January 2014

Uecker: Time to ‘kick back’ a bit

Bob Uecker just spoke in more detail about his decision to curtail his travel schedule in 2014.

It’s obvious that this is a bittersweet decision.

“Sooner or later, you have to bend a little bit,” he said. “And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not saying that I won’t work games down to the end of the season, and if indeed there’s the possibility of the playoffs or anything else, I’m going to do that. But now is the time for me to kind of take a few games off once in a while and enjoy myself — not that I don’t enjoy the games, because I always do. You guys know that. I’m at home at the ballpark as much as I am in my own house.

“But I had some hip surgery in November, and I’m regrouping from that yet. We’ve got Spring Training coming up a few weeks down the road, and I’m going to work the spring games and then go from there. It’s just a personal thing. This is my 59th year [in professional baseball] coming up, so that’s enough on an everyday basis. I know I’m going to miss it, each and every game. The games that I don’t do, I’ll certainly be listening to, and I’ll miss them. I know I will. You don’t do this stuff, especially in Milwaukee, for 44 years, and not miss it.

“[For all his years in broadcasting], I know every day where I’m supposed to be during the summertime. I know where I’m supposed to be, where I’m supposed to go, and that’s to the ballpark. That’s the part that you miss after a while. It’s OK for the first couple of times, but once in a while to miss a game, which I never do anyway … but like I said, I’m kind of looking forward to kicking back a little bit. Other guys do it.”

He mentioned the Dodgers’ Vin Scully and the Reds’ Marty Brennaman, each of whom have cut back their travel in recent years. Uecker said that Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has urged Uecker in recent years to smell the roses a bit more.

But Uecker was firm: This decision is not being driven by any concerns about his health.

“It’s not health by any means — not that I know of anyways,” he said. “If it was, I would certainly say that, too. It’s more that it’s time. It’s time to enjoy the summer a little bit, other than doing a baseball game and traveling. [It's time] to hang around and do other things. I know I’m going to miss it. I know I’ll miss friends I have. That’s the thing that you don’t think of sometimes, the friendships you’ve made on the road in all those years. I’ll miss those people, too. That’s another hard part of getting off the road and not doing as many games. … I’m certainly looking forward to taking some time off, and I’m looking forward to the club having a good year, too.”

He wished aloud for better Brewers health in 2014, and spoke with excitement about the addition of Matt Garza to the richest free agent contract in club history. It was Uecker who teed up Attanasio during Brewers On Deck to make the Garza announcement.

Uecker could not say exactly how many games he would skip. He had a general conversation with Attanasio several weeks ago about it, and plans to sit down soon with officials from the Brewers and 620-AM WTMJ, the team’s flagship radio station.

“[Attanasio] told me to do whatever is right for me,” Uecker said. “The games that I’m going to miss would be probably the West Coast games, unless something happens down the road or there are big games coming up. I would do that. Other than that, I’m going to travel. Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati. Hour flights or whatever. I’ll do those games. And always at Miller Park, for the most part.”

He joked that, for all these years, broadcasting “has interfered with my second job, which is driving the truck.”

Seriously, though, “I’m going to miss everything about baseball. I don’t care who it is, a broadcaster, a player, people who work in the front office — once you start on the other half of your journey, so to speak, everybody misses it. You can’t help but miss being around the ballpark if you’ve been around as long as I have.”

But here is an important point:

He is not even thinking of total retirement.

“I really haven’t looked that far ahead,” he said, before laughing and adding, “Although, you know, everybody goes. Down the road, you just do it, that’s all, until either you’re tired or you can’t talk anymore.

I’m not going to embarrass myself, I know that. But there comes a time when everybody has to go. I don’t want to be taking any ‘dirt bath’ now, but everybody, sooner or later, that’s part of living, is going the other way. To be able to continue going and do this at the big league level — man, it’s a great job. I’ve had a great job, not only with baseball, but with all the other stuff I’ve done. It’s all been a big kick for me. Now, everything is recorded and you can go back and look. So it’s not like you quit and you’re gone forever. … When the time comes to get out or leave permanently, I’ll do that, too.”

