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The view from the berm at Maryville Baseball Park in Phoenix.
The view from the berm at Maryville Baseball Park in Phoenix.

6 things I'm looking for at Spring Training

Every year – since 1998 – I’ve made the trip to Arizona to watch the Brewers get ready for a long, long season of baseball. It’s my favorite work/fun trip (edging out even Las Vegas) that I get to take, but with all the fun and sun in the desert, it’s surprisingly easy to forget to pay attention to the baseball on the field.

It’s true. Spring Training is really distracting for the average fan. Between the weather shock and all the other things going on in Phoenix and Scottsdale, the games are just so quiet and peaceful. It’s easy to just zone out while the sights, sounds and smells of wonderful, glorious baseball lull you into total relaxation.

So each year, I make a mental checklist of what I want to see from the Brewers in March. This season, I have lots on my mind. Because if a few things go wrong, I fear the Brewers could be way out of contention by June. On the other hand, this was a team that owned the NL Central for most of 2014, and not all that much has changed. Hope, as we all say a lot this time of year, springs eternal.

Over the years, some readers have asked how I can make a judgement on a team that I only see for a few days each spring. Well, I’ll tell you: I knew in 2008 and 2011 that the Brewers would be great. And last year, I didn’t see that spark at all. Don’t even ask me what the Crew looked like in 2002. You can really glean a lot from what you see in the Cactus League … as long as you are paying attention.

In no particular order, here’s what I’ll be looking for when I’m in Arizona March 15-18.

Ryan Braun's thumb

Is his thumb actually healed? To answer that, I’ll get my first look at not just his hitting, but his demeanor. It was clear to me last year that he wasn’t himself. Is Braun a power-hitting MVP candidate, or a .260 singles hitter? If it’s the latter, this team is toast.

Jean Segura's bat

Same with him. Understandably, he hasn’t been the same since his son died, not to mention being hit…

Test out your mixology skills ... because it's Bar Month!
Test out your mixology skills ... because it's Bar Month!

7 Bar Month cocktails to take your mind off winter

"Bar Month" at – brought to you by Stoli Vodka, Altos Tequila, Fireball, OR-G, Jim Beam, Plymouth Gin and 2 Gingers – is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!

Doctors are very clear with their warnings that alcohol will not warm you up in the dead of winter. So, obviously, unless you have a Saint Bernard with a little flask of brandy, you should not drink to thaw yourself out during these subzero temperatures in Milwaukee right now.

You may, however, drink to take your mind off winter. And it being Bar Month, we tracked down some excellent cocktail recipes from our sponsor brands.

Try not to drink all of these in one sitting, OK?

1. Paloma Brava (from

(PHOTO: Jessica Leibowitz)

  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 ounces Altos tequila
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice, from 1 lime
  • 2 ounces fresh orange juice, from 1 small orange
  • 6 ounces fresh grapefruit juice, from 1 small pink grapefruit
  • 4 ounces grapefruit soda
  • Agave nectar to taste
  • Garnish: Lime wheel

Fill a large glass mug with ice. Add salt, tequila, lime, orange, and grapefruit juice. Stir gently. Top off with grapefruit soda, add agave nectar to taste and garnish with lime wheel.

2. The Black & Orange Old Fashioned (from

(PHOTO: Liz Raiss)

  • 1 1/2 ounces of 2 Gingers
  • 3 ounces ginger beer, or to taste
  • A couple of dashes of orange bitters
  • Enough ice to fill your glass

Add ice to glass, combine all ingredients, stir.

3. Spring Smash (from

  • 1 part Jim Beam Honey
  • 2-3 Fresh Pitted Bing Cherries
  • 6-8 Fresh Mint Leaves
  • .50 ounces Simple Syrup
  • Juice of 1 Lemon

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and pour over ice in a collins glass. Garnish with mixed berries or mint and a lemon.

4. Fireball Float (from bevmothirstytim…

What do you do with 25,000 photos ... and counting?
What do you do with 25,000 photos ... and counting?

How many photos are too many?

I’m not a professional photographer by any means, but I do enjoy taking pictures. I’m the default family photographer, and for work, I shoot almost all of my own photos.

That’s why I wasn’t too surprised when I noticed that iPhoto on my new iMac was running slowly. It does have to look after 20,454 photos that are sitting on its external hard drive. Couple that with the 3,349 photos and 266 videos on my iPhone, and that’s a lot of media – some 217 GB on that little portable drive.

Believe it or not, I’m reasonably judicious with the photos I store on my computer. Every so often, I go through and trash the very similar pictures, and even if I shoot 100 photos for an article, I delete all but a handful.

On my phone, it’s a different story. I snap so much, then forget to go back and weed out the bad ones. My phone used to fill up, but now that it’s more integrated into the cloud then ever, I can keep shooting and shooting and shooting.

This can’t be good.

In my defense, I curate the best photos into several shared photo streams. I print out the best into photo books for framed gifts.

But I’ve been shooting digitally since 1998. That’s 17 years of accumulated files. They started out as one megapixel files and are now up to 16. The quality and file size will only keep growing.

What am I supposed to do with all of these?

I remember helping a friend out in college after his grandmother died, and one of our tasks was going through her old photos and deciding what to keep and what to toss. This was a really sad task, and I felt like I was intruding on someone’s life, throwing away memories that meant nothing to me.

What will it be like for our generation? If everything fits on a tiny hard drive, or in the cloud, or on Facebook, will anyone bother throwing it all out? Will anyone care?

These are some deep thoughts, but I’ve been considering our collective digitized future a little more lately. Maybe it’s time. How many photos do you have si…

Will the real Andy please stand up?
Will the real Andy please stand up?

The different versions of me

I remember back in college, I came to the realization that several different versions existed of me. It was an unsettling thought then, and it is now, too.

There was the personality the came out in front of family, the one with my Milwaukee friends, my Washington friends, and even the one when I was alone. It wasn’t about being schizophrenic; rather different inside jokes, shared stories and even vocabulary existed for each group.

It was always confusing when they came together, like when Milwaukee friends visited me in college, because different people knew a different version of me. I struggled with that, and in the end, merging the the versions produced something fake and disingenuous.

The different versions of me continue to this day, but nowhere are they more pronounced than on social media. I embraced Twitter long before Facebook and Instagram, but now active on all three, you’ll experience a totally different Andy Tarnoff if you only look in one place.

Twitter is the liveliest, most self-indulgent version of myself. It’s where I get political at times and where I pull fewer punches on any subject. It’s where I make friends and enemies and do too much self promotion. It’s the most controversial, but it’s also the most amped up: even though my opinions are real, they’re certainly exaggerated. Because, unlike Facebook, where you’re speaking to your friends, you’re speaking to the whole world via Twitter – and working to enhance your brand. My brand, of course, is owner of and passionate Milwaukee guy. Even when I’m a jerk, I usually like the polarizing Twitter version of myself more than any other.

Then there’s Facebook, where everyone strives to make themselves look perfect. This version of me is much more personal. This is where I share all the family stuff that I wouldn’t put in front of strangers. Understand that I’m very selective of who I "friend," because I get more than enough anonymous trash talking through T…