'Brewers on Deck' aims for another record
Jan 27, 2013 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Milwaukee Brewers chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger remembers the days when the team's players would split up and travel all over the state in a winter caravan.
"We thought it was spreading the players a little too thinly," said Schlesinger. "As much as we'd love to go upstate, we're going to have a lot more ability to impact and interact with folks by doing it at the Delta Center."
It's once again time for "Brewers On Deck," the fan fest that will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Delta Center. The hugely popular event drew a record crowd last year of 12,118, a level the club hopes to approach again if a dicey weather forecast doesn't get in the way.
Rather than splitting up the playing personnel and dispersing them to the far reaches of the state, the Brewers figured it was best to get as many players as possible together in one site, where fans could gather to get autographs, photos and personal interaction.
"The biggest reason it has been successful is that the players show up," said Schlesinger. "It wouldn't be a great event if only a handful of players showed up. Almost to a man, our 25-man roster plus our minor leaguers plus other players come out in the middle of the winter from far away and are engaged with our fans.
"They actually enjoy the experience and like engaging with the fans. (Principal owner) Mark Attanasio, (general manager) Doug Melvin and (manager) Ron Roenicke have made it a priority with the players and coaches. It's a mandatory event. Sometimes a player can't come for a legitimate reason and we understand that.
"The second thing that makes it successful is we try to bring in new components. It's not just autograph sessions and photos and clinics, which obviously are an integral part. We try to have other things such as these funny game shows that humanize the players, and they'll poke fun at themselves and each other. We try to do things that give fans an insight into the personality of the players. The fans enjoy seeing that and have a good time."
The "big ticket" foursome highlighting this year's event for autograph seekers includes all-star Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo, Rickie Weeks and Hall of Fame announcer Bob Uecker, who celebrated his 78th birthday Saturday. Each will sign for 250 fans who claim tickets in a random selection process and pay $25 per autograph.
There will be a few dozen other players signing autographs, including Jonathan Lucroy, John Axford and Carlos Gomez, mostly for a $10 fee.
"A few years ago we had criticism about the autograph system; some people weren't getting autographs," said Schlesinger. "So, we came up with this lottery system so people won't wait a long time in line and then be told there's not enough time.
"We'll limit autograph lines to 250 people and tell people that's all we can handle. That eliminates the frustration over not getting an autograph after a long wait. It's busy but not overwhelming. Fans leave feeling they had a chance to interact with at least one player."
The Brewers also will give fans the chance to meet many of the top prospects in the organization, including 2012 first-round draft picks Clint Coulter, Victor Roache and Mitch Haniger. First baseman Hunter Morris, the 2012 Southern League player of the year at Class AA Huntsville, also is among the group of minor-leaguers participating in the event.
The big winner in the yearly fan fest is Brewers Charities. All of the money raised from autograph signings goes to that charitable wing of the franchise, which serves the area and the state.
"People understand their fee is going to Brewers Charities, which makes it nicer," said Schlesinger. "This is not a moneymaker for the team. That's not the reason we do it. The important thing is the branding and interactivity with the fans. This is a very good driver of our business."
"Brewers On Deck" has grown in leaps and bounds since its inaugural event in 2004 at Brookfield Square. The next year, it had to be canceled because of a snowstorm.
"Other teams do a multiple-day event," said Schlesinger. "We think one day is great. We have a full day of interactive sessions and I don't think many teams do that. We're looking forward to another successful event."
Brewers on deck
Where: Delta Center, 400 W. Wisconsin Ave.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Cost: Adults $20; Children $15. Only cash will be accepted at the door. Some autographs are extra.
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