February 2009

Gearing up for the Arctic Tailgate Party

I’m a crazy Milwaukee Brewers fan.  This much has been established.  Many fans claim to be crazy about their sports teams.  So, how crazy am I about the Brew Crew?

So crazy that I will be lining up for Brewers individual game tickets to go on sale three days in advance of the actual sale date. 
Oh yeah…did I mention my purpose of going is not for the tickets?  Nope.  It’s for the camaraderie.  The chance to party with other diehard Brewers fans. 

It’s called “The Arctic Tailgate.” 

Starting in February of 2007, the Milwaukee Brewers hatched a plan to generate some extra buzz for the start of individual game ticket sales.  So, they came up with this.
They gave out special “Arctic Tailgate” t-shirts to commemorate the event.  They brought in Brewers alumni players to greet the fans.  They provided complimentary coffee and donuts to those who braved the cold.  They even gave out a free hot dog, soda and bag of chips to the first 2000 fans in line.
 
Pretty cool, indeed.

I was there for the inaugural “Arctic Tailgate” celebration.

Here’s the shirt they gave me on February 24, 2007…
Arctic Tailgate shirt 2007.jpgI was there for the 2nd annual “Arctic Tailgate” party.

Here’s the shirt they gave me commemorating that event on February 23, 2008…
Arctic Tailgate shirt 2008.jpgIf my memory serves me well, both years the Milwaukee temperatures were hovering in the single digits.  People were drinking, people were shivering, people were dreaming of warm and sunny days at the yard. 
I was among those dreaming of the smells and sounds of the ballpark months in advance of those becoming reality.

Heck, I was even interviewed by the local news.
Click here for the article.  The actual video footage of my interview is trapped on my DVR at the moment until I figure out how to burn it onto a disc (damn technology).

I froze my rear end off both of those years.  Alcohol sure as hell didn’t help matters.

I didn’t rub my body down with vaseline.  I didn’t use hand or boot warmers.  I didn’t take drugs to ease the pain (“I swear to you, I’ve never taken performance enhancing drugs.  Ever. 
Period.”  -Rafael Palmeiro   -The Happy Youngster).  It was so cold, I don’t think it would
have mattered. 
I didn’t run laps around Miller Park to keep warm.  I didn’t drink hot liquids.  I didn’t snuggle up to a stranger.  I didn’t snuggle up to an acquaintance. 

I relied solely on guts and determination to make it through.
I was NOT on top of my game.

So, what will I be doing differently at the “Arctic Tailgate” this year?
 
I’m going to bring my heated motorhome.

That’s right. 

The Rockpile Ranter has his spiffy MBU.
The Happy Youngster has his vintage MTU (Mobile Tailgating Unit).

It’s a classic 1977 Dodge Jamboree motorhome.
It looks a lot like the one pictured below but not that ugly green. 
Instead, it’s ugly white and burnt orange.
dodge jamboree not my jamboree.JPGMany good times have been had in that motorhome over the last 5 years.  I originally bought it for my many trips to the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field in Green Bay.  

I’ve had this thing for 5 years and it never occurred to me to use it for this event.
Until now…

You can read all about it come this weekend. 
That is, if my brain isn’t too clogged with beer and bratwurst.

smiley face.jpg
     

A few more autograph tales.

Here’s a few more autograph stories…

MARIANO RIVERA
mariano rivera.jpgThis guy is just sick…how many players have been doing it this good for so long?  Not too many.
I think it was 1997 when I met Mr. Rivera in downtown Milwaukee.  My brother and I went on a quest to get his Tino Martinez Yankees game bat signed outside the Yankees team hotel.  Who did we see walking with Tino down the street in downtown Milwaukee?  Mariano freakin’ Rivera.  I always keep a baseball with me-you never know who you will run into!

BTW, I’ve only gone to team hotels for autographs a handful of times.  I was younger and more intrusive.  I no longer personally feel that’s a proper place to obtain autographs (to each his/her own, I guess). 

Mariano Rivera signed baseball.jpg
BOB FELLER
bob feller.jpegMy appreciation for “yesterday’s heroes” is great.  Think about what these guys went through over the course of their baseball careers. 
1.  Low salaries
2.  Lesser accomodations
3.  Few endorsements
4.  Off-season jobs
5.  MILITARY DUTY!!!  There was a World War going on, you know.  Mr. Feller actually enlisted after Pearl Harbor was attacked.  He missed 4 seasons during the prime of his career as a result of his service to his country.  Now that’s a real American hero.

“Rapid Robert” was just awesome.  Apparently, his fastball was once clocked at over 104 mph!

With all the steroid talk going on, Bob Feller believes there should be a separate Hall of Fame for all the “drug losers.” 
Still going strong at the age of 90, he was talking politics with me the day I was able to get this baseball signed.  I think it was before the election of 2000.  If my memory serves me well, he told me to get out and vote.  What a great guy.

