Posts Tagged ‘interview’

Seth McClung Interview

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Midway through the season last year, Right Field Bleachers started to make efforts to land a Seth McClung interview. It was a bit of a long shot. Frankly, most MLB players have better things to do with their off time than talk to fan blogs, but it just seemed like Seth was the kind of personality that would be willing to do it. And fans wanted to hear from Seth. It was obvious from the beginning of Big Red’s time in Milwaukee that the fans and him connected.

After some legwork, we got ahold of Seth and lined up an interview. He just had to approve it with the Brewers media folks. Unfortunately, the Brewers media department has an extremely overbearing and dated policy towards blogs. Essentially, blogs get zero access, no exceptions. After pleading my case and being a pest for a week or two, they bent a little and allowed the interview just this one time. And then a day later, Seth was injured and the interview was off again. Bad luck…

Once the offseason hit and it was clear that Seth was no longer going to be a Brewer (and therefore we didn’t have to go through the hassle that is the Brewers media department), we started to effort an interview with him again. After a few weeks, we finally connected.

Seth called us up on Super Bowl Sunday and chatted for about a half hour. And he didn’t disappoint. The newly signed Florida Marlin hit on everything from how much he truly loved Milwaukee and Brewer fans (and how wants to come back at some point), the clubhouse chemistry, his role as the team “janitor,” his rift with Ken Macha, Todd Coffey’s “man boobs” and “sixth inning bathroom visit” and much, much more.

Say what you want about the Seth, but the guy is genuine and he’s a blast. I’m going to miss watching him as a Brewer.

Listen to the interview here (intro and outro song is “Modern Times” by The Black Keys):

This is Jared with Right Field Bleachers and we have former Brewer Seth McClung on the phone. I guess, first off, Seth, congrats on joining the Marlins. How did that deal come to be and what did you like about the opportunity there.

Well, thanks for having me, first off. You guys got in touch with me through the West Virginia Rush program I run and, before I answer your question, one of the reasons I really felt like it was kind of cool to do this through the blogs is I really feel like Milwaukee has a pretty kick ass following through the blogs and the fans really voice their opinions.

But the way the Marlins deal came about is when I became a free agent, pretty much every team in the National League showed interest and a few teams in the American League. We waited around and it boiled down to where the best opportunity for me to get back in the Major Leagues and stay in the Major Leagues seemed to be in Florida. I think we might have waited a little bit too long on a couple of things, but we’re here in Florida and it’s a good opportunity. I turned down more money in a couple of other places because of the opportunity. It’s closer to home for my family. We have a five-month old and it’s going to be an opportunity where Stephanie, my better half, doesn’t have to really quit school. She can still drive now back and forth between the Tampa Bay area, Jupiter is in the Tampa Bay area, and Miami. So, a lot of family decisions came into it.

Obviously, I would’ve loved to come back to Milwaukee. That was my first choice. But that’s not something they really wanted to do.

Photo taken by Nicole at Cute Sports

You mentioned a number of times in interviews and on your Twitter account that you had a really good time in Milwaukee and you loved the fans here. So, needless to say, you were a little disappointed you weren’t able to stay with the team?

Yeah, I was really disappointed. I felt like in 2007, when I got traded, I didn’t really do much, but I saw that it was such a great clubhouse. And then 2008 rolled around and I was blessed with the opportunity to start 13 games and then pitch in September and towards the playoffs. And I felt like I really added a lot to the team. I was praised by our coaching staff and the general manager and everybody for my accomplishments in 2008.

And then 2009 rolls around and, you know, we have a change at the top. And, obviously, if you look at the season, I started out pitching great. And then, you know, circumstances came up that were beyond my control and I tried to appease certain wants and I started to pitch poorly. And I continued to appease certain wants and I got hurt.

So, I had to come back. It was big. I got hurt late in the season and it was an injury that most guys would’ve packed up and not tried to come back from, but I felt like we still had a chance at the playoffs. When I got hurt, we were still in it. And then we basically fell out of it, but I wasn’t going to give up on my teammates and the organization. I tried to come back and just prove that being a Brewer meant a lot to me. It wasn’t about me, it was just about not letting my teammates down. You hate to compare things to war or a fight, but I didn’t want to leave my guys hanging. Our bullpen was beat up and they needed some help. I really wanted to get back for them.

All that hard work, I mean, once I got the initial opportunity to come to Milwaukee, I felt like I did everything I possibly could to make the fans and to make the organization happy. I really loved it there and it’s a shame that it came down to an individual decision. Who knows how long certain people will be there, but I would love to come back to Milwaukee one day.

You talked a little bit about the bullpen and the pitching struggling last year, and most of your time with Milwaukee you kind of bounced between the bullpen and the starting rotation. Did that contribute to some of the difficulties you had at all? Was it hard to keep switching roles?

It is, but it’s hard to pitch in the Major Leagues. I mean, it was my job.

You take a look at my numbers and, if you want to be a Sabermetrics guy or one of those guys who want to just boggle numbers, you can say pretty much that everybody except the superstars suck. And you can manipulate numbers any way you want. But what I did for the team and provided for the team is I came in when we needed a spot starter in 2008. I filled in, I feel, very well. You know, who knows where we would’ve been had I not been able to fill in? And then outside of that, I would come into the game when we were down 2 runs in the fifth or six innings and I would keep us right there or keep us within the games. Sometimes we’d come back and win those games and sometimes we wouldn’t, but by putting me in and eating up two innings at a time, it kept the seventh, eighth and ninth inning guys pitching the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. I felt like I wasn’t really, in 2009, used in that capacity so much.

My role was basically, I think some of the radio guys in Milwaukee called me the janitor. It’s one of those jobs where if you don’t have a good janitor, man, you notice. But if you’ve got a good janitor, you kind of take him for granted. I’m not saying I was taken for granted by the organization because most of the organization was very good to me. But if you want to look at my numbers, you can say whatever you want about them. I don’t mind. It’s just that my role was something that being filled in 2008 allowed us to get to the playoffs and before I got hurt in 2009, we were still in the hunt.

Do you think that you’ll have a similar role on the Marlins? Have you talked with them about that at all?

Uh, I’m not really sure what the Marlins want. I don’t know if they see me more as a late-inning guy. I mean, I’m pretty versatile and if you’re going to confine me to one inning, I can come in and throw as hard as you’d like me to. If you want me to go multiple innings, I have to adjust and then taper down my velocity to be able to go different innings. So, it’s kind of one of those things that I can do both and we’ll just see what they need.

And it’s the same line that I’ve always had in Milwaukee. I want to do what’s best for the team. I’m a team-before-me kind of guy. It’s a shame that sometimes the game of baseball is a business because it’s not what you’re taught growing up. When you’re in the little leagues, you’re always taught that it’s about the team. It’s a family. For the guys who play the game, it’s a family, but sometimes for the coaches and the front office, it’s not really a family. It’s the sad part about baseball. It’s throughout everywhere in baseball. It’s not just localized in Milwaukee. And I’m by no means bitter about it. I loved my time in Milwaukee and everybody was great. But it’s the realization that, as you get older in the game, stuff like that happens.

Yeah, and you’ve hit on this a little bit, but on your Twitter account, you didn’t really hide the fact that you didn’t exactly see eye to eye with Ken Macha at times. Can you talk about your relationship with him and where that fell apart?

I don’t think I ever really had a relationship with Mr. Macha. I tried in the first half to really build a relationship. I don’t think he really got me. You could take what I could say and say, “Oh, he’s just disgruntled” and what not. I am disgruntled, but it’s because our relationship really wasn’t that great and I didn’t agree with a lot of the things he did. People gave Ned Yost a hard time for taking up for his players, but there’s a lot to be said about that. And people give Lou Piniella a hard time for arguing with the umpires, but there’s a lot to be said for that.

Ken Macha, if I had my choice, I wouldn’t play for him again. And I’m not here to throw stones. Good luck for the rest of the year. It’s over. And this is probably the last time I’ll really comment on Ken Macha. But I just really didn’t agree with his philosophy, his coaching style. Let’s just keep it that simple. Some things in house need to stay in house and let’s just say I didn’t agree with it and I really didn’t feel like he treated me fairly or gave me a fair shake at anything.

Would you say that’s a feeling that a lot of players have? Is the team behind him or is it kind of a divided locker room?

You know, I’m no longer there and my answer, whether it could be construed as truthful or anything, there’s no real need. There’s no real need to delve into those things. I understand the want to ask that question, but I’m not really at liberty to speak for anybody else. I can speak for myself. But that’s a question you’ll have to ask those guys. I hate to sound like I’m copping out, but I would never throw teammates or anybody under the bus. I don’t do that kind of thing.

OK, fair enough. We kind of talked about the Twitter account just briefly. I think that was something Brewers fans kind of got a kick out of last year as you started to do that a little bit more and over the offseason too. But recently you deleted the account. Can you talk about why you decided to do that?

I deleted the account because I think it was getting on Stephanie’s nerves. I enjoyed it a lot. The Twitter account was great.

Over the years, maybe the year I did it, I don’t even know if I did it a year, I got all positive responses except for two. The two responses were from toolbags and I just blocked them and it was whatever. But all positive responses. And I enjoyed interacting with the fans. I’m from West Virginia, man, and I’m as blue collar as they come. I’m just like you and just like everybody else. I just happen to play baseball. And I thought it was a pretty cool way to connect with the fans to just kind of show everybody that, “Hey, I’m just a guy that’s very fortunate to play baseball and thank you guys for being supportive.”

And, to tell you the truth, I had decided that, after Milwaukee, that I wasn’t really going to do it anymore because it was a special situation in Milwaukee. That’s no slight to any other fans, but I had such a special bond with a lot of fans in Milwaukee. I felt that it was something that I couldn’t continue because I kind of knew I wasn’t going to come back. And I wanted everybody to know how grateful and honored I was to be a Milwaukee Brewer and play on their favorite team and how supportive they were. It was awesome. And had I not had the Twitter account, I wouldn’t have been able to send my good bye. I mean, they don’t typically give long relievers middle pages in the paper to do the kind of things like that. So, to be able to do that and to say my good byes to the fans and to the organization, it was huge. And I really enjoyed it.

I apologize to whoever Miller Park Drunk is about my misspelling things on there. I’m sorry that you don’t understand that 140 characters is usually 140 characters and I don’t really have a great spell check on my phone, but I hope everybody enjoyed it as much as I did and I enjoyed the fans. It was just my way of connecting.

I think part of that bond that Brewers fans had with you is they could tell you were basically just one of us. You were a regular guy. On the field, after the Wild Card Championship, pouring beer on yourself, all that kind of stuff. I guess, did you get that feeling too where you were one of the guys sort of?

(Link: Video of McClung celebrating Braun’s go-ahead home run in Wild-Card-clinching game against Cubs in 2008)

I definitely felt I connected with the Milwaukee fans. I mean, I didn’t go out much. My days when I played in Tampa, dude, you could find me in any bar in town. But when I came to Milwaukee, I kind of settled down in my ways and I was pretty serious, in a serious relationship. And now I’m a father. So, I mean, those kind of days for me, I didn’t get to do much in Milwaukee.

