Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Trenni Kusnierek Interview

A Milwaukee-area native and lifelong Brewer fan, Trenni Kusnierek is coming back to her old stompin' grounds this season after stints with FSN-Pittsburgh, the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network. FSN's newest Brewer broadcast team member talked about living with her parents, what it's like to be a female sportscaster, why she isn't Bob Brainerd and what she hopes will be an exciting 2008 season for the Brew Crew.

Listen to the interview here:

Well, first off, congrats on the job. Are you excited about it?

Yeah, I’m really excited about it. I mean I grew up, not only a huge baseball fan, but a huge Brewers fan so this is a great job for me. It’s really nice to come back home close to my family and friends and covering a team I have a real genuine interest in that I have followed pretty much my entire life. It’s nice to come home and have the opportunity, plus the broadcasting team I get to work with is phenomenal. Brian and Bill and Craig and Davey are really top notch guys that make you feel right at home. I’m very, very excited. I just wish it was baseball season because then it would be warm and not one degree.

You touched on the broadcast team briefly, Craig Coshun, Davey Nelson, Brian Anderson, Bill Schroeder. How do you think you’ll fit in to that team?

I think it should be a very easy transition. This was a position that they had been trying to add for a while. For whatever reason, it just didn’t pan out. It didn’t work out. They didn’t find someone who they thought could fill the position. I don’t really know the back story on it. I think it’ll be good. I think it will take a load of off Davey and Craig especially. I’m sure you know this from last season, Craig had it tough. You know, Craig would have to do all the interviews, all the pre-game stuff and then run over and be on set with Davey. And then post-game, quick get an interview and then run and go help Davey. And Davey would have to host things. And, you know, Davey is a coach, Davey is an analyst. Davey is not a host. So, I think this will make it easier, number one, and get a little more dimension into the broadcast.

And what will you add to the team?

That’s a great question. I think I’ll add a little different perspective, you know, more of a reporter’s kind of perspective. And I’ll have the ability, I think, because I’ll be with the team a lot, to be a little more interactive with the players and give people a little better look at the players as not just people but what they’re doing kind of on the field and how they get to where they are, how they get to be successful. I know one thing we really want to do is we want to focus on baseball Xs and Os. I’m not going to be running around interviewing mascots and fans in the stands, but instead we hope to really kind of show how the Brewers approach different teams and how they prepare for games and if they’re not hitting well, what adjustments do they make? Why do they make them? How do they make them? I’m going to kind of be the liaison between the players and the audiences, asking the questions you probably want to know at home and then hopefully getting an answer.

Looking at your career, did you ever think you’d come back to work in Milwaukee?

You know, it’s funny you ask that. When I left, I never thought I’d come back. I had left with the intention of “I worked here once before” and kind of had assumed my tenure was over. I don’t know what it really was, I kind of hit a plateau professionally in Pittsburgh and probably about, I don’t know, the beginning of the baseball season last year started to put the wheels in motion to move, but I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. So, I actually quit and I came home in November and kind of took some time to really evaluate what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. I probably could have held out. My agents were in talks with people in Boston and Philadelphia and San Francisco. I probably could have held out and gone to a bigger market, but when push came to shove, when I thought about covering sports, I wanted to cover a team I was really passionate about because it just makes it more fun. Otherwise it’s just kind of a job. That’s what made me decide to stay here. I wanted to be back kind of close to friends and family, but I also knew if I was going to continue to do sports full time, I really wanted to do it with a team and around a team that I would get just as psyched up about wins and losses as the fans.

A lot of professionals in sports broadcasting or reporting say that they’re not really fans of the team. It’s a job. But it sounds like you don’t view it that way?

Um, I think you have to in a sense. You have to put the fan part of it aside a little bit. It’s going to become a little different. I’m not going to lie. If you’ve got plans to go out on a Saturday night and the game goes into extra innings, trust me, you don’t care who wins, you just want somebody to win. It’s Saturday night and you’re like “Man, I had dinner plans. This game should have been done by now.” or “This was supposed to be an afternoon game and now we’re in the 15th inning.” It definitely changes a little bit. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. Plus, you get a view of players and managers and the people around the game that other people don’t see and you stop looking at them like superstars. You know, they’re just J.J. Hardy or it’s just Corey Hart. It’s like if you work in an office, they’re any other co-worker. So, that changes a little bit, but I think if you completely lose that love of the game and that sense of being a fan, then I don’t think you should be in the business anymore because I think that sports people still really truly enjoy sports. I would go to a Brewers game on an off day even when I was in Pittsburgh covering the Pirates. I mean, I wasn’t a huge Pirates fan, but if it was my off day and it was a beautiful summer afternoon and I didn’t work, I would still go to a baseball game because I like baseball and I like sports. I think if you get to the point where you’re like “Ugh, I could not even think about being near the ballpark if I didn’t have to work,” then I think maybe you want to sit back and reevaluate, “Gosh, maybe this isn’t what I should be doing anymore.” But at the same time, obviously, it is a little different. At the end of the game, if Ryan Braun makes an error at third which allows the winning run to score and then he’s up with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and he swings and misses, you have to go ask him about it. So, it is a little different.