A highlight of the chat with Uecker came near the end, when Tom Haudricourt joked that Uecker might be taking time off because “Major League IV” is in the works.

The answer was a definite maybe.

“I’ll be honest with you, they’re talking about it,” Uecker said. “The story line is all set, too. They’ve already asked me if I would be in for ‘Major League IV,’ and I told them I would. I’ve talked to the directors. They’re talking about it and they’re pretty serious, but that’s all I can tell you, really. If there was more, I would tell you that, too. They have been talking about it for the last year-plus. As a matter of fact, they called me during the season last year and asked me if I would be in.”

These rumors circulated around Miller Park last summer, too. The story may or may not include Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen’s character) coming back to manage a team.

Whatever the story, Uecker thinks Major League IV would be a hit.

“Major League III stunk, so Major League IV I’m sure is going to be better than Major League III, which they sold to a different company,” he said. “That thing was on airplanes the day after we finished it.”

One last thing: Uecker is, indeed, 80 years old. His birth date has long been listed as Jan. 26, 1935, but that’s flat incorrect. He was born in 1934.

Uecker says he never paid attention, but in recent years when people would ask his age, he began to notice that most sources have it wrong.

“If I was going to cheat on my age, I would certainly make it more than one year,” Uecker said. “This just gets me into the Village at Manor Park sooner.”

First, he still has some baseball games to work. Just not all 162.

“Last year, I thought, ‘I’m coming up on 80 years old, and it’s not a bad idea to kick back and enjoy yourself a little bit and take some time off and catch a few extra fish and do the things I enjoy doing,'” Uecker said. “Like I said before, it’s hard to get out. It’s hard to get away from something you love and something you’ve done for so long.”

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Braun: ‘There’s no blueprint’ for months ahead

On Sunday, Ryan Braun made his most public appearance since serving a 65-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. He took part in the Brewers’ annual fanfest in downtown Milwaukee, and here’s what he had to say before hitting the convention floor:

“I’m excited to be back. It’s always nice to be back. I think since my extended off-season began I’ve been back a few times, and everybody’s been extremely supportive. It’s great to be back. The weather’s a little bit colder than what I’m typically used to this time of the year, but aside from that it’s good to be back. Nice to see everybody and it’ll be nice to interact with the fans.

Has he had much interaction with fans?

“I’ve actually had a lot of interaction with the fans and everybody’s been great,” Braun said. “Everybody’s been incredibly supportive. I know last time I was here with you guys in November you asked about what I expected or anticipated. I don’t really expect or anticipate anything, so we’ll see how it goes.”

How will he handle reception elsewhere?

“I really don’t think about stuff like that very much,” he said. “I try not to focus on the things that are out of my control. With that being said I’ve already experienced this already in the past a couple times. Dealt with it in 2012, dealt with it for the majority of 2013, so I think I have an idea of what I’m getting myself into. As a competitor, in a really odd way I enjoy it. I think it’s fun. I think the more hostile an environment is the more enjoyable it is. I just enjoy that pressure. In a really unique way, I actually enjoy and look forward to it.”

On whether it matters what people think of him: “Absolutely. It really matters to me. I’ve always taken tremendous pride in being a role model. I made a huge mistake. I’ve paid a great price for that mistake. The opportunities I’ve had to reach out to season ticketholders, reach out to suiteholders and interact with people, I let them know that basically I made a mistake. I deeply regret it. I wish I could change it. I recognize I don’t have an opportunity to do that, so all I can do is focus on the present, focus on the future, look forward to this year and go out there and do the things that I’ve done in the past. Hopefully be one of the best players in the game and show them that I learned from my mistake, that I’ve learned from it and that hopefully have become a better person because of it.”

On calling season seatholders during his suspension: “It was great. I think it was a really unique experience. There were a lot of people who really didn’t believe it was me initially. Actually I think everybody was really supportive, which was cool. It was something I had no idea what to expect or anticipate, but I enjoyed it. It was fun.”