But when I did get to go out, my cousin Brad works at McGillycuddy’s. I would have to say that McGillycuddy’s is probably the most blue-collar bar on Water Street and I fit in perfect there. I mean, it was just like, “These are my people. This is who I grew up with in West Virginia.” I understood the philosophy. My father was a hard-working guy. My father built high-rise buildings. We lived in West Virginia and he would live in Boston for six months or live in Atlanta for six months and he would come back on the weekends. He’d drive eight hours to spend 16 hours with us and then drive back another eight hours to go back to work. So, I mean, I knew what sacrifice was growing up and my family taught me some values. I was able to connect with the fans on a certain level because I never thought I was any better than anybody just because of my job. I mean, I understand that sometimes you’ve kind of got to separate yourself because it does get crazy sometimes, but you knew that it came from a good place. And I could always connect with that.

There’s always stories coming out about practical jokes or superstitions in the bullpens. Can you give us any good stories about the Brewers bullpen?

Well, first of all, Todd Coffey and I are actually two different people. A lot of people yell at me calling me Coffey. Coffey is about 475 pounds with man boobs. And I am not 475 pounds. I love Todd. Don’t get me wrong. I say this jokingly. He’s a great guy.

Some of the things that we’ve done in the bullpen that are really of note, I think, the Bullpen Olympics of 2008 got a lot of pub. And I would just like to acknowledge that was 100 percent my idea. I got the games together and I put the rules down and then I did purchase medals for first, second and third in each event and then overall trophies for everyone. So, that was all mine and that was a lot of fun.

I think David Riske won it. Shousey came in second. I was proud to announce that I took home the overall bronze medal. That was a lot of fun. We did that for about six weeks, sorry, three weeks and it took a lot of time. I think we caught a little bit of flack for it and, during that time, I think we had something like a 2 ERA as a bullpen and we kind of said, “Seriously, we’re not the problem. Don’t worry about us. We’ll be ready to pitch when it comes our time.” We take our job serious, but when you’re in the bullpen things go a little different.

Another thing I did, when I got hurt this year, we’ve got a rather large bathroom in the bullpen and I decided once the team went to the West Coast trip that I was going to go and redecorate the bullpen. And I made sure I put posters in the bullpen. I put some rugs down, magazines down. I put a refrigerator in there so we could have drinks. I bought candles because Coffey’s sixth inning bathroom visit was terrible so we had to make sure we had some candles.

I had something in there that represented everybody so I went through the bios and I was reading like it said that Mitch Stetter loved ping pong, table tennis, so I put a ping pong paddle and a ping pong ball on the table in there. And then Coffey loved Star Trek so I went out and bought season DVDs of Star Trek movies or whatever and I put those in there. And then I put a big picture of Trevor Hoffman framed with a big skull in the front to represent “Hells Bells.” And DiFelice is Italian so I put the Italian Sausage in there. And then, myself, I put a Chuckie doll in there. I did something for everybody. And then I put one of those Miller Park or Brewers miniature home plates on there and I had candles all on the edge meaning the bullpen lives on the edge. It was just kind of fun and we did that and I think the guys got a really big kick out of that.

It’s just things like that that you do throughout the year to really break up the monotony of everything and just be a team player. I mean, I feel like anything you can add off the field as well to be a good team player is important to the chemistry of the team. To talk about the Milwaukee Brewers, the most important thing is that everybody loved each other there. I don’t know the chemistry now because guys are gone and a lot of key guys who brought a lot to the clubhouse are gone, so who knows how it’s going to be? But it was the best three years of my Major League career was playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, not just on the field, but in the clubhouse, on the road trips. I loved every single guy.

I don’t keep up with really a single Tampa Bay Devil Ray that I played with. That’s from 1999 to 2007. And let me tell you, I’ve already talked to almost everyone on the Milwaukee Brewers team just through text messages or sending cards back and forth and just being in touch. My best friend in baseball is Corey Hart and he’s an awesome guy, an awesome family guy. Just being able to text him, see how he’s doing, or text Trevor, or text Coffey. Villanueva and I will e-mail jokes back and forth to each other. Like I went to a Mexican restaurant and I ordered some food and I took a picture of it and I sent it to Villanueva and sent it to Yo and I said, “I miss you guys. That’s why I’m having this burrito.” So, it was just funny stuff back and forth. This is a great situation.

And going back to Coffey a little bit, at one point last year, you wore a shirt in the bullpen that said “Not Coffey,” right?

Right, right. I had been called Coffey a few times. And, again, I kind of take exception to it. When I was in high school, I lettered in seven sports and I was an All-American baseball player. I played shortstop and centerfield and pitched. I played basketball. I was the point guard on offense, not really point guard, we had a point guard, but I’d bring the ball up. I played in AAU tournaments in basketball. I did the high jump. I did a lot of athletic things.

And then Coffey is like a big guy. He’s just kind of like a big ol’ guy that pitches. You know? You love him. He’s just a big ol’ teddy bear. And I still kind of fancy myself as an athlete and when I get called Coffey, I think, “Golly, how could you not know I’m not Todd Coffey?” And, so, I would say “Not Coffey” all the time. “Not Coffey.” I’d just yell out “Not Coffey.” So, finally one day, the guys on the team were kind of getting a joke on it so I went to our head clubbie, Tony, and I said, “Hey, can you get me one of those pullovers and put on the back ‘Not Coffey’?” And, so, we did that and it was a big joke. I wore it the first day out and I think we got our asses handed to us, I mean, just absolutely kicked, so I could only wear it one day. I couldn’t wear it anymore after that so I had to get my fill out of it one day, so one batting practice and one game. But after that, we couldn’t wear it anymore so I sent it home as a reminder of how good of a time we had.

It’s just funny stuff like that, man, that’s really kind of where the chemistry comes involved. And other guys did some things that were funny. It’s enjoyable. It makes the season enjoyable and memorable.

So, are you saying that you could beat Todd in a race?

Are you serious, man? Todd Coffey in a race? You know what? I thought about doing something funny like putting on YouTube me training to beat Todd Coffey in a race, like a video montage would be funny. But I never did it. But, yes, I could beat Todd in a race. You know, he’s the redheaded bullet out of the pen, but I got him in a race. Don’t worry about that. I’m not going to lose to Todd Coffey.

Alright, well, I guess for Brewers fans, the Cubs have probably been the biggest rival since the team moved to the NL Central, but it seems like, in your time as a Brewer, the rivalry against the Cardinals really picked up and there were some heated moments and comments in the media over the years. How much do you think that rivalry escalated while you were around?

I felt like it was a little, it was chippy. Had it been a basketball game, there probably would’ve been elbows thrown, you know? But I don’t think it was ever personal. It was personal on certain levels, but it wasn’t something we were constantly thinking about. It was only really when we played them. But you could see it escalate from 2007 to 2008 to 2009. It was one of those things that we knew about. We didn’t live our lives hating the Cardinals. You don’t really hate them, but you acknowledge kind of what they’re saying. And I’m sure they acknowledged what we did. That’s why they said what they said. They didn’t like that we untucked our pants and they didn’t like that we had the Atomic Walkoff. But it’s kind of that we were a young, fun team and that gets back to the chemistry. I never had more fun doing some of the things that we did. And if Trevor Hoffman and David Weathers are OK with it, then anybody should be OK with it because those guys have been around long enough to know what’s right and wrong in a game. Everything we ever did was all done in good fun. It wasn’t done in any disrespect to the game or to any individual. If anybody has got a problem with all of that stuff, it’s overblown because they’re taking offense when they shouldn’t be taking offense.

OK, you had an interesting moment against the Cardinals yourself in September of 2007. So, you’re no longer a Brewer. Yost is gone. I think the Statute of Limitations is up on this. You hit Pujols on purpose, right?

The Statute of Limitations is definitely not up on that. And all I have to say is “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” and I got freed of all charges.

Alright, alright. Last season, Ryan Braun made some comments about the team’s pitching that some people took as a shot at you or Mike Burns. What was your reaction to the comments and did you talk to Ryan about that?

It was a direct shot at Burnsy and myself, and Ryan spoke with me actually. I wasn’t going to go to him. He spoke with me and he apologized.

You could look at it as a turning point in the season. It kind of really hurt us. It kind of really hurt our pitching staff. One thing that Ryan has to understand is that, I know he understands he’s a superstar, but he has to understand that you can’t, and I think he has, I mean, he’s really kind of tapered off, but you’ve always got to remember you’ve got to put your team first. And I think I read a comment he said he’s not the GM and he doesn’t get into that anymore. And he’s not and I think he’s realizing that.

And another thing people don’t realize is reporters talk to him constantly so he’s got to be on his A-game not to say something stupid. I didn’t like what he said, but I’m sure he learned from it. I have no hard feelings, none at all. To tell you the truth, Ryan is a pretty decent guy. So, I don’t have any hard feelings. It sucked getting thrown under the bus, but I understand where he was coming from. I understand he wanted to win and I wanted to win. So, I think he learned from it.

You know, I’ve made mistakes too. You can go back and look at some of my quotes when I was in Tampa and they’re pretty bad. So, everybody makes mistakes. So, it sucked, but I understood and I forgave him. Ryan and I were pretty decent friends when we were on the team so I didn’t like it, but no hard feelings. And I think he’s learned from it and I think he’s going to be a better teammate from it, I think, in the end. And it’s a good thing that he was able to learn from it and we’re all able to move on.

And speaking of Braun, I saw that before you deleted your Twitter account, you talked a little bit about entering into a similar business venture as he has with a t-shirt line. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Yeah, I got a little creative bone in my body. I don’t really know how to draw or do any of the art stuff, but I’m a real big ideas guy and I think I’ve got some pretty nifty kind of ideas. I don’t want to get into it too much because I believe in the idea so much that if I told it, I think somebody would steal it. So, I don’t want to get into it too much, but once it gets out there, and gets put out there, I’ll let everybody know.

Alright, sounds good. Anything else that you’d like to add that we haven’t hit on yet?

I’d really just like to say to everybody that’s a Milwaukee Brewers fan and has followed the team from 2007 to 2009 that I will always remember it as really a great time. I really enjoyed the enthusiasm that you guys brought to the stadium and to the park every single game against every team no matter what. And I know I’m putting on a different uniform and I’m going to be entering Miller Park again and, you know, I hope I don’t get booed, but I know you’re not going to be cheering for me outloud because you want your team to win and I understand. And hopefully one day I can come back and be a Brewer, but I just really want the fanbase to know that I loved it. And I just really want the organization to know that aside from a singular individual, this was the single most greatest time in my athletic career from amateur to professional. And I’m really grateful and blessed. I thank God every day for the ability to play in the Major Leagues and for the life I have. And playing for you guys has been one of the best times of my life and I’m really grateful.

Well, thank you very much for doing the interview with us and good luck down in Miami. Try to go easy on the Brewers when you face them this year.

Hey, well, why don’t  you tell the Brewers to try to go easy on me? You guys take care. Thanks for having me.

Telly Hughes Interview

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Telly Hughes

Trenni Kusnierek came to Fox Sports-Wisconsin last year and became an instant fan favorite. But the Wisconsin native’s return to her home state was brief and she’s left Milwaukee for the national stage on the new MLB Network. Earlier this offseason, FS-Wisconsin tabbed former Fox Sports-North Twins and Timber Wolves sideline reporter Telly Hughes to replace Trenni. The Ron Dayne lookalike is looking forward to bringing his energetic style to the Brewers broadcast alongside Brian Anderson, Bill Schroeder and Craig Coshun. Hughes, who grew up in East St. Louis, brings a familiarity with the NL Central as he grew up a Cardinals fan and covered the team before his stint with FS-North. Don’t worry though Brewers fans, he’s a full-fledged Brewer backer now and thinks great things are on the horizon for this young team.