You’ve had a successful career in sports reporting, starting at CBS-58, moving on to FSN-Pittsburgh and you did some work with the Big Ten Network and NFL Network, do you think it was harder to break into sports reporting as a woman and is any part of your job more challenging because of your gender?

Um, I wouldn’t say it was harder to break into the business. I would actually say it was easier to break into it because, I mean, I don’t think it’s any secret, a lot of TV stations are looking specifically for a female. If they’ve got a whole bunch of men on staff, they may say “You know, we really need a woman to add to the broadcast.” I think where the difficulty can come in is not breaking into it, but maintaining professionalism in it and having people take you seriously. I think if you ask any female in the business, they’ll tell you the same thing. I am judged far differently on my performance than my male counterparts. If I make a mistake in a game, mispronounce someone’s name or stumble or something, which is just human nature, you’re going to do it, you know it’s “Oh, my god, she’s an idiot. She got her job because she’s blonde. She’s this. She’s that. She doesn’t even know sports.” When really, you know, maybe I was sick with a cold. Maybe I had a late night the night before. Maybe, I don’t have kids, but maybe my kid was up screaming and yelling and I didn’t get much sleep the night before, you know, if you’re Jessie Garcia. I think that’s the hardest thing to overcome. People never completely, I don’t know if trust is the right word, but never completely believe you. There’s always skepticism. “Why is she in the business?” “Why did she do this?” “What is her real motive?” That’s the hardest thing about being a female in the business.

Like you really have to prove yourself before…

Oh, absolutely, you have a 920 number so I’m guessing you live up near the Green Bay area, but Jen Lada on Fox 6 and I talk about this all the time. She’s a little bit younger than me. We went to college together. She’s always asking me advice. You know, “It frustrates me so much. Tim makes a mistake and it doesn’t matter. When I make a mistake I get 50 e-mails about it.” And I’m like, “You know what? You just have to ignore it because you’re going to make mistakes. And if you try to hard to not make mistakes, you’re going to end up making more mistakes.” I just laugh them off now. I think Bonnie Bernstein always does a really good job of laughing off mistakes. A lot of times I’ll see her stumble or mispronounce something and she’ll say, “Ah, long night. I can’t talk today.” That’s really how you kind of have to approach it because it’s really better to admit you made a mistake than cover it up or pretend that you didn’t.

Growing up in the Milwaukee area, did you get to a lot of Brewers games when you were younger?

Oh yeah, I mean, I went to a ton of games as a kid. I should ask my dad, I think he just came upstairs, but, I think… I’ve been living at my parents house (laugh) since I came back, but I’m finally moving out next month. I think my parents took me to my first game when I was a real little baby, maybe like three or four months, but the first games I really remember going to are probably when I was six or seven or eight, kind of in grade school. I remember going to a lot of games. You sound like you’re probably too young to remember this, but they used to have these things at the ballpark at County Stadium called Kool-Aid Kids Sundays and like Oscar Meyer Sundays. And, like, if you drank a whole bunch of Kool-Aid, you could bring your Kool-Aid packets and get free tickets so we used to go all the time. My dad like would literally pack up the station wagon with kids from the neighborhood and we’d go sit way up and go to games. I was there for Robin’s 3000th hit. I was at the last game at County Stadium. I was at the first ever inter-league game. The first ever National League game. The first game at Miller Park. So, yeah, I’ve seen a whole lot of Brewer baseball and I’m ready for them to go back to the postseason because I was five and I barely remember when they went last time.

Yeah, I was a newborn so I don’t remember that too much either.

Yeah, I know, that’s actually my first baseball memory. I can remember like little bits and pieces of the 1982 season. I don’t remember games or specifics, but I remember my parents going to the game and I remember being at my grandparents’ house and watching it on TV. My parents took us down. They had a big party on Water Street or like a big parade. I don’t even know what the parade was for, but I remember sitting on my dad’s shoulders and seeing guys in cars, but I was 5 or 5½ of you really want to be technical about it. It’s like those things that you just… kind of like flash memories from a kid, but I don’t actually remember it so I’m really excited, you know, if they go back that I could experience it again. It looks like a lot of fun from what my parents tell me. My parents tell me it was an absolute blast. They went to a bunch of the games actually.

Did you have a favorite player back then?

Oh, back in the ’80s?

Yeah.

Obviously everyone loved Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, but for whatever reason, I loved Rollie Fingers. Loved Rollie Fingers. It must have been the moustache or something or he kind of looks like my dad and that’s why I liked him so much. But, yeah, I was a big Rollie Fingers fan.

Do you have a favorite player on the current team?

That is one of the things I guess I’ll say changes in time. I don’t know them. Now, because you work in the business, when you “pick favorite players,” a lot of times, you pick them based on how you interact with them, almost like a, you know, favorite co-worker or something. I guess I don’t really have a “favorite player” and I’d hate if it leaked out to them that I did because I might take some crap at spring training. But I do like that they’re a young team. I love the way that they play. I mean, coming from Pittsburgh, I will tell you, this team, they’re a great clubhouse team. There’s just something different about them. You can tell that they like each other. And I think that will go a long way on the field.