Braun said he had only one challenging conversation with a fan, who expressed anger about the suspension.

“It wasn’t surprising in any way,” Braun said. “I made a mistake, I made a big mistake. I don’t expect everybody to be supportive or everybody to be understanding or everybody to understand where I was coming from. Certainly I didn’t anticipate the amount of support I received.”

On his offseason: “Yeah, it’s been unique. Overall, it’s been extremely enjoyable. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed life more, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a better place. From that perspective it’s been beautiful. The wedding was amazing. I’m excited and looking forward to the next year while trying to learn from everything I went through this year.”

Has he ever been more eager to start a season?

“[In] 2011,” Braun said. “I know we were really excited about [Zack] Greinke and [Shaun] Marcum and the fact we had a really good team. I think for me personally, this is probably the most excited I’ve been to start a year.”

On moving to right field: “They just asked if I would be open to it, and I said absolutely. I told them I’d play anywhere other than third base because third base and I didn’t go very well together. I don’t expect it to be easy. In left field you get used to the ball coming off the bat a certain way and a certain direction. In Arizona I’ll have plenty of time to get my work in. It’s something I look forward to, but I expect it to be challenging.

“I’ve taken plenty of fly balls in right field actually. It’s a lot easier typically in right field than in left. Left field you are typically dealing with the shadows a little bit more, you deal with the sun coming down through the panels. For me personally, I think right field, especially at Miller Park, will present less challenges than left field does.”

Is today another step in building back trust with teammates?

“I don’t think of it that way,” Braun said, “but I’m sure it will be to some extent. For sure.”

Does he think there are more apologies ahead?

“I don’t ever know if I could apologize enough for what’s occurred, you know?” Braun said. “I just continue to move forward and obviously I’ll be apologetic. I wish I could go back and do things differently, but I can’t. All I can do is move forward and make the best of the opportunities presented to me.”

On the Alex Rodriguez situation: “I haven’t really paid close attention to his situation, so I don’t think it’s right for me to comment on it.”

On this year’s Brewers team: “I think the [Matt] Garza thing is extremely exciting. I’m excited about it. Hopefully it’s something that ends up working out for us [because] I think he could be a difference-maker. Facing him over the last few years, I think he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. One of the toughest at-bats. Great stuff. Very competitive — a fiery competitor, which is something I think could benefit the whole pitching staff and our whole team. Nori [Aoki] getting traded, I think year and year out there’s so much change, so much turnover in the roster. Khris Davis, I think, is going to be a really good player. The organization really believes in him and hopefully it will be a seamless transition there. Mark Reynolds is a guy I’ve known for a long time. We played together in the Fall League, and I’ve known him, actually, since college. So I’m excited to have him on the team and I think he’s going to be big for us, especially in our ballpark.”

Is he worried about production falling off without having an “extra edge?”

“No,” Braun said. “I think I’ll be better than I’ve ever been. Very confident in that.”

Asked whether he was willing to give more details of his timeline of PED use, Braun said, “No. Again, I appreciate there is still interest in this stuff, but I addressed everything in November when I was here for the charity event, and I think I addressed it pretty specifically in the statement that we gave [in August]. I think that addressed it pretty specifically as far as exactly what it was and when it occurred.”

What does he view as the biggest challenge ahead?

“I think the whole experience has been challenging,” Braun said. “I don’t think there’s any specific part of it that’s more challenging than another part. There’s no blueprint. There’s no specific, ‘This is how you deal with a situation like this.’ Not a lot of people have been through something like this. So, certainly, [this is] a unique and challenging set of circumstances, but I’ve never been afraid of a challenge. So I’m looking forward to everything the future holds.”

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All quiet on Garza front

As the workweek came to a close Friday, Matt Garza was still officially a free agent.