Telly Hughes and former Badger Ron Dayne

 

You can listen to the interview here:

This is Jared with Right Field Bleachers and we have Telly Hughes from Fox Sports Wisconsin on the phone.

First off, congratulations on joining the Brewers broadcast, Telly. We’re happy to have you here.

Thank you so much. It’s good to be here and I’m definitely looking for another exciting season. I just hope I didn’t come a year late because you guys had such a magical season last year and hopefully I’ll be a part of one this season.

Yeah, hopefully. And can you talk a little bit about how you got the position? Was it something that you were interested in right away when you saw it open up?

Absolutely. It was my choice. I was at Fox Sports-North, and Fox Sports-Wisconsin we’re obviously pretty much joined at the hip and once Wisconsin lost Trenni Kusnierek, who I thought did a great job for the Brewers last season, I thought it would be a good fit. And I’m definitely familiar with the NL Central. Before moving to Minneapolis a year and a half ago, I covered the St. Louis Cardinals for two years so I always kind of kept my eye on the NL Central and just have always been intrigued by it. And on top of that, last season I had an opportunity to fill in for Jeff Grayson on several occasions to host a lot of Brewers live pre-game and post-game shows. So, I just thought it would be a great opportunity to come over here and work with B.A. and Bill. They’re great guys. And fortunately my superiors felt the same way and it was a mutual kind of deal and once I made up my mind to do it, we made it happen.

And you mentioned that you have worked some Brewers Live broadcasts before and things like that. Did you get a chance to get to know some of the guys you’ll be working with this season?

As far as the players or my colleagues?

I’m talking about the other colleagues at Fox Sports-Wisconsin.

Yes. Last year, I mean he’s no longer with us, but Jeff Cirillo and I did numerous shows together. With B.A. and Bill we used to have a lot of internal meetings and they would come over to Minneapolis so I got a chance to talk with them then. Also I spent six days down in Arizona and every day we all hung out and had a chance to get to know each other and plus we got a little trial run when we televised the Brewers-Padres game back on the 31st of March. Yeah, it seems like we’re going to have a lot of fun. They’re baseball guys and I’m a baseball guy. I played baseball in college. So, I think it’s definitely going to be a fun year on the broadcast side.

It sounds like your role on the broadcast will be similar to what Trenni Kusnierek did last year — down on the field for pre-game and post-game, interviews, updates and stuff like that. Is that correct?

That is correct, but in addition I will probably do a little bit more hosting than Trenni did last season. Craig and I, we’re pretty much going to be interchangeable. There will be times when I host and he’ll do sidelines, but primarily, yes, I will be doing sideline. And also, in addition, we’ll be doing some radio after the game on Brewers Extra Innings.

OK, can you describe your style? What should Brewer fans expect from you when they’re watching games this season?

Pretty much an outgoing guy, I mean, a guy that you sit next to in a sports bar and talk sports. I mean, that’s pretty much my style. I would like to think that I bring a lot of energy. Also just someone that you can get to know. I look at myself as a fan who happens to have a really cool job. You can really expect hopefully very in-depth interviews as well as just information that you can’t get through blogs or the Internet or anything because I do realize that I can serve as a link between the fans and the players because I am around them all the time. But just energy, a guy that likes to have fun. I mean I’m pretty much a guy that once I get going the fans will definitely make their own judgments, but it’s pretty much a relaxed approach.

And you played baseball at Illinois State, right?

Correct.

What position did you play?

I pitched.

OK, how good were you? Are you going to be giving Manny Parra and Yovani some pointers?

(Laughs) I doubt it. I think the most I could do at this point is convince Ken Macha to let me throw BP at some point this season. But outside of that, I think those guys’ jobs are safe.

Alright. You’re from St. Louis originally. Is that right?

Originally from East St. Louis, Illinois. On the Illinois side of it.

OK, so we have to ask then, did you grow up as a fan of an NL Central team?

Uh, that’s a trick question (laughs), but you can’t pick where you’re raised and, yes, I did grow up as a Cardinals fan.

OK, but, you’re allegiances are now with the Brewers?

Absolutely. The Cardinals don’t pay my bills. It’ll be the Brewers. But I mean, I’ve definitely made the adjustments. I’ve been in sports television almost 10 years so I’ve covered a lot of teams, a lot of teams I grew up not liking, but, hey, you’ve got a job to do. And fortunately, this is a team, once again I was in Arizona and I got a chance to meet a lot of the guys, Mike Cameron, Billy Hall, Ryan Braun , I mean, all the guys seem to be really good guys. And once you’re around a team every day and you get to know them personally, you do, as a journalist covering a team, want to see them do well. So, I don’t think it will be hard at all to cover the Brewers and hopefully cover them well.

Yeah, that Cardinals/Brewers rivalry has really heated up over the years, especially the last half of last season. Did you notice that at all? I know you weren’t covering either of the teams last year, regularly anyway, but did you see that rivalry heating up?

Yes, I did, and I think just to sprinkle a little spice in it several Cardinals are now Brewers including the latest addition, Braden Looper, but, yeah, it really makes sense. Proximity wise it’s very feasible for both Brewers fans to go to St. Louis and for Cardinals fans to come up here to Milwaukee. Obviously the rivalry dates way back before us, you know, 1982 in that World Series. People don’t forget. I did notice it and I think it’s good for baseball. A lot of us Midwesterners, I think we all get kind of tired of everyone talking about the Yankee/Red Sox rivalry being the best rivalry and I’m not comparing the Brewers and Cardinals, but a good comparison would be the team they will host the home opener against and that’s the Brewers and Cubs. Last year, they had some great games.

Mhm, that’s another hot rivalry. Speaking of the Cubs and the Cardinals and the Brewers, how do you think the Brewers will do this year? Do you think they have a shot at the NL Central title?

You know what? I really do. And trust me, I’m not just saying that because I now work with the Brewers. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised with the starting rotation. I mean, yes, every starter is not going to win 15 games. We all know that. And last year was a very unique situation having Sheets pitching well and you get a guy like CC Sabathia. This rotation really reminds me of the Minnesota Twins rotation last year. At the beginning of the year, if you were to ask anybody outside of Minnesota to name at least two starters for the Twins, they couldn’t do it. But when the season got going, it was Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn and then they got Francisco Liriano. I mean, they really found a way to get good pitching from young pitchers. Yes, we all know that Suppan is going to be great, especially in the second half. Braden Looper is dealing with some injuries in spring. With Parra and the rest of them and definitely Gallardo, unfortunately the injury last year kind of slowed him down. And even Dave Bush. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see him reach double digits in wins this year. So, it’s definitely a good thing. And then you have a guy like Seth McClung who is definitely a guy who can step in for some spot duties at times. With all that being said, a lot of attention will be placed on the favorites, which will be the Cubs, and people think with Chris Carpenter healthy this year, the Cardinals will contend, but one through eight batting order wise I think the Brewers are as solid as any team in baseball. So, with that being said, they’re going to score runs and I think they have good enough pitching to be in there once September and October rolls around.

Alright, do you have anything else that you wanted to add at all?

No, I think just to let everyone in the bleachers and all Brewers fans know that I’m very excited to be here and I’m really looking forward to a great season and I think all of us will be treated to that, I mean, not just from the broadcasting side, but especially on the field. But I am excited to be here and I’m looking forward to another great season here.

Alright, well, thank you very much.

Thank you and please let me on some more.

Blake Billings Interview

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Right-handed starter Blake Billings joined Right Field Bleachers for a phone interview this evening. The 19-year-old prospect from Tuscaloosa, Ala. was drafted by the Brewers in the 19th round of the 2008 draft. The 6′5” pitcher went 10-3 with a 1.52 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 92 1/3 innings in his senior year of high school in 2008. He threw three shutouts and one no-hitter on the way to Hillcrest High School’s Class 6A baseball championship. And he didn’t slow down after joining the Rookie League Arizona Brewers in July, posting a 2.25 ERA and 15 strikeouts in just 12 innings. Currently working out in Arizona before minor-league Spring Training begins, Billings hopes to start the 2009 season in Appleton with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

You can listen to the interview here:

Hi, this is Jared with Right Field Bleachers and we have Blake Billings on the phone. We’re just going to ask a few questions to the Brewers pitching prospect.

First off, Blake, you’re working out down in Arizona. How has that been going for you so far?

It’s been going well. It was kind of new because I was just out of high school and this is the first time I’ve lived on my own, but other than that, I’ve adapted pretty well and I’ve gotten pretty used to it. It’s really enjoyable and I’m liking it so far.

And you’re just about to start your first Spring Training with the Brewers. Are you looking forward to that?

Yes, I’m really looking forward to that. I know a lot of players that are in the minor leagues and they say that Spring Training is one of the most fun times of the year so I guess it’s something to look forward to.

Sure, and you’re getting a chance to meet a lot of the other players in the organization. How has that been so far?

It’s been pretty fun and exciting, you know, I guess.

You were drafted last year in the 19th round by the Brewers. Did you have any indication going into the draft that they were thinking about taking you?

Yeah, they were actually the first team to really contact me back in February so I kind of figured it was probably going to be the Brewers that took me. They were kind of the no. 1 team that really called me all the time and did stuff like that.

OK, and what was your reaction when you were picked?

I was actually in Boston, Mass. We were out on a senior trip and I was eating at a place called Chicago’s Bar & Grill and the scout that drafted me, his name is Joe Mason, he called me and let me know that he was going to take me. He told me that it looked like the money was going to be right and I was just really excited. I was bouncing around Boston. We went to a game that evening and watched them play the Mariners. So, it was an exciting time in my life.

Yeah, was a tough decision for you to choose to sign or did it all fall together pretty quickly for you?

I had the set signing bonus and I wasn’t going to take anything less than that. When they called me and told me that they had the money for me, I was like, “You know what? This is what I want to do. This is what I’ve always wanted to do.” And I’ve heard from a lot of different scouts and a lot of different players that the Brewers have one of the best farm systems out of all 30 teams. So, it just kind of worked out for the best.

Sure, and your high school teammate (outfielder) Wayne Dedrick was drafted by the Brewers in the 30th round. Was that pretty special for you guys to get picked by the same organization?

Oh, that was amazing. The guys out here ask us how we pulled that one off. We were just blessed, really lucky to have that because when we got out here we both knew each other really well. I mean, we’ve lived across the street from each other. We’ve been going to the same school forever so it was kind of nice to know someone out here already.

Have the Brewers given you any indication where you’ll start out playing this year?

No, they will let me know after Spring Training in April so I’ll know then.

Do you have any hopes for where you’ll end up?

Well, I would love to be on a full-season team such as Wisconsin, the Timber Rattlers or whatever, the Low-A club. But, you know, my goal is just to make it to the big leagues and however long it takes is however long it takes. I just want to keep playing ball for as long as I can. As long as God let’s me play, I want to keep playing.

Can you give me a little scouting report on yourself? What kind of pitches do you throw and what are your strengths?

I’m a four-pitch guy. I throw a fastball, curveball, change-up and splitter. And, for me, it’s kind of like what day it is. Some days one pitch works better than the others and some days it doesn’t. For me I like to spot up. I usually don’t walk many players and stuff so it’s kind of whatever.

I think I read your fastball tops out in the low 90s. Is that about right right now?

Yeah, that was last season. I think the highest I hit was like 93 or something. Hopefully it gets better as we go along.

And I’ve also read that control is a strength of your game. Do you think that’s accurate?

