Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bringing out "The Kid" in Me...

I shared a drink with Robin Yount last night.

Granted, he didn’t know about it. But that’s hardly the point.

I probably need to explain. When I work at Miller Park, there are three different “stations” that I can be assigned. First, there are the Founders suites on the field level. This is my least favorite place to work because you feel completely cut off from the rest of Brewers civilization. Sure, sometimes you meet an occasional leader of the Milwaukee community, like Mayor Barrett, but for the most part it is a long, painfully boring five hours of work. I tend to just turn on my radio and pass the time away with Uek.

Then, there’s the center desk on the Club level. It’s not a bad place to be assigned. You can at least hear the game over the Stadium’s sound system, lots of traffic passes by the desk, and you end up assisting not only the suite guests but anyone who has a ticket to the club level.

But the center desk does not in any way compare to the Gehl Club. Before we report for duty, each concierge member quietly says their own type of prayer, pleading to their God to convince our manager, Patty, to give us this cushiest of assignments. Not only do we stay busy by wrist-banding all of the guests (who are enamored with the new space) and by giving them a run down of what they receive during their stay in the Gehl Club, but we also get to enjoy the 52-inch plasma that faces our desk. It’s simply the nicest place to work, perhaps in the entire stadium.

And it’s especially nice when members of the ’82 Brewers are staying there, as they were last night.

Now, generally I’m not that easily star struck. Terrell Buckley once called me “dude,” I held a lengthy conversation with Mike Maddux, whose daughters were in my First Stage class, and Don Majkowski once winked at me. (Although I later found out that Majik winks at every fan, and is a bit of a wink-whore.) And seeing modern day players up close and personal has almost become second nature for me. We clock in at the stadium right between the Brewers locker room and the visiting locker room, and I frequently pass by players who are heading to the indoor batting cages. So I’ve witnessed first hand how huge Pujols and Carlos Lee really are, and I can attest to the fact that Brady Clark was one of the hardest working Brewers you’ll ever find—he was always in the indoor cages.

But these are the ’82 Brewers, and they will forever have a special place in my heart. So when Craig Coshun popped down into the Gehl Club and asked me how things were going, I answered as honestly I knew how, “Great. I feel like I’m nine years old again.” And as Mr. Coshun scanned across the room and took in all of the players from the ’82 team, he could only agree with me. “Yeah. It’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?”

And it was awesome. The entire night. Even finding out that Pete Vukovich was not exactly a cordial gentleman, was rather endearing. It’s exactly how I remembered him, after all. But yes—to call Mr. Vuckovich “a bit surly” would be like calling Mark Chmura “a bit of a womanizer.” And after a warm smile from Audrey Kuenn, Vuckovich’s snarl was completely forgotten.

Ted Simmons, on the other hand, was the friendliest man you’ll ever meet. When other ex-Brewers (like Vukovich) were a bit put off that they had to have a wrist band put on, Simmons wondered aloud if there would be water rides. And when they found out that their wrist band entitled them to free drinks at the bar, most of the others became much more accommodating as well.

I could go on and on about my encounters with the ’82 Crew. Gorman entered with a big smile and began asking me if I had seen Fing-- But alas, that’s as far as he went before spotting Rollie and his handlebar himself, thereby thwarting my opportunity to assist Stormin’ and point him in the right direction.

When Molitor stopped up by my desk to throw something away, he said something to the effect of, “It’s pretty incredible in here.” This was a hall-of-Famer, and it was time for me to provide a hall-of-fame reply. I’m guessing I failed when I nervously nodded and said, “yep.”

So many others stopped by my desk with questions or a cordial “hello.” There was Pete Ladd. Jerry Augustine. Don Sutton. Moose Haas.

And then there was Robin.

