I wasn’t sure I would enjoy going to Brewers On Deck; I’m not much of a fan of large crowds unless they are in their seats at a concert or sporting event. But a couple of good friends of mine had been many times and invited me along, promising a good time, so I joined them. They were absolutely right. (Thanks, Bob and Mark!) (No, not THAT Mark, you ninnies!)
They insisted that we get there early to get in line to get in, and that was no problem for me. They were right - either get there early or wait until 11 or so. None of us were much up on paying for autographs, so we headed for the main stage and grabbed some seats for the opening salvo.
Jeff Levering opened up and introduced Rick Schlesinger, who talked up the new concessions format at Miller Park, and showed a video of what it will look like. It looks like a good plan that should reduce wait times.
Levering then introduced four prospects to the stage for a Q&A from Levering and the crowd. Sophia Minnaert and Matt Lepay roamed the crowd and solicited questions for Josh Hader, Brett Phillips, Ryan Cordell, and Lewis Brinson. (When Phillips was introduced I yelled “Maverick” just ahead of a lady sitting in front of me yelling it too...which I thought was odd. She continued recording the event on her phone throughout.)
All were poised and answered their questions gracefully. Best question was from a kid who looked to be about 10; he asked Hader what he thought about pitching at altitude. Josh first answered “no comment”, and then, after some laughter, gave the party line of how they had to grind through it.
When asked about how their parents had influenced them and helped or coached them, all thanked their folks for the support that they gave them in pursuing their dreams. Brett said that his Mom was in the audience, and pointed to the lady sitting in front of me. Mystery solved! (When they finished, I leaned forward and asked if she were Brett’s Mom, and she smiled and said yes. I told her that when Brett was traded to the Brewers, we had several Houston fans come on the site that I wrote for praising her son, and talking about how sorry they were to lose him. She seemed truly appreciative and asked which site I wrote for. I think his little sister was there too. Brett was easily the most outgoing of the four, but none were shy.)
They followed that up with basically a Family Feud game between the prospects (with an audience member) vs. the ‘82 Legends (Robin Yount, Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper, and Rollie Fingers - also with a fan). Phillips was wearing some snapchat glasses, and when he and Yount faced off to start the game Yount accused him of getting answers with them. Phillips said no, but he could see the color of Yount’s underwear. Robin said that was nice, but he wasn’t wearing any underwear. Had our first Brett Phillips Laughing Moment. Awesome.
We wandered around, looking at overpriced merchandise and long lines (and I had a brief chat with Lepay, who was signing stuff at a table with nobody there - asked him if it had been tense the day before at the Badger game; he said yeah, but that was college sports for you) before returning to the stage for the Mark Attanasio, Matt Arnold (David Stearns is on his honeymoon; I question his priorities), and Craig Counsell state of the team session. Jaymes covered perhaps the most interesting moment here, when Attanasio said that they were looking to purchase their High-A franchise, which would most likely be the Carolina Mudcats. The questions were generally pretty insightful, and were answered as honestly as they could. Counsell answered the Braun-to-first question by saying that Braunie was the left fielder this season, but that they looked at all possibilities for players and the future was open. He specifically mentioned Scooter Gennett, as JP told us here. Matt Arnold was asked about the international market, specifically Cuba, and said that actually, they had had some discussions on that front just that morning. He didn’t go into any detail, but still...
After some lunch (had Gorman Sauce on a brat; basically Honey Mustard with a bit of a bite - not bad) we headed over to watch a sports broadcasters/writers round table and Q&A, but got there just in time to watch a session with Jim Gantner and Cecil Cooper. Several questions about the old days, favorite memories, etc. When asked about managing, Coop said at first he tried to mold players to be like him and to show them who was boss, and he learned to let them be themselves just as he was getting fired. I thought that was a pretty good and self-aware insight. Gumby ranted against the new sliding rules and the notion that you should help drive up a pitcher’s pitch count by being selective...they always drove up the pitch count by scoring 5 or 6 runs in an inning and being aggressive at the plate. Coop agreed...that may also have had something to do with his relatively short managerial tenure. They were fun.
Then Matt Pauley (WTMJ post-game host), Adam McCalvy, Todd Rosiak, and Tom Haudricourt came on. The Prince of Darkness was the star of the show, and the others seemed to defer to him. Good observations about all of the potential starting pitchers on the roster (they all agreed with Counsell from earlier - extra depth at the start of spring is a good thing; it will sort itself out) and what Gennett’s spot might be on the roster (very frank about it maybe being a difficult make, but again, injuries, poor performance, etc. might necessitate him being on the roster), and Hall of Fame voting and results. Haudricourt seems to be of two minds on Bonds, Clemens, and the rest of the steroid era, but pointed out that he had voted for them.
I used to be on the JSO game threads back when they did them, and had chatted with Todd Rosiak on those quite a bit. I introduced myself and he did remember me and those fun days. It was an impossible situation for him - their site allowed anybody to be on there and to use any name they liked, and he had to follow the game, tweet stuff out, comment on line, write the game story, and be the moderator. That didn’t last long. My highlight was correctly predicting the results of five straight Yuni at bats. Todd was very impressed. Nobody seemed to realize how easy that was. But Todd was very kind and we talked for a few minutes.
A full day; a fun day. I’ll do it again.