Yes, I mean, that’s kind of like the main part of my game. If I have control, then that’s how I get guys out. I’ve never been much of a strikeout kind of guy, but I like to get groundballs and flyballs and stuff and let the defense play.

Is there any part of your game that you think you need to work on in particular?

The main thing for me is consistency, being able to locate all four pitches. I guess the people that are pitching in the big leagues right now, their greatest attribute is probably consistency. They can all throw strikes every day and locate all of their pitches every day.

Last year, you had a great start to your minor-league career with the Arizona Brewers. Can you talk about that experience a little bit?

That was really nice to know that I can compete out here. You know, coming out of high school you never know. You never know what’s going on. You didn’t really know what to expect. And after going out there, you know, your first outing, I was extremely nervous. I didn’t want to mess up. I had a good first outing and it was all good from there.

Yeah, and what does that kind of a start do for your confidence going into this year?

Well, it’s kind of nice. You always have that in the back of your mind, but the farther you move up, the better the competition gets so you just kind of have to step it up and get on whatever level you’re at and try to get better. Obviously, being in the minors is not the goal you want. You want to be in the big leagues and that’s my main goal and that’s where I want to be.

Have you been up to Milwaukee at all? Have you seen Miller Park?

I actually haven’t. I have not been to Milwaukee. Mr. Mason, the scout that drafted me, really had no reason for me to go because the cross checker and all had seen me pitch and I guess they had liked what they had seen so they just did not invite me to the pre-draft camp.

So, I imagine you’re looking forward to checking that out when you get the chance?

I mean, that’d be amazing to be able to pitch in Milwaukee and pitch in front of all of those fans. That’s something to just look forward to. That’d be a dream come true.

In Milwaukee, as a pitcher, a starter, you’d have to take some swings too. How do you handle the bat?

Ha, um, I wasn’t much of a hitter in high school. I was just mainly a pitcher and that’s all I did. So, you know, it’d just be another exciting moment I guess, something that’s a little different for me.

And when you’re up with the team, what do you think your at-bat song would be?

I’m not real sure.

Well, you’ve got some time to figure that out I guess.

Yeah.

OK, well, is there anything else you’d like to add? Anything you think Brewers fans should know about you?

I guess just know that I love the game and I’m looking forward to moving up and being a part of the Brewers organization and ultimately get a chance to play with the big league club one day.

Well, thank you very much and good luck going into this season.

Thank you.

Cory Provus Interview

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Cory Provus, who was calling a Brewers/Cubs game at Wrigley Field last year in this photo, will share the booth with Hall of Fame Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker, background, this year as the duo calls Brewers games on WTMJ radio.

Cory Provus was officially named today as the successor to Jim Powell on Brewers radio broadcasts and he was kind enough to answer a few questions from us. The 30-year-old Illinois native is coming off a stint with WGN radio doing the Cubs pre-game and post-game shows and the play-by-play announcing for one inning of each game. The Syracuse grad tells Brewers fans not to worry about his allegiances, saying, “I want the Brewers to win every game” in the heated rivalry. And it’s no act, he told Illinois newspapers “I’m a Brewer now” earlier today. So, rest easy and enjoy Provus’ strong delivery, descriptive style and passion for storytelling this season. I think we’ll like him here. In my opinion, his hiring is the first win for the Brewers over the Cubs this season.

Listen to the interview here (complete with a few call-waiting beeps provided by RFB Joe, who called during the interview):

Hi, this is Jared with Right Field Bleachers and we have new Brewers radio broadcaster on the phone. I guess first off, congratulations on the job and we’re happy to have you here.

Thank you, Jared. I’m excited to be here.

Can you talk a little about the interview process? How did you decide you were interested in the job and how did the whole process play out?

Well, let me tell you I was interested from day one. There have been a couple of jobs that have been open the last couple of seasons, but this is the only one that I’ve applied for because of the situation for a variety of reasons. I think it’s an exciting time to be a part of this team coming off a playoff run. It’s a young, exciting team. It’s a great offense. That played a role. The fact that the Brewers call Miller Park home, which is a terrific ballpark, and the fans are tremendous both home and on the road, that was a factor. Working alongside a guy like Bob Uecker, you know, I’m a student of the game of baseball. I’ve always loved it and there’s so much about the game that I know that Bob can teach me. That was a big role as well. And then I would say to top it all of is that I’m a family guy. I’m a Midwestern guy. My family is all in the northern suburbs of Illinois and that’s where they’re at and the fact that they’re only going to be about 50 minutes away from Milwaukee really kind of made this a perfect situation for me.

The interview process was great. It started picking up steam probably in mid January and that led to some phone calls and some interviews both at the radio station and with the team. And last week, actually two weeks ago, I flew out to Arizona and I had dinner with Bob and we had a great time for three hours, just kind of talking shop for maybe five minutes and then it was just laughing and telling stories for the remaining two hours and 55 minutes. So, everything kind of just fit in perfectly for me and I’m just excited to get going.

While Jim Powell was here, he was employed by WTMJ and not the Brewers so he could have impartiality when he was broadcasting. Do you have a similar arrangement?

Yes, I’m employed by WTMJ.

OK, and reports said that WTMJ was looking for the new broadcaster to have an expanded role with the station. Can you tell us anything about that?

Yeah, I’m going to be involved in the offseason a good bit, whether it’s filling in on morning and afternoon drive sportscasts or kind of jumping on a talk show here and there, but, yeah, I’m kind of going to be around the station in the offseason a good bit. As far as what exactly that entails, I’ll find out, but I’m open for it. That’s part of it and I understand and I’m looking forward to it because the people that I’ve met have been tremendous. It’s a beautiful station. And, yeah, so that’s a part of it. That’s all I really know about it right now, but once I go through it this offseason, I’ll be able to kind of experience it once and go from there.

You’ve worked with Pat Hughes, who is a former Brewers radio broadcaster. Did you talk to him about Milwaukee and the Brewers at all?

Oh sure. Pat is one of my big mentors. Pat has been a dear friend, but just an even better mentor the last couple of years. He was involved early in this process. He told me how great of a town Milwaukee is and how, not only the city but the state of Wisconsin, they embrace the game of baseball. And again getting back to what I said earlier about joining this team right now at such an exciting time. More than 3 million people watched games last year at Miller Park and season ticket sales are going incredibly well so it’s just a perfect time to join this organization and this radio station.

You mentioned Bob Uecker earlier. Did you know him previous to interviewing for the job?

I met him a little bit, Jared. I kind of met him a bit, especially the last couple years , you get to meet all of the other broadcasters, specifically in the division because you see them so often. Yeah, I got to know Bob a little bit, but not nearly to the level I did a couple of weeks ago. I never really had more than a couple minute chat with him, but I did this time around. We sat there, as I said, for three hours and that was great. Finally getting to know him now, this is really going to be an exciting time for me. The chance to sit with him and again work with him for six months is just going to be a tremendous opportunity.

Can you describe your announcing style? What should Brewers fans expect from you when they tune into the games later this year?

You know, I’ve always loved the medium of radio. I’ve done some TV, but I’ve always loved radio more. The medium, I think, is a challenging one, but it’s a fun one. I think of my style as a very descriptive style. You hear all the time that with radio you have to paint this picture, well, that’s obvious, but you want to challenge yourself. How far are you willing to go? Instead of just painting the picture, how descriptive can one be? And that’s something that I pride myself on because I don’t think it’s possible to be too descriptive in a radio broadcast. What I try to do is make it somewhat three-dimensional and not just paint the picture, but just kind of paint this clear, vivid and descriptive one.

In addition to that, I also like telling some stories. I think the fans listening are not just the guys that do fantasy baseball all of the time. I like humanizing it a bit and telling stories about players and their families and things like that. So, for the Brewer fan that is 85 years old that has loved this team forever that doesn’t care that so-and-so is in the midst of a 15-game hitting streak or has reached safely in 17 of his last 20 games, they want to hear about some charity work that he’s done on an off day or during the day prior to game time. Things like that. I like doing that stuff a good bit as well in addition to getting all the basics across, being informative, but entertain as well. But, again, I would say being descriptive is my biggest strength and secondly just the ability to make a broadcast three-dimensional is something that I take a lot of pride in as well.

OK, well, Uecker is a Hall of Fame story teller, so it sounds like you guys will mesh well on that front then.

Oh, yeah, that’s a big part of this. I’m really looking forward to sitting with him and hearing all these things because I love to laugh and I love hearing new stories. So, hopefully we’ll be able to do that plenty this season.

Now, you’re from Illinois, you grew up a diehard Cubs fan and you’re coming off a gig with WGN, the Cubs flagship. I think some fans are a little concerned about having an “enemy,” so to speak in the hometown radio booth. What can you tell them to ease their minds a little bit?

To be honest with you, if I thought that was going to be a problem, then I wouldn’t have applied for the job. And in a way too, Jared, I’ve been through this before. I’m a proud Syracuse graduate and when I was there and I was doing games, Virginia Tech was one of Syracuse’s biggest rivals, specifically in football. At this point, Virginia Tech was still in the Big East. We had some hard fought games, Syracuse and Virginia Tech. It was ’98 when it came down to the last seconds and Donovan McNabb through a game-winning touchdown pass and SU won at the horn. The following year, I did the game again, this time in Blacksburg, and Virginia Tech won like 62-0 or 66-0 and some tough times, some tough emotional games to be there for as a broadcaster. But, sure enough, where was my first job out of school? Virginia Tech. And I was there for three years and the Hokie community embraced me from day one and never once was I called in for a meeting saying, “Hey, we played Syracuse the other day and we felt you were a bit biased.” That never happened because I’m a professional broadcaster and I realize where I’m at right now.

I can’t do much about where I grew up, but I would not have accepted this job if I thought that was going to be a problem because I want the Brewers to win. The Brewers and Cubs play plenty this season, in Spring Training and the regular season, and I want the Brewers to win every game. That’s my job. That’s what I’m here for and that’s what I look forward to doing.

Talking about the Cubs/Brewers games, that’s developed into quite a rivalry over the last few years hasn’t it?

Oh yeah, it’s been great. It’s been a fun, fun series to be a part of. Some dramatic games on both sides. I think the game last year, the 2008 opener, a 0-0 game going into the ninth inning and then Milwaukee gets three off Kerry Wood in the top of the inning and then the Cubs get three back off Eric Gagne in the bottom and then the Brewers eventually win it in extra innings. That was off to such a great start alone. There have been some great moments. I mean, last year the final weekend of the regular season where Milwaukee took two of three from the Cubs that weekend and then won that last Sunday. Sabathia pitched great, some dramatic hits and sure enough, an hour later, find out the Mets lose and the celebration was on. That was a dramatic weekend, a great weekend for the city, the state and Brewers fans all over the country as their team was finally heading back to the playoffs for the first time since ’82. You know, I mean, there have been some great moments and hopefully there will be some more dramatic moments coming up this year and hopefully down the line.

As someone who has got to watch the team pretty closely over the last handful of years being down there in Chicago, what do you think of the team?