On Thursday, reports surfaced that Garza and the Brewers had agreed in principle to a four-year, $52 million pact and that Garza had undergone a physical exam. But a press conference at Miller Park never came to pass, and throughout the day Friday as rumors flew on social media, both sides remained mum about the nature of the perceived holdup.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin did not immediately respond to a telephone message, and assistant GM Gord Ash said he couldn’t comment. Garza’s agent, Nez Balelo, also declined to comment.

One source privy to the negotiations said there was no update as of mid-afternoon, and advised to “stay tuned.” He declined to say, even in general terms, what was impeding the deal.

Brewers officials had said earlier this winter that they were comfortable with a starting rotation comprised of right-handers Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta, Marco Estrada and Tyler Thornburg, with Thornburg earning fifth starter duties based on a strong finish to 2013, and fellow prospects Johnny Hellweg and Jimmy Nelson waiting in the wings. So it came as a surprise to many, including Lohse, when word spread Thursday morning that the Brewers were nearing a deal with Garza, 30, who would add experience to the top half of that group.

If an agreement is not completed before then, the Garza matter figures to hang over the Brewers’ annual “On Deck” event in downtown Milwaukee on Sunday. The event is free to fans this year.

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Brewers say no deal with Garza yet

He was close Thursday, but Matt Garza was not a Milwaukee Brewer just yet.

The team took the rare step of releasing a statement in the evening to respond to reports, including from Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network and FOXSports.com, that the sides were in agreement on a four-year, $52 million contract, pending a physical exam. Rosenthal later reported that Garza had indeed undergone his physical.

But instead of officially announcing what would be the richest free agent contract in Brewers history, the team issued a statement at 6:11 p.m. CT. It read: “Despite media reports, negotiations between the Brewers and Matt Garza are ongoing, but there is no deal yet.”

The nature of the holdup was unclear. Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash declined to comment, and a representative of Garza did the same. <p>

One source said the sides simply needed more time to hash out the final terms of the agreement.

So for at least one more day, the Brewers remained the only team in baseball that had not signed a single Major League free agent. Stay tuned.

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Even for Lohse, Garza deal ‘came out of the blue’

Kyle Lohse chatted with Brewers manager Ron Roenicke last week, and Roenicke never let on that the club was even considering adding a starting pitcher.

So when Lohse saw social media light up Thursday with the news that the Brewers had signed Matt Garza, he had the same reaction you might have had.

“I’m just like anyone else — it’s pretty surprising,” Lohse said. “This seemingly came out of the blue, but in a good way.”

Garza agreed to a four-year, $52 million contract that represents the richest deal for a free agent in Brewers history. He joins Lohse(who signed for three years and $33 million last March) and Yovani Gallardo atop a starting rotation that also figures to include right-handers Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. Tyler Thornburg, who was previously penciled in as the No. 5 starter, now fits in among a group of younger pitchers representing depth, with Johnny Hellweg, Jimmy Nelson and recently-acquired left-hander Will Smith.

“I know it stinks for one of the young guys who was going to be competing for that extra spot, but they’ll have their opportunities,” Lohse said. “This helps out the rotation a lot, I think. It’s a good thing for us.”

Lohse met Garza at Minnesota Twins Spring Training camp in 2006, after the Twins had made Garza a first-round Draft pick. They never did play together; Lohse was traded to the Reds in July, just before Garza was promoted for his big league debut.

But they have crossed paths as opponents over the years, Lohse said.

“It’s one of those things where you respect what the guy does out there because he’s a good competitor,” Lohse said. “He’s got great stuff. Now that he’s a teammate, you hope he has figured out the health aspect of it and can stay healthy and help us out every five days. He’s a very animated guy out there, and if you can control that, it works for you.”

Does the deal change his outlook for the 2014 Brewers?

“I just know that any time you sign one of the top starters on the market, it sends a message to the players, and hopefully the fans, that you’re not going to lay down,” Lohse said. “We’re going to try to do some things. I think we’ve got a sneaky shot. We have some good young guys, and if [Ryan] Braun can bounce back and Aramis [Ramirez] can stay healthy, and the young guys who got experience last year can build on that experience, we’ve got a legit shot.

