October 2011

Ticket story a big misunderstanding

Brewers director of team travel Dan Larrea said the issue of family tickets at Busch Stadium was “much ado about nothing,” a misunderstanding among Brewers players that blew-up into an ESPN.com story on Wednesday that charged the Cardinals of gamesmanship.

Some Brewers players believed their immediate families were to be scattered around Busch Stadium, but that was not the case. Instead, the Cardinals gave the Brewers use of three large party suites along the first-base line, complete with food and beverage.

Confusion arose because the policy was different in the regular season, when family members sat in two sections in the ballpark’s 100 level behind home plate.

“It just did not mirror what we had in the regular season,” Larrea said. “I think the families will be satisfied with what they receive. Speaking with the wives, they had no issue with the seating situation here.”

The Cardinals also provided seats to Brewers staff members who made the trip from Milwaukee, separate from the family tickets.

All of the players’ wives, children and other immediate family members were able to fit in the suites. The Cardinals also provided some 100 level seats for Brewers’ family members who chose instead to sit in the main seating bowl. The majority of those tickets went unused, Larrea said, and were returned.

At Miller Park, the Brewers provided a block of seats behind home plate for players’ families. Those tickets have already been distributed for potential Games 6 and 7, Larrea said.

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Brewers mull Gomez in center for Game 3

The Brewers coaching staff spent some time Tuesday debating the merits of starting Carlos Gomez in center field instead of Nyjer Morgan for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

Morgan is a left-handed hitter and typically starts against right-handed pitchers like the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter, who is slated to start Wednesday against the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo. But Morgan is 3-for-20 so far in the postseason — one of the hits a walk-off single in Game 5 of the NL Division Series that extended the Brewers’ season — and narrowly missed making two tough catches in Monday’s loss.

Gomez is one of the NL’s best defensive outfielders, a trait that could come in handy at spacious Busch Stadium if Carpenter-Gallardo develops into a pitcher’s duel. Gomez is 3-for-9 in the playoffs with a home run.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “We’ll talk about it again. I think it’s important for us to score as many runs as we can against a very good pitcher, and sometimes you try something a little bit new.

“If a guy isn’t swinging the bat well, you may make a switch. Sometimes, you stay with a guy, too, expecting hi9m to come out of it. Those are the decisions that I’m looking at every day.”

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Morgan: Stakes too high for hijinx

Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan conjured Tony Hush on Tuesday as he prepared for a Busch Stadium rematch with Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter.

Here in August, Morgan and Carpenter exchanged words after a 10-pitch, ninth-inning strikeout, prompting the benches to clear. Morgan said Carpenter screamed an expletive from the mound after Strike 3. Carpenter said Morgan had been jawing at him on the bases all night. Morgan then took to Twitter to continue the conversation.

Morgan declined to address the dust-up the next day. He declined similar questions on Tuesday, before the Brewers took batting practice at Busch Stadium to tune-up before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday. Carpenter starts for St. Louis against Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo at 7 p.m. CT on TBS.

The series is tied at a game apiece.

“It’s going to be a huge game,” Morgan said. “We need to swat the ball around.”

On Monday night, after the Cardinals thumped the Brewers, 12-3, in Game 2 at Miller Park, Morgan said the tensions between the teams should be behind them.

“We’re trying to get the hardware man, and I don’t think anybody is going to be worried about what I said or what I did or any of that,” he said. “If they want to take action, they can take it next year. The stakes are too high right now.”

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Longtime Brewers’ groundskeeper dies

Gary Vanden Berg, the Brewers’ longtime groundskeeper who oversaw the team’s move from open-air County Stadium to retractable-roofed Miller Park, has died after a yearlong battle with cancer.

Hired by the Brewers in 1981, Vanden Berg saw the team through the 1982 World Series and the 2002 All-Star Game, floods at County Stadium in 1986 and at Miller Park in 2004, plus everything from a tractor pull to rock concerts to bowling tournaments. His most recent job title was Director of Grounds.

He had twin sons, John and Joel, who worked for the team. Joel spent a summer as an intern in the team’s baseball operations department, and John was a 25th round Draft pick of the Brewers in 2002 who rose as high as Double-A Huntsville.

“Gary was a fixture of the Brewers — one of the faces of Miller Park for a lot of people,” said infielder Craig Counsell, whose father, John, worked in the team’s front office during the 1980s.