Oh, I think that their offense is loaded. I think the offense the Brewers have is loaded. The key parts are back. Obviously, the set back with Bill Hall was not too good coming out of the first couple days of Spring Training, but there seems to be some depth there at third base. But Yovani Gallardo is as talented as anyone in the game. He’s so young. If he can stay healthy, he is a guy you want at the top of your rotation. Obviously, the Brewers have a lot of innings and wins to fill with the losses of Sabathia and Sheets. That’s not going to just happen over night. You’re going to find one or two guys to fill that void. At the same time, there are some guys that have been around. I think the signing of Braden Looper was a terrific signing, a guy that knows the division well, a guy that’s a veteran. I think that’s a big help. But again, this offense I think is going to probably carry the team. The offense is explosive. They can hit for power. They can hit for average. There’s speed at the top of the lineup. There’s speed in the outfield. Watching Mike Cameron play centerfield I think is worth the price of a ticket. It’s an exciting time to be there. It’s an exciting time to watch this team because there are so many young superstars.

And do you have a prediction for ’09 at all?

You know what, I’m not one that really predicts a lot. I think predicting baseball is nearly impossible. I don’t think that anybody in their right mind predicted that Tampa Bay was going to win the East, let alone the pennant last year. So, I think predicting baseball is so hard. It’s such a long season. You know that saying “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” is so true with the game of baseball because there are so many things that happen throughout the year. There are some that you think might happen and then there’s so many things that happen that you never expected. I mean, who ever expected a guy like Aaron Harang last year would have trouble like he did. Nobody expected that. Everybody can have a .500 season here or there, but he was sub .500. I think baseball is really hard to predict so I try to stay away from predicting wins and losses and things like that because you just never know.

Will you be heading to Spring Training pretty soon here?

Yeah, I’m leaving Sunday. I’m leaving Sunday for Arizona and then I’ll be there for the duration. My first game broadcasting is Wednesday, next Wednesday, so I’m looking forward to it.

Anything else you wanted to add at all?

I’m looking forward to it. I look forward to some feedback throughout the way and chatting with fans. Again, I’m really that kind of guy. I’m an open kind of humble man. If people want to come up and tell me if they’re enjoying the broadcast or not, “I’d like it if you did this more,” I’m open to that. I’m open to feedback and comments so by all means I’ll look for that along the way.

OK, well, thank you very much and good luck this season.

 

Thanks, Jared. Talk to you soon. 

Brae Wright Interview

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Brewers prospect Brae Wright was nice enough to break away from his relaxing offseason to talk with us on the phone. And before we knew it, almost a half hour passed… The 6′5″ lefty starter was drafted by the Brewers in 2006 in the sixth round out of Oklahoma State. He’s shot up the Brewers’ system ever since, advancing at least one level each season, and he will likely start the 2009 season in Nashville. His great 2008 season in Huntsville has garnered him some more attention as a prospect to watch and he currently sits at #27 on the BrewerFan Power 50 and the BrewerFan Top Prospect Fan Poll.

You can listen to the interview here:

Alright, this is Jared with Right Field Bleachers and I have Brae Wright on the phone. I’m just going to ask a few questions.

I guess first off, how’s the offseason going for you so far?

Pretty good, man. I guess just trying to get prepared for this upcoming season, just the day-to-day working out, throwing, dealing with the winter weather and that’s pretty much it as far as the baseball is concerned.

And you pitched on the Taxi Squad in the Arizona Fall League this fall, right?

Yes.

How was that experience for you?

It was fun. It was, you know, along with getting to meet different people from different organizations and kind of getting a taste for how different organizations run things and things of that nature, it was a good experience. The competition is obviously a high level. You get to see a lot of great competition, basically. So, it’s fun and it gives you a chance to measure yourself up. You see well, this is supposed to be the upper echelon of prospects or whatever, so it’s fun to see how you do against those guys.

I think if I was looking at the stats right, you were used mostly as a reliever down there. Will you be starting again in 2009?

As far as I know. Unless there are some changes within the organization, I think that that’s kind of the plan for now. You know, that’s not really my decision, but as far as I know, I’ll still be starting, yeah.

Is that what you’d prefer too?

I enjoy it. I enjoy starting. You know, it was different because when I was out there, I was strictly relief. I was throwing one or two innings here and there, which is fun. It’s a little bit different. I think it’s a different mindset altogether, but it’s definitely a challenge in itself, the difference between the two, but both are fun and I enjoy doing both. You know, whatever. Whatever it takes.

Can you give us a little scouting report on yourself? What kind of pitches do you throw?

Two-seam fastball. I’ve played with throwing a cutter also. Slider. Change-up. Curveball. That’s it.

Do you have an out pitch, one you like to go to in that kind of a situation?

You know what? If I would have to just pick one, I guess I would say the slider. You know, you get guys in a favorable pitcher’s count, I’d say I’d go with the slider.

I think I saw that your fastball tops out in the high 80s usually, is that right?

Yeah, I mean, high 80s, low 90s. I never really throw, I don’t get any higher than that really. So, I’d say low 90s would be my top out. To be honest with you, I kind of quit keeping up with that, but I know that I touched in the 90s somewhere along the way. That’s not really my forte, throwing hard, but I’ve gotten up there a little bit.

Yeah, and how do you make up for not having that overpowering fastball?

I think it’s been a learning process, but it’s definitely keeping hitters off balance, mixing it up, keeping the ball down in the zone and trying to create as much movement as possible and mixing up your locations as well with different pitches.

Is there a Major League pitcher that you sort of model your game after or that you think is comparable to you?

I don’t necessarily model my game after any pitcher in particular, but there are definitely pitchers that I see myself, I guess, comparable to. What’s the guy there for the Cubs? The lefty? Rich Hill maybe?

Yeah, Rich Hill is a younger guy on the team.

(Editor’s Note: In retrospect, he might have been trying to think of Sean Marshall, who seems to compare pretty favorably with him. Hill is also a lefty, but he has a strikeout curveball, whereas Marshall is more of a contact pitcher, like Wright)

I see them, you know, when I watch a Major League game. I’ll say, “OK, that guy has kind of got comparable stuff.” Suppan is somewhat of a good example, I guess. You know, a guy that doesn’t throw with overpowering stuff, but gets guys outs through making them make contact. Kind of a Tom Glavine-esque pitcher. I’m not going to be your no. 1, no. 2 starter type guy that overpowers guys or has a really overpowering curveball or something like that. You know, basically just a grinder.

Sure, relying on hitting your spots and eating up some innings then?

Basically, yes, that’s kind of the game plan is to get through the game as much as you can and keep the runs down and give the bullpen some relief, eat as many innings as you can and go from there.

Have you been told where you’ll be starting out in 2009?

I have not. That stuff kind of pans itself out once you get to Spring Training. They kind of give you some sort of expectations, but they’re never really that upfront with you, saying “Oh, you’re definitely going to be here” or whatever, but they can kind of shed a little light on the subject to kind of give you some encouragement like, “You had a great year.” I mean, they never really came right out and said anything to me, but hopefully I’ll be able to move up.

If you do start out in Nashville, let’s say, what do you think your goals are for the year?

Kind of what I started last year. My goal last year was to kind of get back on the map with the organization. You know, I didn’t start off as hot with my career or whatever so my goal was to get back on the map. And now I guess my goal is to kind of just keep it going. I feel like I’ve somewhat put myself back on the map with the Brewers and so basically it’s just to continue to do what I’ve been doing. You know, there are some areas of improvement obviously that you can always be doing, but basically my goal is to just do well and stay consistent and healthy throughout the year.

In 2007, things started out kind of rough for you in West Virginia, but you seemed to put it together later on in the year and you moved up to Brevard County. Did things just start clicking for you as the season moved on? What happened?

It did. I think kind of what happened is I started off the year and things were a little rocky. We made several different mechanical…we toyed with different things mechanically to try to figure out some things that would work and improve my game a little bit. And, basically, I developed a really good relationship with the pitching coach and he said, “You know, it’s a thing where you’re going to have to take your bumps and bruises if you’re willing to do that in order to advance your career” by doing things like picking up a little more movement on my fastball and learning how to pitch off of that and just improving all my offspeed pitches. Basically, it took a while for all that stuff to start clicking.

It was like I told him, we sat there and talked about it after this year, I saw him and I was like, “Do you remember those times where every game it seemed like I was giving up four and five and six runs and, you know, not throwing that many?” We just kind of laughed about it after that because it just got to a point where just one game it was like a lightbulb went off and it just started feeling more natural. And not to say, “Oh, well, now that that happened, everything is just going to be hunky-dory,” but from that point on, I learned that based off of getting my brains beat in for half of a season, if not more, I had to bounce back from that. And he kind of alluded to that and said “If you ever have those bad games, this is what you have to do to bounce back from it.” I think that was the main thing I took from that season. So, it’s kind of good that it happened in a sense. I learned how to get out of that funk a little bit quicker than letting it last half the season. But, yeah, it was pretty rough the first part of the season there.

When you did start having that success in Brevard County, you really built on it and you had a nice season in Huntsville last year. That’s supposed to be a pretty big jump up to AA. Why do you think it went so well for you?

Again, that was a good building point for me, going back to the West Virginia year in ‘07. I get a glimpse of, I guess, confidence and it just kind of took off from there and then I finished it off in Brevard and did well there. So, it really get my confidence back and from there, I went into Spring Training with a little more confidence. I got to Spring Training with that same mindset and that’s just kind of what happened. I just had a little more confidence. I went in like it was no big deal and took it into Spring Training, did well there and got there and was just kind of like “It’s now or never to prove yourself.” That’s kind of the mindset I took.

And it wasn’t that easy saying “Hey, well, you know, it’s now or never, let’s just do it and see what happens.” It took a lot of sitting down with the pitching coach and going in and watching film and really learning how to pitch and doing more homework on the hitters and having more of a gameplan. So, it was kind of like the combination of OK, now I know that I’ve got good enough stuff to get the job done, but to one up that, this is what you have to do. You know, you can have good stuff and still get hit around. It was a good learning process. I think I just was more willing to learn quicker when I got past the fact that it wasn’t the fact that my stuff wasn’t good enough. So, I didn’t second guess myself. It was just learning what to do with the stuff that I have.

And what do what do you think you need to do to make it the Major League level? Is there a part of your game that you want to focus on?

Yeah, I think at this point it’s just to continue to do what I’ve been doing and obviously you want to not make as many mistakes. I mean, not that I made a huge amount of mistakes, but that’s the difference between guys at the level I’m at and guys that are in the Major Leagues. They make less mistakes because there is less room for mistakes. So, it’s just the fact of being prepared when you get there. You don’t want to make those mistakes over the middle of the plate or whatever. So, I think the more consistent I can be and the better control that I have, the more prepared I’ll be to be there. To be honest with you, I don’t think that I’m going to wake up one morning and have a 95-mile-per-hour fastball and a hammer or whatever. I think it’s just a matter of not making as many mistakes or the least amount I can make.

What player that you’ve played with in the minors do you think will have the most success on the Major League level? One of your teammates?

That Huntsville team, man, last year was stacked with them. I mean, aside from the obvious, you’ve got Escobar and Gamel. I mean, I think Escobar is going to be an unbelievable player at the Major League level. He may or may not win your hitting title, but he’ll be making plays that are Web Gems on a nightly basis I would think. And Gamel, with the way he hits, it was just impressive. I mean, other teams would come in town talking about it. I mean, I didn’t really go into any other town talking about what some of the hitters were doing. Just to have guys from other teams coming in talking about our team, and especially him, at the time he was hitting in the .380s and this was like midway through the season. It was just impressive. It was fun to watch.

Yeah, do you think he was slowed by injuries in the second half?