“It boils down to how well our rotation does keeping us in games. If we can build on what we did in the second half last year, and not get off to a slow start, I think we can surprise some people. I don’t want to go out there and make statements that we’re going to be in the playoffs. I’d rather be that team that people kind of get surprised by at the end of the season, like, ‘Wow, they’re in the hunt.’ I want to be a team that other teams don’t want to play.”

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No Walk of Fame inductees this year

Another Walk of Fame shutout, the Brewers announce:

The Milwaukee Brewers announced today that there will not be an inductee to the Brewers Walk of Fame at Miller Park. A total of 40 votes were received and no candidates received the 26 votes necessary (65%) for election. Teddy Higuera (24 votes, 60%) and Joe Adcock (21 votes, 52.5%) were the closest to election.

Four former Brewers did not receive the necessary two votes to remain on the 2015 ballot. There were a total of 26 Brewers players and seven Braves players on the ballot. The ballots included on-field personnel who wore a Brewers or Braves uniform for a minimum of three seasons but have been retired from playing/managing roles for at least three seasons. All players and managers receiving votes on at least 5% of the ballots will remain eligible in 2015.

Past inductees include Hank Aaron, Rollie Fingers, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount in 2001; Commissioner Bud Selig and Cecil Cooper in 2002; Bob Uecker and Harry Dalton in 2003; Jim Gantner and Gorman Thomas in 2004; Don Money and Harvey Kuenn in 2005; Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn and John Quinn in 2007 (the first year that former Braves players appeared on the ballot); Lew Burdette in 2010 and Johnny Logan in 2013.

Each inductee is honored with a granite plaque that is placed into the terrace area walkway that surrounds Miller Park.

The full results are as follows:

Player Name            Votes    Percentage
Jerry Augustine          7          17.5%
George Bamberger     20       50.0%
Sal Bando                    3           7.5%
Ronnie Belliard           0           0.0%
Mike Caldwell            18          45.0%
Bill Castro                   4          10.0%
Jeff Cirillo                   14          35.0%
Phil Garner                 5          12.5%
Gabe Gross                 0          0.0%
Teddy Higuera           24          60.0%
Larry Hisle                  5          12.5%
Geoff Jenkins             15          37.5%
Sixto Lezcano             5          12.5%
Mark Loretta              2          5.0%
Seth McClung             0          0.0%
Charlie Moore            5          12.5%
Ben Oglivie                14          35.0%
Dan Plesac                  8          20.0%
David Riske                0          0.0%
Bill Schroeder            4          10.0%
George Scott             10          25.0%
Ted Simmons            14          35.0%
Jim Slaton                    6          17.5%
Dale Sveum                 6          17.5%
Greg Vaughn               6          17.5%
Pete Vuckovich         20          50.0%

Joe Adcock                21          52.5%
Billy Bruton                 4          10.0%
Bob Buhl                      5          12.5%
Del Crandall               11          27.5%
Fred Haney                  2          5.0%
Felix Mantilla               3          7.5%
Andy Pafko                   2          5.0%

It is disappointing to see notable contributors to Brewers history like Higuera, Caldwell and others fall short of this high honor. But remember that the Brewers plan to install a “Wall of Honor” at Miller Park this year to recognize players who lasted in the organization. Here’s a link to my blog post about this new creation.

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Mets say they’re happy to keep Ike

My colleague Anthony DiComo spoke to Mets GM Sandy Alderson this week about Ike Davis, the first baseman who has been dangled in trade talks all winter, and said he was content to bring both Davis and Lucas Duda into camp if the Mets cannot get what they feel is fair value for Davis.

The Brewers are interested, but so far have been unwilling to surrender a young pitcher, GM Doug Melvin told me this week.

Thus, a stalemate. From Tony’s story:

“We’re not going to move Ike just to move Ike — or any other player for that matter,” Alderson said. “This is a trade market, not a yard sale, and right now we’re perfectly happy to go into Spring Training with Davis and Duda both on the team. Frankly, we’re not that actively engaged in trade discussions involving Ike at this point. I think that underscores our willingness to go into camp with both.”