“You could tell how much he loved what he did by just him being there at the ballpark this year,” Counsell said. “He was sick, he was having a hard time, but he wanted to be there. It was really important for him to be there.”

Some co-workers hoped the Brewers’ best regular season in club history provided a source of strength. Director of Baseball Operations Tom Flanagan, whose tenure began as a batboy in 1990, last saw Vanden Berg at Miller Park on Sept. 23, the night the Brewers clinched the National League Central.

“You could tell that being at the park was his passion,” Flanagan said. “We were all pulling for him.”

Vanden Berg had a difficult job after the Brewers moved to Miller Park, where the huge, moveable roof panels limited the amount of sunlight that could reach the field. The turf occasionally drew criticism from players, and Vanden Berg took that criticism to heart, Counsell said.

“He would ask frequently, ‘How am I doing? What can we do better?’” Counsell said. “He definitely wanted input.”

A number of Brewers players joined members of the Miller Park grounds crew in wearing bracelets this season in support of Vanden Berg with the phrase, “Believe in miracles.” Vanden Berg told WTMJ-TV in June that he did believe, and said he was ready for the end of his life.

“I’m looking forward to going to heaven,” he told the station. “So in that sense, you know, I’m not afraid to die.”

The Brewers were planning to release further information on Tuesday afternoon.

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Braun making Brewers postseason history

Ryan Braun turned the National League Division Series into his personal sandlot, and it appears he plans to do the same now that the Brewers’ postseason run has reached the next level.

Braun had two more hits and four more RBIs for a Brewers postseason record in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series on Sunday, a 9-6 Brewers win. It made him the early — very, very early — frontrunner for series MVP honors, but that was probably not the award that fans had in mind then they chanted “MVP! MVP!” during each of Braun’s plate appearances.

“There’s obviously much more at stake,” Braun said. “We realize the significance of the games we’re playing. We recognize that we are now three games away from the World Series.”

Braun has multiple hits and has scored multiple runs in four of the Brewers’ first six 2011 postseason games, including Sunday’s NLCS Game 1. His two-run home run erased an early 1-0 Cardinals lead in the first inning, and his two-run, ground-rule double pulled the Brewers back to within a run in the decisive fifth.

Braun broke the club record for RBIs in a postseason game he had tied in Game 2 of the NLDS against Arizona, when he drove in three runs. The only other Brewers with a three-RBI game in the playoffs were catcher Ted Simmons in Game 3 of the 1981 ALDS against the Yankees 30 years ago Sunday, on Oct. 9, 1981, and by Mark Brouhard in Game 4 of the 1982 ALCS against the Angels. Wouldn’t you know it? That was 29 years ago Sunday, on Oct. 9, 1982.

Braun has hit safely in five of the Brewers’ six postseason games this October, batting .500 (11-for-22) with five doubles, two home runs, eight RBIs and seven runs scored. Overall in his career he has hit safely in eight of his 10 postseason games, batting .421 (16-for-38) with seven doubles, two homers, 10 RBIs and seven runs scored.

His two hits in Game 1 game Braun 16 hits in his postseason career, passing Cecil Cooper (15) for the fourth-most in Brewers history. Braun trails only Paul Molitor (22 hits), Robin Yount (22 hits) and Charlie Moore (17 hits).

With 10 RBIs in his postseason career, Braun passed both Ted Simmons (eight) and Paul Molitor (nine) for sole possession of the second-most RBIs in Brewers postseason history. Braun trails only Cecil Cooper, who drove in 13 postseason runs in 1981-82.

“I try not to get overly excited; it’s only been six games to this point,” Braun said. “But I feel like I’ve had pretty good at-bats, consistent at-bats, and we’re winning.”

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NLCS Game 2 fan guide

A ceremonial first pitch by Mike Kilar will highlight tomorrow’s festivities prior to Game 2 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park. Mike and Mary Kilar’s son Treyton, who loved baseball, the Brewers and particularly Prince Fielder, was tragically killed by a drunk driver one month shy of his 7th birthday. Catching tomorrow’s ceremonial first pitch will be Prince Fielder.

The Kilar family and the community are rallying to build the Treyton Kilar Field of Dreams in his memory. Brewers Community Foundation is making a $10,000 donation to the Whitewater Community Foundation to help the project. Fans can lend their support to this project by visiting Treysfield.org.