You know, he’s not the type of person that you would ever know if anything was bothering him. I think he mentioned late in the season that his arm was just kind of sore feeling or whatever, but you know he’s a tough kid and I think at that point in the season everybody is playing through a little something. It’s one of those things that with that many games it’s very rare that you’re going to be 100 percent. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it or not. Like I said, it’s hard to know because everybody is going to have some sort of nag, but I think that just with as well as he was doing, it’s kind of impossible to think that somebody can hit close to .400 an entire season. You know what I mean? Yeah, maybe his numbers dropped a little bit at the end, but I think maybe it was just because they were so far up there, they had nowhere to go. Like I said, I’m not real sure what caused that.

As a pitcher, you had to appreciate those Web Gems that Escobar was making behind you, huh?

Oh man, it was awesome. I remember, it was really funny, because before I left Spring Training, one of our pitching coaches, he’s at a different level, but I used to talk to him a lot, he was alluding to the fact that we might not have Escobar for the entire season because he might get promoted or whatever, but he said, “If you have more than three or four walks in 10 starts if he’s there, if you’re lucky enough to have him for that long, you might as well walk behind the stadium and,” you know, he was being funny, but he said, “you might as well just take your own life back there if you walk more than three people.” He goes, “You might as well just throw it to the hitter. You know it’s almost a sure out if it’s on the ground anywhere on that side of the field.” It was pretty funny because, at that point, I hadn’t really played with him and then I knew kind of what he meant once I got there. It’s definitely, it’s something that it makes it a lot easier whenever you’re pitching to know that you’ve got a solid defense behind you and he’s a big part of that.

Yeah, especially with the kind of pitcher you are, right? Because you’re trying to make contact, trying to get groundballs?

Exactly. I mean, if I can get a guy out on the first couple pitches and get him to roll over something and, you know, anything on the ground, I consider that job done, man, I did it. Again, that’s just the kind of the pitcher that I am, but, like you were saying, it definitely makes life a whole lot easier when you have guys like that out there.

If you do make it up to Milwaukee as a starter, you’re going to have to take some at bats. How do you handle the bat?

Oh man, I did alright this year, I think. It was definitely a new experience. If you think about it, for most of us pitchers, if you went to college, you’re talking about the last time we picked up a bat, for most of us, was in high school. So, to go from hitting in high school and then however many years — three, four, five years or whatever — and then jumping right into AA pitching, it’s kind of a little bit different. But it’s not intimidating whatsoever. For me, it’s really fun. The majority of the times you get up there, you’ve got some sort of objective. Most of the time, it’s bunting. So, that’s not too bad. There’ll be at bats where you may get up there and there’s nobody on base and the third base coach says “swing away” and I mean it’s fun. To me, it’s like going back to being a little kid again. You get up there and take some hacks and see what happens.

Some pitchers say that it gives you a little different perspective, seeing the pitches from the plate rather than throwing them from the mound. Did you get any of that at all?

It does because when you’re just pitching, you’re never thinking…whenever you get up there and all of a sudden you’re thinking about, “He’s probably going to come with this pitch or that pitch” and you’re trying to go along and think with him or whatever the case, I get all whacked out because I just try not to think about it. That’s just kind of my approach. But anyway, it’s definitely a different ballgame from that side of the perspective, being in the batter’s box. I cannot even imagine if I was trying to get paid to do that part of the game because it’s tough to hit man. My hat goes off to those guys. Some of those guys that are up there throwing are nasty. I mean, the majority of them are. It’s a different ballgame up there, for sure.

What are some of things you like to do when you’re not playing baseball?

These days I just really enjoy being at home here in Atlanta spending time with my wife and just enjoying the downtime from the season. I love to cook. Her and I really get into that. When we have time, we’ll do that. I’ll cook a lot. I really enjoy it. I like going fishing. A lot of times, I’ll do that during the season with some of the guys. We’ll go off fishing or something. You know, just downtime basically is what I do. These days, I basically don’t get into a whole lot.

There’s one last thing I have to clear up. On your Oklahoma State bio I saw that your favorite Major League team was St. Louis. Have your NL Central allegiances changed since your college days?

Oh, for sure, man. I think that that was just kind of because when I lived in Memphis, there was no Major League teams. I guess the closest thing was either St. Louis or Atlanta and since the Red Birds were there in Memphis, their AAA affiliate, I just kind of followed them. Guys would come up through Memphis and I would just follow them from there to St. Louis. So, it was just kind of that I liked them just because I kept up with them a little bit.

You know, now that I’m playing, things are a lot different. The only team I watch on TV is the Brewers. I pull for them and, I guess just because I got drafted by them and I’m in the organization, I’ve become a huge fan. I’m like a little kid when I’m watching their games too. It’s pretty fun watching those guys and especially because you get an opportunity to kind of meet some of them and play alongside them. You know, it’s fun. So, I think I’ve really become a pretty big Brewer fan and I probably will be if something happens and my career path takes a different road or something, I think I’ll still, because that was my first experience, I’ll think I’ll always look to the Brewers when I’m watching games or whatever.

Yeah, so that must have been pretty cool to see some of the guys you were playing with jumping up and down in the Brewers dugout at the end of the season.

Oh yeah, it was awesome. I talked to some of them. Salome got called up and Escobar and Gamel. I roomed actually with Salome in the Fall League and we sat out in the outfield and just talked about it. It’s really exciting. You can see guys’ dreams come true and it’s fun to see and hopefully a lot of guys get to experience that because I know all of these guys dream about it and it’s exciting. It really is. Even if it’s one of your good buddies. It’s always exciting. It never gets old.

Well, we all hope we see you in that dugout sooner than later.

Heck yeah, man.

Thanks a lot for the interview. We really appreciate it.

Yeah, no problem at all. Thanks for calling, man.

Trenni Kusnierek End of Year Interview

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Trenni Kusnierek of FSN Wisconsin was kind enough to do a second interview with Right Field Bleachers this season to help wrap up our coverage of the 2008 season here. She discusses the magical season, what’s in store for CC and Sheets and how she’ll spend some much deserved time off.

Listen to the interview here:

This is Jared from Right Field Bleachers and I have Trenni Kusnierek on the phone from FSN Wisconsin. I’m just going to ask a couple questions to sort of wrap up the Brewers season.

First off, it’s been over for a few days now, what are your thoughts on the season?

I think you have to absolutely consider it a success. They hadn’t been to the playoffs in 26 years. They made it. They won a game. You know, I don’t think that’s the showing that the team wanted to have. They had every intention of playing better against Philadelphia and making a run at the NLCS. I know they were confident that they could do it, but they just kind of ran out of steam at the end of the year. To say that the season wasn’t a success would be a disservice to the guys, to Dale Sveum and even to Ned Yost and what they accomplished and what they did for the city.

This city was so alive. You could be walking down the street in the middle of July and they’d be playing a game and you’d hear bars erupt with people just so excited about a winning run or a great catch. It really energized the city and brought a lot of people together. Obviously seeing what happened at Miller Park is proof of that. I think the season was an absolute success. It was disappointing that it had to end in early October instead of late October or early November, but a success nonetheless.

I know you have to stay professional as you cover the team, but you grew up a Brewers fan. What was it like to experience the team’s first playoff run in 26 years being so close to the team?

It was amazing. I think it’s obvious that although we have to be somewhat objective and not be afraid to criticize the team or ask questions when questions need to be asked, you’re supposed to, at the heart of it, be a bit of a fan. You’re supposed to support the team. We fly on the charter. We have access to players that other people don’t get. It was an absolute thrill.

To be on the field, I brought my brother down and one of his friends, to be on the field when the Mets lost and we clinched and to turn around to go do interviews and have an entire bottle of champagne dumped over my head, that’s a dream come true to be a part of that, to be a part of the celebration. It was unbelievable.

When Ryan Braun hit the home run to put the Brewers up 3 to 1 against the Cubs, I literally got choked up because I knew at that point that they were going to win the game. I had no doubt that they were going to win the game. I had a feeling the Mets were going to lose. I was only 5 the last time they went to the playoffs. So, to experience that and be a part of it  and to go down on the field and hug Bill and Brian and Craig and my brother and everybody else in the Brewers’ family, I think any reporter in town, even one that works for a local affiliate, will tell you that it was amazing.

Speaking as a fan, it was certainly a great season, a little disappointing at the end, obviously, because you hoped the team would go further, but it was a great step in the right direction and a lot of fun. What was the mood in the clubhouse following that last game on Sunday?

Disapointed, but I think there was some definite optimism. I don’t think the guys were happy that the season ended. I mean, a lot of them hung out in the dugout way past the final pitch. A lot of them seemed very confident in the ownership group, in Doug Melvin, that they are going to go after the pieces that they need to continue to be successful. You know, CC Sabathia made it very clear that he was going to listen to any offer. Whether or not the Brewers sign CC, I don’t even know if that’s possible. I think Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio, you know, you’re going to clear up some salary. You’re going to clear up $10 million with Gagne. You may clear up some money with Mike Cameron. Is there a trade? Obviously maybe you make a trade with Billy Hall or Rickie Weeks and get some other movable parts in there, maybe a guy who takes pitches a little better.

I don’t think you can say anything but positive things about the moves Doug Melvin has made and they know that they’re really just a few pieces away from being a contender. You look at the way Yovani Gallardo performed this year, maybe if you get another really good pitcher in there, you’d have a pretty good 1-2 punch again. Now, getting someone like CC was unbelievable. You may not get someone of his caliber, but if you can get someone close to that, I don’t think the team is going to be in dire straits next year like some people think it’s going to be.

You mentioned Sabathia, what were your impressions? Did you think that his comments about wanting to try to come back to Milwaukee were genuine?

Yeah, absolutely. The reason I think that is I’ve had a chance to talk to his family a little bit. I’ve talked to his wife a number of times and I’ve talked to his cousin and one of his friends. They all said that CC genuinely likes Milwaukee.

CC was pretty emotional in the clubhouse. He became friends with those guys and I don’t think that he expected to become as close to the guys in the clubhouse as he actually did. And that says a lot. That goes a long way for a player. If you’re comfortable with guys and you feel like you’re part of a team that wants to win and you feel like you’re part of a team that can help each other win, that’s a driving force.

Now, money is a huge, huge thing, family security. We all know these guys don’t work until they’re 60. So, security is a huge, huge thing. CC is from the California area, but he spent the last 11 years, 10 years, in the Midwest. I don’t think it will happen, but if it does happen, it wouldn’t shock me based on how CC liked it here. What would be shocking is that maybe the Brewers came up with enough money to offer him.

What about Sheets? What was his mood like following that last game?

Very emotional. He got very choked up in our interview with him. I asked him how proud he was of the guys and about his memories in Milwaukee. He was very choked up about that he loved the guys in the clubhouse and the hardest thing about walking out that day is that he may never put on a Brewers uniform again.

He did make a joke. He said, “We all thought Cirillo wasn’t coming back and ‘Rillo came back and played in Milwaukee again. So, you never know, I may pull on a Brewers uniform again.” But I think he knows he may not.

However, now that he has this elbow issue, he may not command the money in the free agent market that everyone thought he was going to. There’s going to be red flags. I don’t think the Brewers would sign him to a long-term deal, but they may get him for one year for the money that they paid an Eric Gagne. They may get him for one year for $8, $9, $10 million and say, “Listen, if you’re healthy after that, we’ll talk long-term contract, but if you can’t stay healthy, we’re going to be done with you.” You never know, but the injury, as strange as it may seem, may have played in the Brewers’ favor in keeping him around for just one more year.

How do the players like Dale Sveum and do you think he’ll be back?