The Mets spent much of their time at last month’s Winter Meetings talking to other teams about Davis, meeting with the Brewers in particular multiple times. Nothing came of it.

“You can only ask someone to dance so many times before you get the message,” Alderson said. “We’ve been told by a variety of clubs that what we’re asking is not unrealistic. But if they think they can get it or something else for less, that’s what they’re going to try to do. So be it. It’s not like we’re holding out for Babe Ruth.”

If the Brewers can’t get Davis, they will explore other trade options or go with free-swinging slugger Juan Francisco.

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Season seatholder promotion returns for 2014

News from the Brewers, who are returning a promotion featuring 39 great prizes and one poor schlub who gets stuck with me:

im_fan40logo_300x300The Milwaukee Brewers today announced details of its “Fan-Tastic Forty” promotion that will award prizes to lucky fans who purchase Season Seat packages for the 2014 season. All fans purchasing or renewing ticket packages of 20 games or more will have an opportunity to win a variety of unique prizes and experiences spread out over 40 days. From Friday, January 17 through Tuesday, February 25, one Season Seat Holder per day will be selected to win a designated prize in the promotion.

Fans must purchase or renew a minimum 20-game package (or above that) to qualify for the drawing. Purchases made prior to today will already have an entry in the contest. Purchases made within the 40 days will be eligible for the next day’s drawing and the remainder of the prizes. For example, a purchase on January 29 will be eligible for all prizes from January 30 – February 25. The last day to purchase to be eligible for prizes is Monday, February 24.

“This has been one of our most popular programs to reward our valued Season Seat Holders,” said Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger. “It offers our fans unique opportunities and prizes that create lasting memories.”

Fans looking to renew or get more information about new packages are welcome to call (414) 902-HITS (4487) or visit brewers.com/fan40. Full sweepstakes rules are also available at the website.

Prizes on the list for 2014 include a Brewers On Deck VIP Experience, an All-Inclusive Area Tour (tickets to watch games from each of the five All Inclusive seating locations), signing a Major League contract for a day (including big league pay), a $1,000 Shopping Spree in the Brewers Team Store by Majestic, and 2015 season tickets at 1982 pricing.

A complete list of prizes along with the date they will be selected follows:

January 17 – Team Store Shopping Spree. Win $1,000 to spend in the Brewers Team Store by Majestic.

January 18 – Brewers On Deck VIP Experience. Receive two free tickets to the annual fan fest, plus jump to the front of any autograph line for free autographs.

January 19 – Your Very Own Ticket. For one game during the 2014 season, your photo will be printed on every season ticket.

January 20 – Free Parking for the Season. Enjoy complimentary Preferred Parking for every game in your 2014 ticket plan.

January 21 – Game of Catch with a Brewers Pitcher. Play catch with and receive pitching tips and instruction from a Brewers pitcher.

January 22 – Roundtrip Airfare for Two. Two roundtrip tickets from Southwest Airlines.

January 23 – Tour the Roof. Take a tour of the Miller Park roof and get the best view of the ballpark.

January 24 – VIP Luncheon. You and a guest will sit at the head table during the 2014 Season Seat Holder Luncheon in the Johnson Controls Stadium Club with two Brewers players and/or coaches and Brewers executives.

January 25 – Slide Down Bernie’s Slide. Take a trip down Bernie’s slide before a 2014 home game and then watch part of the game from Bernie’s Chalet.

January 26 – Party Suite for you and 29 Friends. Take in a 2014 home game with 29 of your friends from a spacious Party Suite, complete with food and beverage.

January 27 – Carlos Gomez Autographed Gold Glove Print. Receive a one-of-a-kind Carlos Gomez autographed Gold Glove Framed Print.

January 28 – Owner’s Seats at Miller Park. Sit in the owner’s seats for a game with three friends and enjoy a visit from Brewers executives.