Bob Feller signed baseball.jpgLESLIE NIELSEN
leslie nielsen.jpgYeah, that Leslie Nielsen!  I love his movies.  This guy is hilarious.  My wife and I met him at the Vincent T. Lombardi Golf Classic held annually in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.  My wife and I have volunteered for this event in the past and were able to meet Mr. Nielsen because of this. 

How can you not love the “Naked Gun” movies?
 

Leslie Nielsen signed baseball.jpgREGGIE JACKSON
reggie jackson.jpgThis guy is really a jag, but he sure could play baseball.
So, I’m walking around (more like gawking around) Peoria Sports Complex during Spring Training of 1999.  I hear a cell phone ring in front of me and a very large man answers it, “Reggie.”  I think to myself, Reggie?  Holy crap, Reggie Jackson!  So, I pull the baseball pictured below out of my backpack and proceeded to get it inked by the dufus pictured to the left.  And he didn’t even charge me for his autograph! Lol.

Reggie Jackson signed baseball.jpg
That’s all for now folks…many more autograph stories to tell.

Collecting autographs over the years…a few tales.

Now that the old ballgame is firing back up again, I’ve been going
through a few of the baseball autographs I have amassed over the
years.  I’ve always enjoyed collecting autographs.  I guess it’s for
the same reason why I enjoy ballhawking so much.  It sort of brings you
closer to the game.  Gets you involved, in a way.

Many
autographs I have obtained come with their own interesting story.  Many
are not so interesting.  Either way, collecting has always been fun. 
Who knows, maybe someday my kids will enjoy them the same.

Here’s a few with more to follow…

TODD HELTON
Todd helton.jpgRockpile Ranter, this Rocky Mountain throwback is for you.

Todd
was walking out of old Milwaukee County Stadium after a game.  We would
always hang around after the game and goof off (we didn’t have anywhere
to be and we loved being around the park).  I spotted Todd in
plainclothes walking to a cab.  We approached him and kindly asked for
his autograph.  Todd was holding a big cup of beer.  So, he says to my
brother, “hold this” and hands him the cup of beer.  Then proceeds to
sign our baseballs. 
What a cool dude.  He’s always been one of my favorite hitters. 

Todd Helton signed baseball.jpg
TREVOR HOFFMAN
trevor hoffman pic.jpgThis guy is so cool…I’m stoked he’s on my team.  During the 1999
season, he was wearing my Brewers floppy hat at County Stadium for
about 20 minutes during Batting Practice.  It all started when I asked
him if we could trade hats.  I wanted his gamer hat for my collection. 
He tossed his hat up in the bleachers to me and said, “if my hat fits
you, you can have it.”  I tried it on and it barely fit on half my
head.  He said, “see, I’ve got a pinhead!”  I tossed his hat back to
him and he signed a baseball for me instead. 

One cool dude.

Thumbnail image for Trevor Hoffman signed baseball.jpg
TOM ARNOLD
tom arnold.jpgNot a baseball player but a big fan of the game.  This guy is hilarious.

I
met him when the All Star Game came to Milwaukee in 2002.  He was doing
“The Best Damn Sports Show” right behind my right field bleacher seats.

Is
he best known for being married to Roseanne?  Whatever the reason, he
was cordial to me the day he signed the baseball pictured below. 

Tom Arnold signed baseball.jpgCURT SCHILLING
curt schilling.JPGI
was standing above the Phillies dugout at County Stadium when he popped
out.  I asked him if he had time to sign a baseball.  He said, “when I
finish warming up.”  Now, I’ve heard this a million times before. 
That’s a nice way to say not right now I hope you forget. 
Well, about 30 minutes later, he comes running off the field toward
me.  When he gets about 15 feet from me, he puts up his hands as if to
say, toss your baseball here. 

He was a man of his word. 

Curt Schilling signed baseball.jpg

More to come…

Forget snowballs…bring on baseballs!!

The time has come…
no more waiting.
no more counting down days.
no more watching old Packers game tapes from the 1990’s to get me through winter.
no more cabin-fever.
no more anticipation.

The boys of summer are officially back.

I’m honored to share this wonderful day with all of my fellow baseball lovers across the U.S.A. (and Honest Abe, too).  Happy 200th, BTW.

The annual rite of spring has arrived.  Crack out the lumber and the pine tar.  The bases and home plate.  The cowhide and the ballcaps. 

But, most importantly…bring on the ballplayers and their devoted fans.  Without fans to fill the seats, the ballplayers and their respective teams mean nothing. 

I hope and pray the 2009 season is fulfilling for me, personally.  I have my goals in place and I’m ready.  For me, it’s been a helluva long offseason. 

Coming off their first postseason appearance in 26 long, agonizing years, the Milwaukee Brewers look to encore last season’s triumphant return to the playoffs with the entire offensive roster coming back fully intact.