Oh, they love him. They love him. Whether or not he’ll be back, I don’t know. The fact that he made it to the playoffs and he helped that team rebound, I think at the very least he deserves an interview, he deserves consideration. But the players, they adored him  when he was a third base coach. You would talk to them about any aspect of baseball whether it be hitting, fielding, just having a head for the game, the name that always came up, and they loved Jim Skaalen as well and Eddie Sedar, but the name that constantly came up … was Dale Sveum, even before he was named manager. I think it speaks volumes for how much they respect him.

Now, whether or not, Mark and Doug want to go with an unproven guy? Or do they want to go with a guy that’s taken a team to the playoffs before? That’s yet to be seen. But you like at a guy like Joe Girardi. Who was he before the Yankees got him? Yeah, he was a former Yankee, he had taken Florida into the playoffs [sic], but I don’t think you could call him a huge-name candidate in any way, shape or form to replace Joe Torre and yet they went with somebody who they felt comfortable with, who had been in the organization before that guys really liked and could relate to. So, you never know.

You were talking about some offseason moves. Now, you’ve got some time off. Will you be working for FSN on the Bucks coverage?

Yes, I will. I will. I actually did a one-on-one with John Hammond last night at the preseason game. I’ll take a few weeks off. I’m not going to go back to work until the week of the 22nd. We have a meeting and then I’ll travel with the Bucks to Chicago on the 28th. Up until then, I’m going to hang out, relax. I have piles of laundry, piles of mail, expense reports that I haven’t done, if you can believe this, since the All-Star Break. So, I’ve got about four or five expense reports to do. And I’m just going to relax, hang out, see my family, enjoy Sunday football, go to some weddings, which I usually have to say no to. So, it will be nice. It’s only two or three weeks, but it’ll be nice to have some down time.

And will you be back covering the Brewers in ’09?

Every indication is yes. I don’t see why not unless a huge network comes calling. That would be the only way, maybe the only way that I wouldn’t be back, but I love it. I love covering the team. I love the organization. It is a first class organization from top to bottom, I mean everybody I worked with. I could not have asked for a better return home and that’s not just a company line. That’s the truth. I loved everybody I worked with. We’re pretty lucky. We’re lucky in Milwaukee to have such a good group of people running the baseball team.

Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

“The Maniac” Interview

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

RFB's Johnny with "The Maniac"

Robert T. Beaudoin, a.k.a. “The Maniac,” was kind enough to answer some questions for Right Field Bleachers. Beaudoin is well-known for his unique cheering style and boundless enthusiasm for the Brew Crew. The longtime Brewer fanatic talks about his love for the Crew, how he became “The Maniac” and what the Brewers need to do down the stretch.

You went to most of the games this past week, right? That had to have been a pretty tough stretch to go through. I know it was tough watching most of those games from home.

Yes. I had the whole week off of work last week and went to all the games vs. the NY Mets and San Diego. I felt we could have won a few of those games. Our Brewers need to start winning now.

But the season so far has been exciting. Have you enjoyed seeing playoff-caliber baseball for the first time in a long time in Milwaukee?

Yes. This has been the most exciting season at Miller Park ever. At County Stadium, the last exciting year was 1992.

How long have you been going to Brewers games? And do you have a favorite game
of all time?

I’ve been going to games at County Stadium and Miller Park combined for 20 years. Although we lost that game, my most memorable moment was September 9, 1992, when my all-time favorite Brewer, Robin Yount, hit his 3,000th career base hit.

When did you become “The Maniac”? And what is the story behind it?

I started out as a nobody in September 1988. It took some years to develop my style of cheering, as well as becoming “The Maniac.” Some like the way I cheer for the Brewers and some don’t. In the 1990s is when I became famous. I was on TV a lot for a lot of things such as for my headbanging days on the fence in the County Stadium bleachers. I used to wear a major league helmet on my head and banged my head on the fence whenever the Brewers scored a run. Not in a negative way, but in a positive way. For doing the Macarena in front of millions of people in 1996. LOL! That was fun. I’ve been to a lot of season ticket luncheons since I first became a season seat holder in 1994. I’ve been to the Diamond Dinners back when they had them at the Pfister Hotel. In May 1997, from a Brewer Wives raffel, I won an autographed bat from Jesse Levis. In June 1997, I was interviewed by Fox 6. In June 2000, I tried to do a frisbee toss for trips and stunk at that. LOL! At least I got two in. In July 2002, I went to the All-Star game. The ending of the game may have been controversial, but I enjoyed the experience. In August 2003, Game Day host Ginger Jordan named me “Fan of the Game,” an honor that I’ll never forget.

Is there any significance to the number 94?

The # 94 stands for my home on 94th and Bluemound.

Have you always been so animated at games?

Other than what I stated in #4, I like to get as crazy as I want to be, and like to get into the game as I like to be.

Have the fans been more into the games this season than in past years?

Of all the years I’ve been to games, the fans this year have been very supportive and into it more that I’ve seen.

You watch quite a few games from the right field bleachers. Is that your favorite spot to catch a game? If not, where is your favorite section to watch a game?

Yes. It’s my Saturday-Plus seat (20 gamer) in the Field Bleachers, where I’m at every Saturday plus some night games. I also have a Sunday-Plus seat (20 gamer) in the Club Level and a 4-gamer in the GEHL Club.

We’re in the home stretch. There are less than 20 games left and the Brewers are holding onto a three-game lead in the Wild Card race. Do you think the Brewers will reach the postseason? If so, how far do you think they’ll go in the playoffs?

I think we can make it to the playoffs. But, our Brewers need to start winning now! After this homestand, the final road stint at Philadelphia, Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati will be a test. Our Brewers cannot afford a bad road trip. If that happens, the chances of making the playoffs will look bad. Let’s hope for the best. Thanks!

“The Doorman” Interview

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

The Doorman

You’ve seen him a thousand times, even if you don’t know it. Mark Simons is on the telecast of nearly every Brewers’ home game. No, he’s not an on-camera personality or even the Brewers clubhouse attendant, he’s just another fan. Another fan with some sweet tickets and more FSN face time than Mike Rivera. “The Doorman” talks about the developing rivalry with the Cardinals, getting creative while heckling, his impressive jersey collection and a “magical” season in the making.

Listen to the interview here:

I’m here with Mark Simons, who is probably better known as “The Doorman” from regular appearances on FSN, and I’m just going to ask a couple questions.

Mark, the Brewers start a big series tonight against the Cardinals and it’s been a pretty heated rivalry between these teams the last couple of years, can you give us any insight into that St. Louis dugout and the tensions between the teams since you sit right next to them when they’re at Miller Park.

I think last year… Basically the Cardinals have sort of treated the Brewers, for as long as Ned Yost has been there, as sort of their little brother. They typically came into Miller Park and cleaned up. Last year was probably about the first time that I actually saw the Brewers really kind of put up a fight. I think you all remember the incident with Prince where La Russa hit Prince late in the game and the Brewers retaliated against Pujols with Seth McClung. Last year, they were pretty chippy. I could hear La Russa yelling at Dale Sveum and the Brewers’ dugout after that whole incident took place. There’s definitely a lot of tension when the Cardinals come into town that wasn’t necessarily there the last few years. It’s definitely a little bit more intense than it was. That’s for sure.

Yeah, and I don’t know if this is true, but it seems to me that you get more glares when the Cardinals are in town too. Do you go after them harder or are they just a little sensitive?

No, I definitely go after the Cardinals. They’re definitely a little bit more sensitive. And I’ll tell you, Pujols is actually a pretty good guy. I mean, I give him grief. The first time they came into town (this season), where he actually played second base and didn’t get a hit, they were sort of short on infielders. I started taunting him about his second baseman power. But he’s actually pretty good. The coaching staff, (Pitching Coach Dave) Duncan, (First Base Coach Dave) McKay and certainly Tony (La Russa) are definitely wound very, very tight. You can say a little bit to some of those guys. In particular, Chris Duncan was a guy that I enjoyed getting all over. Troy Glaus was another guy that didn’t take too kindly to having anybody question them in an opposing ballpark. They sort of acted as if, “Oh geez, we’re playing the Brewers so there’s only going to be Cardinals fans there.” I think they definitely know that it’s not going to be, “Come on in to Milwaukee and take three games without breaking a sweat.”

Yeah, and you talked a little bit about your heckling, do you have a favorite guy to heckle at all in the majors?

Well, lately it’s been Brandon Phillips from the Reds. Whenever the Reds come into town, they’re actually pretty entertaining. Griffey, I’ve seen him for so many years now and we both knew a guy so he and I actually usually have a conversation, you know, a friendly conversation before the game. Adam Dunn is also pretty cool. And Dusty Baker actually from all the years he was with the Cubs and all the grief we used to give him when he was with the Cubs, when he came in with the Reds, he looked for us right away, my wife and I, and said, “I’m not wearing the Cubbie blue, but I know you’re going to be after me.” I was like, “You got it.” But Brandon definitely, ah, you know when he first came up with Cleveland, he called himself the self-proclaimed nickname, “I’m going to be the franchise for Cleveland.” After two miserable years in Cleveland, he got basically waived and traded for a sack of beans to the Reds. So the last couple of times he’s come in here I’ve started giving him grief about the fact that he’s going to get traded again for the same guy he got traded for the first time. I always sort of taunt him and call him “The Franchise.” He’s responded by blowing kisses our way. But he takes it all in good fun. I did give him a little bit more grief this last time because he’s supposedly a good bowler so I told him if I had to roll against him, I’d definitely beat him.

So, it sounds like you do a little research before the guys come in then.

Yeah, there’s a great book called “The Who’s Who in Baseball” and that has basically everybody’s stats that’s in the Major Leagues. It’s a great resource when you need to find out whether or not somebody is coming off a career year or a guy that’s basically coming up, that’s basically nothing, you know?

“The Doorman” nickname, where did that come from? I think I heard that (former FSN personalities) Darren Sutton and Bob Brainerd coined it. Is that right?

Yeah, that’s correct. Actually Darren did it first. The Brewers were playing the Cubs and the game before I got excited after a Sosa strikeout and it was on ESPN. So, the next day, the Brewers were playing the Cubs again and I made a motion for Sammy Sosa to sit down. I was standing up and sort of gestured with my hand, “Go ahead, have a seat here, buddy.” And, a couple innings later, Bob Brainerd came down and said, “Hey, could we interview you?” And I said, “Oh, alright.” And he said, “You know Darren has given you the nickname ‘Doorman’” and I’m like, “Oh, wow.” That’s basically how that whole thing started. So, I have Darren to thank.

So, you weren’t “showing guys the door before that?”

No, not really. I was just basically taunting them. That was it. I don’t get out of hand. I know there’s a guy down in Tampa, the famous heckler who, you can hear him if you ever watch Tampa Bay broadcasts. You’ll hear him screaming at a particular player during the at bat. I really reserve my comments. They’re usually sarcastic. They’re usually after they’re coming back to the dugout after they made an out or they’re unable to get the run in or didn’t move the runner over. I’m usually like, “Hey, nice job moving the runner up” or, “Good job bringing the guy home.” Or, if a guy strikes out when he’s pinch hitting, “You’re telling me the pitcher couldn’t do that?” So, that’s kind of the stuff that I typically do. For the most part, it’s pretty good. There are a couple guys that get a little chapped about it, but, you know, for the most part it’s actually alright.