PARKING LOTS: The Miller Park parking lots will open at 4:00 p.m.

GATE TIMES: Gates to Miller Park will open at 5:00 p.m.

RALLY TOWELS: All fans in attendance will be given a Brewers Rally Towel upon entry, courtesy Kohl’s.

CEREMONIAL FIRST PITCH: The ceremonial first pitch will be tossed by Mike Kilar.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: The national anthem will be performed by Joel Kopischke.

GAME TIME: First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT. The game will be televised exclusively on TBS.

MILLER PARK ROOF: The status of the roof will be announced tomorrow. Fans and media may call the Brewers roof hotline for the latest update (414-902-4636).

BREWERS TEAM STORE BY MAJESTIC: The Brewers Team Store by Majestic will open at 8 a.m. tomorrow and will remain open until an hour after tomorrow’s game. There will also be satellite merchandise locations throughout the Miller Park parking lots. A select collection of Brewers NLCS apparel is available at the Brewers Team Store by Majestic at Miller Park.

NLCS COMMEMORATIVE GAME PROGRAM: Major League Baseball’s official NLCS Game Program will be available for purchase.

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NLCS roster unchanged

The Brewers’ passed on an opportunity to tweak the postseason roster between rounds, opting instead to stick with an 11-man pitching staff and rookie Taylor Green in the final bench slot.

Club officials met Saturday to discuss the merits of Green, a left-handed hitting third baseman, vs. Josh Wilson, a right-handed hitter who can play all over the infield and outfield. St. Louis has two left-handed relievers in Mark Rzepczynski and Arthur Rhodes.

Just like the NLDS, Wilson, pitcher Tim Dillard and catcher Martin Maldonado will travel with the Brewers and participate in batting practice as non-roster players. Major League rules allow for in-series substitutions in the event of injuries.

“We just felt like it probably was going to come up more often that we would need the left-handed bat,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “Today won’t [because lefty Jamie Garcia started for the Cardinals and the Brewers stocked the lineup with righty bats], but normally we would have both [Carlos] Gomes and Casey [McGehee] on the bench, and we like both of them.”

For the second straight round, the opponent dictated that Wilson watch. Had the Braves won the NL Wild Card and not the Cardinals, the Brewers and Braves would have matched-up in the NLDS, and Wilson would have made the cut as an answer to Atlanta’s slew of left-handed relievers. Likewise, had the Phillies defeated the Cardinals in Game 5 of the other NLDS on Friday, Wilson may have won the final roster spot because Philadelphia has two lefty starters.

To prepare for that scenario, the Brewers sent Wilson to Maryvale Baseball Park last week to get at-bats in instructional league games. The Brewers were already in Phoenix for Games 3 and 4 of the NLDS.

The roster looks like this:

Pitchers: Starters — in this order for the NLCS – Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf; and relievers John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Takashi Saito, LaTroy Hawkins, Kameron Loe, Marco Estrada and Chris Narveson.

Catchers: Jonathan Lucroy and George Kottaras.

Infielders: First baseman Prince Fielder, second baseman Rickie Weeks, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, and Craig Counsell, Green, Jerry Hairston Jr. and McGehee.

Outfielders: Left fielder Ryan Braun, center fielder Nyjer Morgan and right fielder Corey Hart; plus Gomez and Mark Kotsay.

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NLCS Game 1 fan guide

Another series-opening national anthem by Joseph Attanasio and a ceremonial first pitch by Gorman Thomas will highlight today’s festivities prior to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park.

PARKING LOTS: The Miller Park parking lots will open at Noon CT.

GATE TIMES: Gates to Miller Park will open at 1:00 p.m.

RALLY TOWELS: All fans in attendance will be given a Brewers Rally Towel upon entry, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

CEREMONIAL FIRST PITCH: The ceremonial first pitch will be tossed by Gorman Thomas. Thomas is directly connected to the organization’s earliest roots as he was the first-ever draft pick in 1969 by the Seattle Pilots (first round; 21st overall selection). He also played 11 seasons with the Brewers from 1973-76, 1978-83 and 1986 and still makes his home in the Milwaukee metro area.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: The national anthem will be performed by Joseph Attanasio.

GAME TIME: First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CT. The game will be televised exclusively on TBS.

