Zack Greinke. Not only were Greinke's answers almost inaudible, but as you can see in the picture, he squirmed in his chair and had absolutely horrible body language. There is no question that Greinke can pitch but his first impression to most fans was mediocre at best. I know Greinke has anxiety issues, I just didn't know they are that extreme.

"Name That Hit!" with John Axford, Zach Braddock, Craig Counsell, Randy Wolf hosted by Bob Uecker with Dean Rosko on the organ:
Much like "Who Wants to be a Brewer?" the game paired a Brewer with a contestant to correctly identify songs in order to win prizes. The preliminary rounds dragged because the only time a team got a song right was when they knew the song from the clue given by Uecker as opposed to Dean Rosko's rendition on the organ. For how well Dean Rosko tickles the ivory, it wasn't until the final round when Rosko played larger snippets of songs in rapid succession that the game got interesting. The final round was Counsell against Wolf. In terms of Brewers that seemed sports funny, those guys are very high on the list. For those that don’t know, sports funny means that athletes are by no means comedians. In fact, athletes would bomb as stand-up comedians but fans find them funny because they are funny…for a pro athlete. Much like the other game, another substantive panel would have been a much better addition to the event.

Interactive Stage:
A bunch of different things were going on here, a stage with a little bit of everything if you will. At one point there was a Q&A session with Rickie Weeks, Jonathan Lucroy, and Corey Hart. What made that Q&A especially awesome is that they took questions only from children. It was really neat to see the smiles on their faces as they got to ask questions of some of their favorite Brewers. Later when we passed by people with impressive voices were singing the Star Spangled Banner. This stage was sort of the jack-of-all trades stage. Great idea, great execution.

620 WTMJ Stage:
620 WTMJ is lucky have a presence at the event because terrestrial radio stations seem to be going the way of the dodo. Unfortunately like radio broadcasts themselves, the area always seemed sparse in attendance compared to other areas unless they were interviewing an actual player or someone from the front office. A better idea would have been for the Brewers to show off some of their new media offerings through or other in-game technology such as the features of the new scoreboard as opposed to having old media terrestrial radio on hand.

Brewers Museum:
The highlight of the museum was Papa Cheese sitting in the old bullpen cart that took players out to the mound at County Stadium. If I ever make it big I am buying that cart or making a replica to ride around my compound. There were a bunch of interesting nuggets in the museum but it was a little cluttered and disjointed. For example, they had a wall with information about the entire history of the franchise but it was hard to take it all in because it was written out in small type on one big wall. Besides that, it was a little light on historical artifacts. People that are willing to come to a baseball event on a Sunday morning at the end of January want to see more than just a few pieces of memorabilia and a wall with the history of the franchise. Most people probably skipped the museum because it didn't stand out and was thin on memorabilia. Next year I hope the Brewers put some more time and artifacts in the museum.

Sports Memorabilia Alley:
Speaking of memorabilia, it is a sad area to walk through because it consisted mostly of baseball cards and signed memorabilia of players that had a cup of lukewarm coffee with the Brewers. In fact the tables with Packers memorabilia seemed to create the most buzz. Just to drive the point home, the only thing I bought from sports memorabilia alley was a Super Bowl XLV program. Besides the sign to the left (I signed "Go Pack Go, Cheesehead Sports Nut") and sports memorabilia alley, the event did not have much of a Packers presence which was surprising to me since the Packers are less than a week from playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. Kudos to the fans in attendance for keeping it mostly Brewers.

Brewers Team Store:
They had the standard stuff, nothing much to talk about so let's move on.

FS Wisconsin Stage:
There was a backdrop with an actual camera, teleprompter, and news desk. Fans could do an actual one-minute telecast using the teleprompter. Quick side note on using a teleprompter, it is much harder than it looks. I tried to use a teleprompter once and failed miserably. Back to the review. This stage was a great idea but poorly executed. FS Wisconsin should have had an actual anchor there the whole time. Not only would that have drawn more of a crowd but they could have given young kids pointers to increase their interest. Finally, why didn't they tape each segment and send it out digitally. Simple things like that would not only would have given fans a nice memento but been some quality free marketing for FS Wisconsin. You are on notice FS Wisconsin...get more out of your stage next year.

Kids Zone:
The Kids Zone was a great way to keep the little kids interested and active. The space was so big that there was an astro turf mini-field for clinics. The Brewers offered: throwing/catching basics with Jerry Augustine, hitting with Larry Hisle, pitching with Jerry Augustine, throwing/fielding with Jim Gantner, and catching drills/base running with Marcus Hanel. There was a mock mini-locker room, base running timer, speed pitch area, batting cage, and even a dance area off to the side to keep kids busy. The kids zone was well conceived and implemented.

New this year, your entry ticket got you one entry into a raffle for a chance to get a "premium autographs" from either Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Corey Hart, Bob Uecker, or Robin Yount. If your raffle ticket was pulled, you got the autograph for a $25 donation. Papa Cheese choose Ryan Braun and I choose Yovani Gallardo. We went .500. I missed the chance for Gallardo's signature by two spots...oh dang. Luckily Papa Cheese won so he got a picture signed by Braun. Check out the picture of Papa Cheese, aka The Silver Fox, (you heard me Anderson Cooper) with Ryan Braun.

The equation for professional athletes signing autographs is pretty simple: ask the fan their name, shake their hand, make quick small talk, sign something, and pose for a picture. I am a huge proponent of body language so I watched a number of players sign autographs to see how they reacted to fans. I did not get to see all the players sign but without question Ryan Braun was the only one that followed the simple equation. Here are my grades for the people that I actually saw signing:
- Zack Greinke: C+
- Rickie Weeks: A-
- Yovani Gallardo: B-
- Kameron Low: B
- Casey McGehee: B-
- Robin Yount: A-
- Latroy Hawkins: B+
- Ryan Braun: A+
- Manny Parra: B

There were long lines for all the other non-premium autographs (i.e. Low, McGehee, Hawkins, Parra, etc) that cost either $10 or were free. Quick side note, the cost of your autograph essentially told each player how secure their roster spot is with the Brewers in 2011. It seemed like people were waiting in lines more than actually going to the various events. As a way to alleviate all the lines, the Brewers should limit all autograph lines to a set number of signatures and then hand out tickets in a lottery system like they did for premium autographs. Not only would it allow people to enjoy the festivities more than just sitting in line, but it would allow the autograph sessions to stay on time because they all looked like they were running behind schedule.

Klement's Racing Sausages:
Last but certainly not least, check out me with the sausages. The Italian Sausage was mingling with other people but 4 out of 5 racing sausages is not too bad. I am pretty sure that everyone knows by now, but here is the lineup:
#1 - The Bratwurst
#2 - The Polish Sausage
#3 - The Italian Sausage
#4 - The Hot Dog
#5 - The Chorizo
Cheesehead Chick is partial to The Chorizo but I am still a traditionalist so my heart still lies with The Bratwurst.

Papa Cheese and I thoroughly enjoyed Brewers On Deck 2011. On paper the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers look like legitimate playoff contenders. Following the Super Bowl, check back for more Brewers coverage on the blog because spring training is right around the corner.

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