And if you had to make a prediction, do you think that they’re going to make the postseason this year?

I think they have all the tools to make the postseason if Ben Sheets stays healthy. I hate to put that much pressure on one player, but obviously everyone of them saw how different the Brewers were when Ben Sheets was healthy as opposed to when Ben Sheets was not healthy. I just think they’re a more confident team when he’s on the mound. It seems odd to say that one player makes the whole rotation better, but he really makes the entire rotation better because it puts guys in more comfortable positions and Ben Sheets is really comfortable taking the whole team on his shoulders and being the guy. And when he’s not in the rotation, it’s almost like they don’t have that stopgap guy, the guy that they know every time he steps out on the mound that even if he doesn’t get a win, he’s going to give you a really good outing. They don’t really have a true number one other than Ben, although maybe Yovani Gallardo in time will turn out to be that. I think he’s really important to the rotation and their success. Plus, he’s got experience, he’s been around, I think guys just really like him on the team. The one weakness? Not having a true proven closer, I mean, unless Gagne comes up. It’ll be interesting to see if these young guys who went through this last year, probably for the first times in their careers, they were at the center of the universe, to see how they respond to that this year. I think that if Ben is healthy and if their offensive production stays at the very least the same as it was last year, I think… And you know a lot of people don’t really like the Bill Hall to third base and Ryan Braun into leftfield move, but I think that really does help them defensively. And if Billy plays well and their defense is a little better, that automatically makes their pitching better. And if their starting pitching is better, then the arms they put in the bullpen don’t have to work so hard and then the bullpen is better. If all the stars align… On paper, they are definitely a team that could make a run at the playoffs I think and make a run at the NL Central. Plus, other than Houston, I’m not real sure that a lot of teams made a lot of moves in the division. You know, even Chicago with the Japanese player whose name I can’t pronounce, I mean, they didn’t do a ton. It’s not like somebody in the division picked up Johan Santana. I think it’s a similar division to last year.

“Brewer Fever” reached a pretty big high here last year, especially in the early months when the team got off to that hot start. What do you think the atmosphere would be like here if the Brewers actually did make the playoffs?

Oh, Insane. Insane. My parents, who as you can tell by the stories I’m telling, my parents are huge, huge Brewers fans. And my dad throws this huge tailgate every year. Last year, I brought friends in from Pittsburgh with me. They came home and came to Miller Park with me. They were like raving. They came back to Pittsburgh raving about Brewers fans, raving about Miller Park, raving about the atmosphere. It was so much fun. I think that was part of the reason it was easy for me to take this job. I came home and saw how much fun baseball is here. I think it would be insanity. I think people would actually, if they made the playoffs, the Packers might actually be slightly irrelevant in October for the first time in like 25 years.

This Packers’ offseason I think was the first time in forever that sportscasts weren’t leading off with training camp updates and stuff like that.

Yeah, I think it was actually pretty cool. My brother and I… I have a younger brother and a younger sister, and I took my younger brother to a Packers game. We went to the Packers/Oakland game. It was me and my brother and a couple of his friends from college and we were like sitting and talking and the next thing you knew, it was the day I think the day they got Gagne, and all of us were talking about Gagne and whether or not it was a good move. One of my brother’s friends stopped and was like “Dude, it’s December and we’re at Lambeau Field. Why are we talking about the Brewers?” And I was like, “No, this is so cool because, for how many years, we’ve never talked about the Brewers in December and we’re talking about them right now at a Packers game.” You know, switching back, the Packers, I think that’s a really good indicator of how exciting and how into the Brewers this city is and this state could be. I think people across the state are even more into them now, which I think is awesome.

Can you give Brewers fans any insights or inside info on FSN-Wisconsin’s Brewer coverage for this season?

Actually, my official starting date, I actually start at the end of February, but to the best of my knowledge, I believe all of our home games, and if not, almost all of our home games, will be in high definition, which is awesome. And, I think FSN alone is carrying 132 Brewer games and with our deal with WMLW, I believe we’ll have 150 of the 162 games on TV this year and that doesn’t include national broadcasts. That’s amazing. And, don’t completely quote me on this, but I think that the numbers last year, you know the whole Nielson Ratings and stuff, I want to say the Brewers were like the top three highest rated baseball games last year, which is awesome because this is kind of considered a mid-size market and for so long people didn’t care about the Brewers. There should be a lot of really good coverage this year. We’re going to do more on the pre-game show, post-game show and we’ll even have more player interviews I think and more things, so don’t turn off the TV after the game. I’ll have the ability, you know, unlike Craig having to sprint to death. I’m going to be just getting a ton of post-game sound and interviews and stuff like that in the clubhouse. It should be good. It should be a fun season.

Alright, is there anything else you’d like to add at all?

I don’t think so. I’m so new I haven’t even gone to spring training yet. All I’ve done is the Winter Warm-Up. So, I’ll get a chance to know them a little bit. I think Brewer fans will have a good time this year.

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