MILLER PARK ROOF: The roof is expected to be open but is subject to changing weather conditions. Fans and media may call the Brewers roof hotline tomorrow morning for the latest update (414-902-4636).

BREWERS TEAM STORE BY MAJESTIC: The Brewers Team Store by Majestic will open at 8 a.m. tomorrow and will remain open until 8 p.m. There will also be satellite merchandise locations throughout the Miller Park parking lots. A select collection of new Brewers NLCS apparel will be available at the Team Store beginning Sunday.

NLCS COMMEMORATIVE GAME PROGRAM: Major League Baseball’s official NLCS Game Program will be available for purchase at kiosks throughout Miller Park ($10 each).

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Suds Series, again: Brewers, Cards in NLCS

Welcome back to the Suds Series. Twenty-nine years after the Brewers and Cardinals last met in the postseason, they will meet again.

Milwaukee and St. Louis are set for the National League Championship Series, a rematch of a 1982 World Series staged when the Cardinals’ Ozzie Smith was backflipping his way to shortstop and the Brewers were bashing homers in the American League. It’s Miller Park vs. Busch Stadium. NL Central vs. NL Central. Tony Plush vs. Tony La Russa.

It’s a matchup of two teams that don’t legitimately don’t like each other, and had no trouble showed it in 2011.

“With St. Louis, there’s going to be a little but more fire in both teams with everything that we went through this year,” said Brewers closer John Axford, who was smiling Friday despite blowing a save for the first time in nearly six months.

Axford surrendered the tying run in the ninth inning but the Brewers rallied to beat the D-backs in the 10th, winning the NL Division Series on Plush’s — er, outfielder Nyjer Morgan’s — walk-off single. It gave the Brewers their first postseason series win since ’82, when they beat the Angels to set-up a showdown with St. Louis.

Game 1 of the NLCS is Sunday at Miller Park at 3 p.m. CT. Zack Greinke will start for the Brewers, likely against Cardinals left-hander Jamie Garcia.

If the 18 regular-season Brewers-Cardinals matchups were any indication, there will be some brushbacks. Most of the fireworks were saved for August and September, when both teams were vying for the division and tensions ran high.

“Well, it’s going to be a battle,” Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter said after pitching his team past the Phillies on Friday. “Those guys can play, man. … They’ve been a battle with us no matter if they were in the playoffs, not in the playoffs. It’s been like that since I’ve been here as a St. Louis Cardinal since 2003, when we were winning 100 games a year in ’04 and ’05. These guys battled us every single time we played them no matter if we were at home or on the road, and it’s been like that since then and it’s still going to be like that.

“It’s going to be a good series, I think. We’ve got some talented players on both sides that are showcase stars, guys that people want to watch play, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I can’t wait for it.”

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Game 5 fan guide

A ceremonial first pitch by Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig will highlight tomorrow’s festivities prior to Game 5 of the National League Division Series at Miller Park.

GAME TICKETS: The game is sold out. Fans coming to the game should use the ticket marked “NLDS HOME GAME #3.”

PARKING LOTS: The Miller Park parking lots will open at 1:00 p.m.

GATE TIMES: Gates to Miller Park will open at 2:00 p.m.

RALLY TOWELS: All fans in attendance will be given a Brewers Rally Towel upon entry, courtesy of ATI Physical Therapy.

CEREMONIAL FIRST PITCH: The ceremonial first pitch will be tossed by Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: The national anthem will be performed by Jennifer Schafer.

GAME TIME: First pitch is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. CT. The game will be televised exclusively on TBS.

MILLER PARK ROOF: The roof position is determined by Major League Baseball after conferring with the Brewers on weather conditions. No final decision will be made until the day of each game. Fans and media may call the Brewers roof hotline tomorrow morning for the latest update (414-902-4636).

BREWERS TEAM STORE BY MAJESTIC: The Brewers Team Store by Majestic will open at 8 a.m. tomorrow and will remain open until 8 p.m. or an hour after the game ends. There will also be satellite merchandise locations throughout the Miller Park parking lots.

NLDS COMMEMORATIVE GAME PROGRAM: A very limited number of Milwaukee Brewers 2011 NLDS Game Programs remain available for $8 at Miller Park. Each game program is individually numbered. Two of the four game covers are already sold out (Braun and Fielder).

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