Here’s my projected 2009 Brewers lineup:

1.  Rickie Weeks (by default)
2.  J.J. Hardy (the most underrated SS in all of baseball)
3.  Ryan Braun (absolute freak)
4.  Prince Fielder (signed and looking in shape)
5.  Corey Hart (you better rebound, buddy)
6.  Mike Cameron (take a few pitches, wouldya?)
7.  Third baseman (whoever wins this job, his name better not be Bill Hall)
8.  Jason Kendall (I’ll take his weak bat for that defensive prowess)

Here’s my projected 2009 starting rotation:

1. Yovanni Gallardo (one of the top young pitchers in the game-remember his name)
2. Braden Looper (great signing)
3. Manny Parra (young lefty stud would be perfect in the 3 spot between righties)
4. David Bush (workhorse)
5. Jeff Suppan (where’s that 2006 Cardinals form?)

I admit, before Looper was signed, I wasn’t feeling warm and fuzzy all over.  It’s amazing how one relatively low-key signing can change all of that.

I think we’re ready. 
I’m sure-as-hell ready!

Here’s to lots of home runs by the home team coming my way…!

Days left until “Happy” reports to Spring Training…

42

Braden Looper set to join the BrewCrew

This may not be the attention-grabbing headline many of you reading this might be used to (ie. Boston’s and New York’s of the world), but this one is huge for Milwaukee.

Although it hasn’t been announced yet, Looper has agreed in principle to a 1 yr. deal with some sort of option for 2010. 
This makes me much more comfortable than I was a week ago.  Not cocky…just a little warm and fuzzy on the inside (know what I mean?)

Not only are we getting a respectable starting pitcher, but we’re getting one that would have led our team in innings pitched last year (199).  That’s an enormous boost to a staff decimated by the free agent losses of Sabathia and Sheets.

Here’s the newest Brewer pitching for the Cardinals last season…
braden looper cardinals.jpgHe had a pretty respectable pitching line last season.
4.16 ERA
199 Innings pitched
108 K’s to only 45 walks

Not to mention the guy can hit, too.
He had a .254 Batting Average last year…that’s better than our 2nd basemen Rickie Weeks.
Also, he has quality sacrifice bunting skills that are not to be overlooked.

Okay Boston-okay New York,
it’s not exactly the signing of John Smoltz or A.J. Burnett.  But, he will make Milwaukee a better team. 
Count on it.

After all, somebody has to beat the Cubs.

The equipment has left the building!!

The tools of the trade have officially left Miller Park.
Check it out…
equipment leaves miller park.jpgI should follow the truck to Phoenix.  You know, hope they hit a really big bump on the way and a box of Ryan Braun’s bats fly off the truck.

It’s been a lazy day here in Wisconsin…still cold as hell (that makes no sense if you really think about it).

As you can imagine, though, I’ve had plenty to keep me busy.
Here’s a great shot of the future all-star himself…
Jack 1 week old 004.jpgAs you can see, he’s “happy.”  And, of course, he has on the proper team colors.

Eat…poop…sleep…REPEAT.

Besides all that, nothing new in Brewtown.  I’m just counting down the days until I’m basking in the Arizona sun (52 days until we leave).  Man, that seems like a long time.  Especially when it’s freakin’ snowing all the time here with temps in the single digits. 

Let me leave you with the following image…
Happy with SheFan book.jpg(Jane:  I told you I would pick up the book!)

 

Jackson James (J.J.) 8 lbs. 9 ozs.

Well, we are all back home.  With us-a new baby boy.  Healthy and happy, nursing, sleeping and pooping.  Right on, little man.  The Mrs. is doing just fine, too!

Jack was born at 4:11 a.m. on Friday the 30th of January at Elmbrook Hospital in Brookfield, WI.  I can’t thank the staff at Elmbrook enough for the special treatment (no, not because I’m the Happy Youngster-they treat everyone special).  If you know anyone in Southeast Wisconsin, tell them to have their babies at Elmbrook!

Anyway, the work joy now has just begun.  Shame on me for calling it work.  Parenting is not work…it’s a privelege and a blessing.  I can’t tell you how many times over the past three days that I have thanked the Lord for all my blessings.  Now, I’m not the religious type, but I do have strong faith.  I think there’s a difference.  With each day that passes by, I feel like I figure out more and more what’s really important in life.  Yeah…catching baseballs, getting autographs, seeing the Brewers win…these are all important.  But, they pale in comparison to rearing a child the right way.  Especially in today’s society.  We all have our ideals as to how to rear children…I’ll spare you mine.  Let’s just say I’m a bit old-fashioned and conservative.  Shower them with love, show them the way, explain things vs. yelling things, read them books, tuck them in at night, never feel shy about showing them public affection, and on and on and on.

I’ve learned a bit about parenting from my 3-year old.  I’m sure many of you can relate.  When people ask me how old she is…I say, “three going on sixteen.”  Enough said.

My lovely wife needs props, too!  She’s unbelievable. 
You remember the story about the Brewers Fan Festival a week back?  If you forgot, here’s a refresher.  Anyway, she goes to this event with me, stands in line for a few hours waiting to get in, ready to give birth any minute.  Then, once we get in-she stands in another line just so I could get a Prince Fielder home run ball signed. 

Talk about a loyal wife…trust me-I’m grateful. 
Our kids are lucky to have a Mom like her.

So, as our family grows, so does our outlook on life. 
It’s great to be alive!!

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