January 29 – Shadow a Brewers.com Beat Writer. Follow Brewers.com beat writer Adam McCalvy during all pregame activities on the field and in the Clubhouse for a 2014 home game.

January 30 – You in the Team Photo. One fan will be included in an unofficial team photo with the 2014 Brewers roster and coaching staff.

January 31 – Field of Sweet Dreams Experience. You and three friends will enjoy a night under the stars while camping on the Miller Park outfield at the annual Field of Sweet Dreams event.

February 1 – Lesson With Brewers Hitting Coach. Win a private hitting lesson from Brewers Hitting Coach Johnny Narron while you and a guest take batting practice before a game at Miller Park.

February 2 – Baseball Signed by Opening Day Starters. Receive nine baseballs, each signed by a member of the Brewers Opening Day lineup.

February 3 – Tickets for Each All-Inclusive Area. Enjoy a game from each of Miller Park’s five All-Inclusive Areas with two tickets for five different games in the special seating areas.

February 4 – Pizza for a Year. Win a one-year supply of Palermo’s Pizza.

February 5 – Throw Out the First Pitch. Throw out the first pitch prior to a 2014 Brewers home game, plus receive a personalized Brewers jersey.

February 6 – Club Suite Party with Craig. Win a Club Suite for you and nine friends to a 2014 home game, complete with food and beverage, and enjoy a visit from Brewers alum Craig Counsell.

February 7 – $500 in Concession Vouchers. Receive $500 in food and beverage vouchers.

February 8 – Harley Deck Experience. Win 30 tickets for Miller Park’s popular Harley-Davidson Deck, complete with food and beverage, for a 2014 home game.

February 9 – Miller Lite/Brewers Neon Sign. Light up your basement bar or garage with a Miller Lite neon sign featuring the Brewers ball and glove logo.

February 10 – Autographed Baseballs. Take home a set of baseballs autographed by each member of the 2014 Brewers starting rotation.

February 11 – Turn Back the Clock Pricing. Receive 1982 pricing for your 2015 season tickets.

February 12 – Catered Tailgate Party. Enjoy a Pavilion party prior to a 2014 Brewers home game, catered by DNC Sportservice. Includes 20 game tickets.

February 13 – Signed Bat and Jersey. Win an autographed bat and jersey from your favorite Brewers player.

February 14 – Gehl Club 4-Pack. Enjoy the luxurious Gehl Club experience with three friends for four games during the 2014 season.

February 15 – Guaranteed Giveaway. Receive every promotional item given away during the 2014 season, including all eight Bobbleheads and six t-shirts.

February 16 – Klement’s Tailgate Package. Receive a one-year supply of Klement’s sausage products, a grill and more.

February 17 – Lucroy Autographed Home Plate. Receive a home plate signed by Brewers Catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

February 18 – View From the Bullpen. Make sure to bring your glove when you and five friends sit in the Brewers bullpen as the Brewers take batting practice prior to a 2014 home game.

February 19 – Club Suite Party with Doug. You and nine guests will sit in a Club Suite for a game, complete with food and beverage, and enjoy a visit from Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin.

February 20 – You in the Brewers Television Booth. Spend an inning in the Brewers television booth during a 2014 home game.

February 21 – Signed Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura Print. Receive a framed autographed print of 2013 All-Stars Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura.

February 22 – Evening With Hank Aaron. Two spots at a table for the 2014 Evening with Hank Aaron Dinner.

February 23 – Movie Night on the Big Screen. You and seven friends will enjoy a private movie screening on the scoreboard at Miller Park.

February 24 – Season Seat Holder of the Year. Be treated like the VIP you are; throw out the first pitch, take batting practice at Miller Park, receive extra concession vouchers and more.

February 25 – Welcome to the Big Leagues. Sign a one-day Major League contract, complete with full uniform plus one day’s pay at the MLB minimum salary.

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Follow me on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy

Maldonado makes kids’ day in Puerto Rico

Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado and his wife, Janelise, hosted the “bigger and better” charity event today that I last wrote about in October, fulfilling a promise Martin made to his mother that he would give back to the community in his native Puerto Rico after becoming established in the Major Leagues. This year he hosted more than 300 kids, beating the total from the inaugural event last year, also on Three Kings Day.