I never actually had the chance to interact with Robin, but he and many of the players were in the Gehl Club prior to the autograph signings. And when they called him to go downstairs at 5:30, he left his beer on our concierge desk. That’s right. I spent the next several hours inches from Robin Yount’s beer. And while the autograph signings and the pre-game ceremony took place, it dawned on me that there was no way that Robin was going to come back for this beer. He’s Robin Yount, after all, and I was pretty sure they’d give him a fresh, cold brewskie. So we tucked the beer away from our desk, and I joked with my concierge partner, Kathy, that I need to drink some of that beer. It was a chance of a lifetime, I laughed, and I would never respect myself in the morning if I let the opportunity slip away. And suddenly, what started out as a joke became more and more of a mission. It simply had to be done.

My opportunity arrived when Mike Caldwell was saying his goodbyes to Patty and thanking her for all of the festivities that she had organized. With Patty distracted, I scooped up the beer with the grace of a sure-handed shortstop and took a quick sip. Before Caldwell walked away, I had returned the beer to it’s resting place without anyone knowing any better. It was smoother than a 6-4-3 double play. I didn’t care that I was risking my job by taking a sip of alcohol while on duty. I didn’t care that most people would think I was a bit crazy or, as my wife described it, “a borderline stalker.” I didn’t even care that that the beer had sat there stagnate for almost five hours.

And when Patty gave me the chance to leave early that night, I took her up on it. Not because the Brewers were getting waxed on the field. No, I didn’t care about that either. Because I was nine years old again. And I had just tasted my first sip of beer.

Nothing could have topped the night after that point anyhow--even if the Brewers had come back and erased the 7 run deficit that they were looking at when I left the game. After all, how many people can say they shared a beer with The Kid?

I now know of one.


Anonymous said...

at least one of us enjoyed the game.

Eric said...

Fantastic post!!! What a thrill that must have been - talking (or at least saying 'yes/no') to those players.

Badger Tracker said...

Ted Simmons was up in the booth last night with Sutton and Schroeder. What a complete natural. I'd love to hear him talk baseball more often.

Anonymous said...

i realize he only has 12 at-bats, so i'm not putting a lot of stock into has batting average. nor am i predicting that he'll lead this team to the playoffs. he's simply a 31yr old journeyman w/a great story (of what he went thru to make it to the majors).

but joe dillon has been swinging a hot bat right now (as a pinch hitter), and i wouldnt mind seeing him get the regular start at 2nd base to create a little spark plug for the crew. maybe see if he can help out our sporadic offense. i'm sure the majority of brewer fans would agree that they'd rather see him at bat than counsell or weeks.

fielder (i like seeing him come up in the 1st inning--hopefully hart and hardy can get on more often, so prince has some ducks on the pond, and pitchers have more to worry about than a solo shot.)
braun-3rd (i really hope his glove comes around next season...b/c his bat his already there)
jenks/mench-left (as long as jenks keeps the hot bat, yost needs to keep starting him, even if he's facing lefties.)
hall center (adjusted well to outfield...his bat just hasnt been there this year).
estrada/miller catcher (hopefully ned starts using miller a little more. i really think it could help to keep both guys fresh coming down the stretch)
dillon 2nd (could possibly put some pop in the bottom of the lineup. ...also might think about putting him in the two hole and moving hardy down to #8. hardy's bat seemed to work wonders down in the #7 or 8 hole on the last road series-- since he moved back to the top of the lineup, not so much)
as you can see, the lineup looks very similar to how it always looks. i like the idea of yost flipping fielder to 3 and braun to 4. and i'd really like to see dillon get some regular at-bats (either in the 2-spot or 8th spot). just hopin jenks can stay on fire and hall's bat can come around.

as for their pitching....that's a story for a different post.

Anonymous said...

Magic man? Buckley? Mike Maddux? You must have been Star-struck! Takes a strange fella to actually sip beer from another mans cup! Taking into consideration that Younts mouth has touched many of young, infected vaginal lips in his lifetime, If I were you I'd go out and get checked immediately.

Anonymous said...

Do you think Robin has a blog where he talks about some weirdo sneaking a sip of his abandoned beer? I do.