And you keep it clean too, right?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I don’t use profanity and I don’t talk about their families or anything like that. You know if a guy is batting .175 I’m definitely going to talk about the fact that he’s batting an interstate. But the quickest way to get thrown out of a ballgame is to use profanity and there’s been more than one occasion that opposing teams have wanted to get me tossed. Thankfully there’s been security that’s actually been down there that said, “The guy hasn’t said anything profane. He hasn’t said anything about your mother. Go play baseball.”

It seems like this year you’re getting some more face time for being the first guy to stand up for a home run. You’re pretty good at calling it off the bat.

Yeah, I’ve gotten fooled a few times this year though. There’s been a couple home runs, balls that I thought were home runs, that didn’t go out. When you sit and you see as many games as I do, you sort of know by the sound of the bat when the ball hits the bat and usually the trajectory of the ball as soon as it’s coming off the bat. Braun’s home runs are usually the easiest because he’s usually pulling them to left. Bill Hall is usually a little more difficult because when he’s going right, he’s taking it to right field and Corey Hart hits them all over the place and so does J.J. Hardy for that matter. Prince, I mean that just goes without saying. Usually whenever he hits it, you don’t have any time to worry about it because you know it’s gone.

Johnny, one of the Right Field Bleachers bloggers, vows to one day own more jerseys than you. How many would he have to shoot for right now?

(Laughing) Well, I’ve got a lot. I collect jerseys so he’s going to have to get close to probably about 100.

And do you have a favorite?

Well, my favorite all-time player is Rickey Henderson so when I was a kid in addition to liking the Brewers, I also liked the Oakland A’s. And Rickey Henderson, when the A’s were terrible in like 1979, was the only bright spot that I got to look at when I got to come home from school and got to look at the box scores and see that the Oakland A’s had lost, but then I’d see this guy “R. Henderson” and I was like, “Gee, I wonder who that guy is.” Of course, these was the days before ESPN or cable so as soon as I found out that he was actually pretty decent, he became my favorite player. I have more than my share of Rickey Henderson jerseys.

OK, well, if you ever want to mix it up and sport a Right Field Bleachers t-shirt at a game, let us know. We’ll hook you up.

Absolutely. In fact, I’ll definitely take you up on that. You send it to me and I’ll definitely wear it to a game, without a doubt.

Alright. You’ve seen a lot of losses from those seats over the years, I’m sure, so how fun has this season been so far for you?

It’s been magical. Last year was, I mean, it was magical until about mid-July and then when it hit August, it was like the worst month I’ve ever seen of baseball. Some of those losses they had last year, that Phillies loss on that Sunday, the Reds loss on Labor Day. Some of those, you just never forget them. This year, the start was kind of like how August felt. When May hit and Gallardo got hurt, I was as despondent as anybody else. I really kind of felt, you know, “Geez, maybe they’re just not that good. Maybe they are going to be destined for not making the playoffs.” When Braunie called out the team and they went on the run and certainly the pinnacle of getting Sabathia… That game against the Rockies was by far the most electric game I’ve ever been at and I’ve been to World Series games. It was just magical. People have just, they’ve responded. You see it in the attendance figures. It’s just absolutely incredible. It’s really nice to see and I hope that they can finish it off and get to the playoffs because I know it’ll be just one heck of a party.

Yeah. There’s just over a month left, 31 games left, do you think you’ll be sitting in those seats on the third base line in October?

As I’m knocking on wood, yeah, I do. I do think the Brewers have a really good shot and if they don’t get it, I’ll be as disappointed as I’ve ever been at any kind of sporting event. The way they’re playing, they’ve got the veterans and they’re playing well on the road. Last year and the year before and every year before that, they were terrible on the road. This year, at the time, maybe a week or so ago, they were tied for the best record in the Majors or in the National League on the road, which is fantastic. And that’s what they need to do. That’s what a winning team needs to do. It needs to play at least .500 ball or better on the road. As long as they do that, they’re going to be fine.

Alright, well, thank you for taking the time to talk to me.

No problem, Jared.

We’ll see you out at the games.

Sounds good buddy, take care.

You too.

Bye.

Jeff Cirillo Interview

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Jeff Cirillo is Milwaukee's all-time batting average leader

Former Brewers’ third baseman Jeff Cirillo took some time earlier this week to chat with Right Field Bleachers. The fan favorite talked about his battle back to the big leagues in 2005, his tough but rewarding season last year, his new TV gig, the best pitcher in baseball (hint, he wears a sprig of barley on his cap), the best teammate he’s ever had (ditto) and how far this year’s Brewers team can go.

(Editor’s note: Unfortunately, some cell phone reception issues made the recording difficult to understand at times. When the recording was indecipherable, I put a “…” in the copy to represent the gap in the conversation. Usually it was only a sentence or two.)

I guess first off, how has the season been so far for you?

The season has been great. It’s been really fun to watch the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s just an exciting time. It’s just one of those things for the Brewers and for Milwaukee. I don’t think people anywhere around the country understand…It’s kind of similar to what the Rockies did last year, making the playoffs and just the buzz they created in the city. There’s kind of a community involvement created.

Can you talk a little bit about how the FSN gig came about? Did you ever see yourself in that role?

Yes. I always saw myself being involved in baseball whether it be in a front office type position or a TV type deal. I’ve been doing a lot of analyst work in years past for ESPN in the postseason…So, you know, I always thought I’d be coming out after I was done. I didn’t think it would be this year, but unfortunately there weren’t as many opportunities and this position came up. I probably jumped at it a little quick, but hey…

You touched on this a little bit. Before the season you said you still wanted to play, but couldn’t find a team despite being pretty productive over the last few seasons. How frustrating was that for you?

It was very frustrating. It was weird how people would say, “Hey Jeff, the phone’s going to ring.”…Last year I came back from knee surgery and I probably wasn’t ready to play. It wasn’t a very smart move…Maybe if I waited another month, maybe I’d have a job this year.

And you met with Doug Melvin and Gord Ash before the season, right?

I did…I needed a little closure…Unless you actually hear it from the horses’ mouth, it’s hard to believe. And we went there to Milwaukee…They told me they were right-hand dominant, Joe Dillon had a good year last year for them. Gord Ash was there and Doug Melvin was there…We talked about baseball and things and that was pretty much it. They didn’t offer me a job with FSN and they didn’t offer me a job within the organization.

So, are you officially retired now or is there still a chance you’d consider a comeback?

Well, as I like to say, “I didn’t retire. Baseball retired me.” So, I’m not going to retire.

What was your proudest accomplishment as a player?

I think going to the Mexican League back in 2004, or 2005, excuse me. Going to the Mexican League, getting out of a fundamental flaw, a toe tap, I had for a year and a half with the Mariners. A year and half with the Mariners and I could not break it. Oh no, it was two years, a year with the Mariners, my second year, and the next year with the Padres. I hit .207 and .212 or whatever I hit. I knew that I had to break a mechanical flaw and I went to Mexico for six weeks against everyone’s advice. I was like, “You know what? This is the only way we can get out of this.” And I did. And then I begged, borrowed and stealed to get into camp with the Milwaukee Brewers. Fortunately I was in good graces with that organization and I left on good terms. I think it was pretty much a long shot to make that team considering my last two years.

It was an uncomfortable feeling going into camp knowing that no one wanted you. It was very similar to this winter where I had to get on the phone. It was very tiring to have to sell myself again this winter. And thinking, you know I came back from a knee surgery last year and this year I had to beg and borrow to get into camp…Last year’s numbers weren’t as great on offense from a batting average standpoint, but if you look at isolated numbers, they were pretty good.

Can you talk about when you did come back to the Brewers? What were your emotions when you found out you made the team and you’d get to play in Milwaukee again?

Well, that was a very good experience, opening day in Pittsburgh where I hit a home run and opening day (in Milwaukee) when I was introduced and I got a standing ovation. I mean, the fans were very receptive and they definitely understood where I came from and knew that I never wanted to leave in the first place. I saw myself as a Paul Molitor, Robin Yount type player. I mean the kind of player that would be there for the bad and eventually the good. I was traded for the first time by Dean Taylor. I was pretty adamant in the paper about not wanting to be traded. And then when I signed last year with the Twins I was pretty adamant in the paper again that I didn’t want to leave.

The fans sometimes, you know, they got the real story, but sometimes they don’t get the full real story. Last year there were seven infielders on the 25-man roster and I was going to be the eighth one and that’s when Ryan Braun was in the minor leagues. So, I was like, “Well, I’m going to make this an easy decision. It’s not going to be an easy decision for me. It’ll make it easy for you.” But I’ve never lost sight that I’ve always felt my comfort zone was with the Milwaukee Brewers. That city and state always brought the best out of me as a player and a person.

And so when I did the FSN thing it was really with an open heart knowing that hey, there was no room for me. I made my own bed by signing with the Twins. But, at the same time, I’m still all for the Milwaukee Brewers getting to the World Series this year and I think they have an absolute, legitimate shot at getting there.

Can you talk about that? What has this season been like as far as watching it? How do you think this team compares to other teams in the NL right now?

Well, first and foremost, Ned Yost creates an environment in the clubhouse where all the guys get along. There’s a lot of great chemistry. It’s fun taking the field at the park every day. When we’re losing it’s still fun to show up because there’s such a good group of people, guys that get along…I mean, these guys are actually getting paid to show up to a full house where the fans sense something big is happening and the fact that everyone gets along with each other is great. It’s great synergy that they have. As a fan, you wish every fan could sit in the dugout for a game and just check it out and see what that’s all about. You can’t bottle that up.

Who’s the leader of the clubhouse?

I think it varies. I think the personalities are all different. Some are a little bit more boisterous and some are a little quieter and there’s some that people gravitate towards. I think guys like J.J., people gravitate toward him. And I think that CC and what he’s done, CC is starting to get a lot of pedigree. I mean, he was a Cy Young winner last year. So, in a way, they have a ton of guys that can lead at one point or another.

It seems like Mike Cameron has really taken a veteran leadership role on the team as well. Have you noticed that at all?

Mike Cameron is by far the best teammate I’ve ever played with. Last year when I was in Milwaukee with Doug Melvin, I told him he’s the best player I ever played with because rain or shine, good or bad, Mike Cameron still shows up every day with the reflection of he’s appreciative of where he’s at and that’s playing big league baseball.

And you mentioned CC Sabathia. Is he really as good as he’s looked so far?

Uh, what do you think? I mean, the numbers don’t lie. He was a Cy Young winner last year and he’s what? 12-0 since May with like a 1-something ERA. This is the Major Leagues, keep in mind. This is not like American Legion. He’s dominating at the highest level. There is no one better in the game right now. He’s the best pitcher in baseball.

You talked about last season as being kind of tough for you, but you did make the playoffs for the first time in your career. Was that special for you?

It was very special…It would have probably been something that I wouldn’t have regretted because I don’t regret anything, but it would have been something that would have been a big void if I had not gotten to the playoffs.

Speaking of the playoffs, can we get a prediction for this year’s Brewers team? How far do you think they’re going to go?

Well, I think that it all depends on who makes the playoffs out of the West. The Dodgers look good and they played very well this weekend. I think the Diamondbacks have great pitching. They line-up 1-2-3 with Randy Johnson coming back. They have Webb, Haren and Randy Johnson. And the Cubs, they’re very well rounded. If you were to handicap it, I think that the Brewers and the Diamondbacks have the best starting pitching when you get into the playoffs, bar none against anybody. So, there’s your handicap.

And can we expect to see you on the FSN broadcasts again next year?

We’ll have to wait and see. … You’ll definitely see me doing something in baseball.

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