Maldonado said the event was “better than last year,” and asked me to make note of the sponsors who made it possible, including the Wisconsin-based Andis Company, a manufacturer of hair clippers that got to know Maldonado after learning about his role as the Brewers’ resident barber. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina again made a significant contribution, as did former Brewers reliever Michael Gonzalez and a number of other teammates whose funds came through a donation from the Brewers Community Foundation. Two companies in Puerto Rico, Pan Pepin Bread and the Suiza Fruit Corporation, helped provide lunch.

Here are some photos of the festivities:

CSC_9841 DSC_0679 DSC_0698 DSC_0716 CSC_0738 DSC_0795 DSC_0818

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Melvin explains Brewers’ quiet winter

The Brewers began the New Year as the only team yet to sign a Major League free agent since the end of last season.

General manager Doug Melvin was asked Monday what he would say to fans perturbed by the team’s inactivity.

“I would just say that it’s true, we haven’t done all that much,” Melvin said. “But just because you don’t respond in free agency doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the [wrong] thing to do. If you look at a lot of the teams that got involved in free agency in the past few years, it hasn’t been that successful for them — and then there are the players whose price range isn’t even close to what we could consider. We’re putting a lot of faith into our system.”

In Melvin’s view, the Brewers’ Major League roster is well-stocked aside from first base and the bullpen, areas club officials are still open to supplementing at the right price. The rest of the infield is set with catcher Jonathan Lucroy, second baseman Scooter Gennett (with Rickie Weeks’ role to be determined), shortstop Jean Segura and a healthy Aramis Ramirez at third. An outfield of Khris Davis, Carlos Gomez (who would be a free agent right now had he not signed an extension last spring) and Ryan Braun has the potential to be above-average offensively.

Melvin said the Brewers made the fundamental decision earlier in the offseason to “go with our young guys,” and thus plan to trust back-end rotation spots to Wily Peralta, Marco Estrada and Tyler Thornburg, with others vying for spots like Will Smith, Johnny Hellweg, Hiram Burgos and Jimmy Nelson. In the bullpen, Melvin would not mind adding some experience via free agency, but again expressed confidence in the club’s low-cost options.

“We weren’t going to get [Shin-Soo] Choo. We weren’t going to get Robinson Cano,” Melvin said, referring to top free agents. “We can look at $5-$6 million guys, but if we think our guys are better or as good at $500,000, why would we make a move just to make a move?”

Instead, the Brewers have stood pat.

“We’ve sort of been on the sidelines with free agency this year,” Melvin conceded. “We’re putting a lot of faith in the players that performed for us in the second half of the year. We’re expecting Ryan Braun to come back and perform.

“Anything else, we’re always open to discussions, but it’s still got to be good for the ballclub. Our bullpen is an area that we’ve talked about maybe whether we would add an experienced piece or not. … First base, I’ve had ongoing discussions with [Mets general manager] Sandy Alderson, but we haven’t gotten to anything where we’re comfortable with the deal from our side, and he’s not been comfortable with the deal from his side.”

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Melvin and Alderson had conversations about New York first baseman Ike Davis as far back as General Managers Meetings in November, and met several times at the Winter Meetings a month later. The Mets’ price is high — they asked the Brewers for Thornburg, and the Orioles for top pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. The Brewers would rather trade a position player, perhaps from a stable of outfielders that remains reasonably deep, even with the trade of Norichika Aoki.

Melvin declined to say whether the Mets’ asking price for Davis, who was demoted to Triple-A at one point last season, was higher than expected.

“I don’t ever get into that,” Melvin said. “Everybody makes the deal that they feel is the best deal for them. I don’t ever consider whether asking prices are too high on [trades] or not, because you don’t know until after the deal and you’ve seen players perform.

“I think we’ve pretty well stood by — the one thing we’ve done is we do not want to give up pitching.”

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