By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Jul 14, 2011 at 9:05 AM

Jeff Grayson, the host of Brewers and Bucks pre- and post-game shows for Fox Sports Wisconsin, isn't afraid to admit he roots for the home teams – even though, technically speaking, he doesn't live or work in Wisconsin.

We say "technically," because the Wauwatosa native has not only spent most of his career covering Wisconsin sports, but a few hundred miles of physical distance between Milwaukee and Minneapolis haven't proven to be the slightest detriment to his job. In fact, with much more access than the average fan, Grayson can follow the Brewers and the Bucks more closely than any season ticket holder can.

Technology, in this case, has provided the UW-Milwaukee a chance to work with his favorite teams while raising a family in the Twin Cities.

Still, Grayson relishes the chance to come home, and we caught up with him in the Miller Park dugout before a recent game. In between hugs and handshakes from colleagues who talk to him every day but see him just a few times each year, Grayson talked about his mentors, his favorite sports memories and the long and winding road that brought him "back" to his hometown. Enjoy this latest Milwaukee Talks. What's a Tosa East guy doing living in Minneapolis, covering the Brewers and the Bucks?

Jeff Grayson: I'm a Milwaukee area guy, and I lived in Wauwatosa until I was 25. I graduated from UWM, and about half-way through, my late father implored me, "If you want to go into television, you've gotta get your foot in the door."

I called Channel 6 and met with the general manager and told him what I was interested in TV. I said I'll do maintenance work, anything. He said he'd put me in the sports department and pay me $4 an hour, 20 hours a week. "If they want coffee, you get it," he said.

This was a dream for me. I worked most with Tom Pipines, Andy Lescano and Mark Concannon, for three and a half years. Pip gave me chances to expand my horizons: I got to do Brewers/Bucks/Packers interviews as well as other stories, not on the air, but as a producer, and what a learning tool that was.

When my dad died a few months after I began at 6, Pip was at his best. He not only surprised me by coming to console my family, he told me to take as long as I needed to be away and help my mom. Pip had lost his dad as well at a younger age, and his compassion and understanding is what I think of most when Pip's name is mentioned.

I worked my way up to producer at 6, and with their help, I got my first on-air job in Green Bay, with the idea to come back (to Milwaukee). I wanted to be the next Hank Stoddard ... or Johnny Carson. But I knew wouldn't be able to advance in (Green Bay), so when a job came open in Minneapolis, I went and anchored at KMSP for 12 years. They made a change in 2005, so I worked in public relations and did on-air work for the Minnesota teams, and in summer of '07, Fox Sports Net called me. They said they were looking for a Milwaukee area native who lives in the Twin Cities. They said I would handle the road games, and I said absolutely.

OMC: You've sort of taken a triangular route, because effectively, you're back in Milwaukee, if not physically.

JG: I get to cover the teams I grew up watching.

OMC: How does your job now compare to being a reporter or anchor?

JG: It's a totally different role, and I had to be in it to recognize it fully. When you're doing the sports every night as a reporter, I don't know if intimacy is the right word, but if people like you, they come and find you. You're doing three minutes, and if the game isn't that exciting, you might show two highlights, and on you go to the other teams. This is a totally different role, because people aren't really coming to you to watch you. They're coming to watch an event and to learn about the Brewers. My job is kind of to get out of the way, to be a traffic cop.

OMC: What's a typical day like during Brewers or Bucks season?

JG: We have a morning conference call before every game with all the on-air people, producers and directors. We're in up to three cities: Minneapolis, Milwaukee and wherever the team is playing. The host is responsible for preparing game notes for the crew. We go over the show and what we want to cover. In the early afternoon, I work on the rundown and write down ideas. An hour before, I get to the studio and we're ready to go.

OMC: Fox Sports Wisconsin doesn't hide the fact that you're based in Minneapolis, but does technology mean it doesn't really matter where you are?

JG: Maybe to some, it seems odd, but I'm actually really used to it. We have the conference calls, so we're all together. Because of the technology, when we're off the air, I'm talking to Davey (Nelson) or Tony (Smith) or Augie like they're right there. We have an office communicator like Skype; during the game, we're looking at each other.

OMC: And you have access to all the cameras that the truck has, too, right?

JG: I get the feed without commercials. So when Shaun Marcum got hurt, I was watching, and Augie I were looking at each other.

OMC: How often do you see your coworkers in person?

JG: Maybe one or two series (in Milwaukee), and then in Minneapolis. But we talk every day. I talk in their ear.

OMC: So it's not all that different from being here?

JG: It's not. I love where I'm from, but the technology makes it possible to do this.

OMC: But is it nice to come home to Milwaukee?

JG: Aw, I love it. My wife will roll her eyes, because she's a Minnesota girl, but anyone who knows me knows how proud I am of where I'm from, how much I love our teams. It's great to come home.

OMC: So, you're still a fan?

JG: Absolutely. When I was a sports anchor, there was the rule about no cheering in the press box. Even now, I adhere to that, but my fondest memory was game five of the ALCS in 1982. My late brother and I were on the third base side, lower grandstand, section 16 at County Stadium, when the Brewers won the pennant. It's a little easier being a fan now, because it's a partnership doing this show.

OMC: Right, you're not a straight-up journalist, expected to be completely impartial.

JG: If the Brewers lose, we're not going to pretend they won, but we're not going to take shots because we provide them with a platform for their community initiatives. We do 200 games a year with the Bucks and Brewers, but it's a partnership.

OMC: I asked your colleague Telly Hughes this question, too. What's more fun, professionally speaking, to cover: a Brewers game or a Bucks game?

JG: There's something about the journey of a baseball season that's really special, but I have to be honest, other than '82, my fondest memories growing up were as a Bucks fan. Going to the MECCA, you couldn't hear yourself think. We were an elite team for about eight years. I'm about 50-50. It's honestly a thrill.

OMC: I didn't know that your colleague Mark Concannon was one of your mentors. It all comes back around, doesn't it?

JG: It is cool. Craig Coshun and I go back over 20 years, from when he worked in Madison and I was in Green Bay. Jim Paschke and I never worked together, but he trained the sports producers how to log a Bucks game, who passed that on to me. Mark Concannon and I worked together on weekends, and I owe him a lot.

OMC: What do you do when you're not working?

JG: I'm married, and I have three little kids who are 6, 4 and 1.

OMC: So, not much?

JG: I'm with them a lot. I wish I golfed more, but now I'm the parent, not a TV guy, to them. I do some public relations work, too, with McDonald's. And to be honest, I watch just about every Brewers and Bucks game, even when I'm not on TV.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.