The first Brewer I ever interviewed was Don Money, when he made a trip to Burlington as part of a concept that longtime club exec Dick Hackett was devising - the winter tour.
That concept has become a tradition. In fact, the Brewers are on their winter tour this week. They had stops at Green Bay, Appleton, Racine and Madison -- as well as 20 other cities around the state - scheduled.
Included on the tour is the traditional Red Smith dinner in Appleton. The Dugout Club in Madison also has put on a great event for years under the direction of Gus Burwell.
The tour climaxes with the Diamond Celebration, a banquet and awards event this Friday at the Pfister Hotel.
At that final stop, Geoff Jenkins will be presented with the team MVP award and hitting awards. Jeff D'Amico will get the team MVP pitcher award. Other team awards also will be presented.
Perhaps the best part of the event for fans is a pre-dinner session, at which they can get autographs from players while they talk with the media.
While I sing the praise of the winter tour and Diamond Celebration, I also want to share a major concern. The Pfister event now costs $100, which undoubtedly is pricing some fans out.
I completely understand the need to raise funds from the corporate community, but organizers of the event also must be sensitive to the pocketbooks of the average fan in Milwaukee. Maybe another similar event could be held at a cheaper location in town.
Fans can see some players at the annual bowling tournament the day after the Diamond Celebration. But, Milwaukee fans should have the same reasonable-priced access to the Brewers that fans elsewhere on the tour enjoy during the off-season.
-- I will be in Green Bay, Appleton, Beloit, Racine, Madison and at the Pfister on the tour. You can see nightly coverage on The Brew Crew Review at brewers.rivals.com.
Other Brewers Buzz
The Brewers signed pitcher Jimmy Haynes to a one-year deal for a reported $2.2 million last week. Pitcher Jamey Wright and catcher Henry Blanco, the other two players eligible for salary arbitration, also were expected to sign deals rather than enter arbitration.
The signing of Haynes further solidifies a staff that has plenty of numbers. Right now the Brewers' rotation possibles include Jeff D'Amico, Jamey Wright, Haynes, Ben Sheets, Paul Rigdon, John Snyder, Allen Levrault, Horacio Estrada and Kyle Peterson. In relief, you have David Weathers, Juan Acevedo, Valerio De Los Santos, Rocky Coppinger, Chad Fox, Ray King, Will Cunnane, Brandon Kolb, Rafael Roque and Everett Stull. Curtis Leskanic will be the closer.
Some of these guys are coming off injuries and might need rehab work first. Others could start the season in the minors. But, GM Dean Taylor has taken the Atlanta approach and has stockpiled pitchers. That could pay off if the Brewers do face injuries. It also could pay off in attempts to get a third baseman from a team that needs pitching, which includes almost every team in the majors.
Coach George Karl is what we reporters call "good copy" in that you can ask one question and sometimes get a full column from him. Here's his response to a question asked by yours truly before a Bucks' game last week:
"I think every coach in America would like you guys (sportswriters) to write more about the work ethic. We (coaches) get blamed, but we have to manage the work ethic that we get. It's the players' direction, their individuality, their selfish nature toward the team, their inability to commit and dedicate. Is it rampant? Is the individual attitude of sport now becoming a rampant epidemic?
"I don't know if it's generational, if it's started by TV, or if it's caused by the money. Some people say it's societal, that kids today who are not athletes are having the same lack of commitment, lack of respect.
"This is the fiber of sport that every coach, everybody who's aware, knows is important. There is some truth that the game right now is being strangled by coaching, and I understand that too. But, I sure like the idea of coaching intensity, and attitude a lot more than I like coaching talent that doesn't play hard."
George would have gone on longer, but Bucks' PR director Cheri Hanson had to cut him off to get him to a radio interview. Some more good copy. Thanks, George.
-- My question that prompted Karl's treatise was about the work ethic of teams coached by Don Nelson and his disciples, of which George is one. The Dallas Mavericks were in town, and while Don is in Hawaii, recuperating from prostate surgery, his son, Donn, is serving as interim coach, former Bucks' coach Del Harris is an assistant coach, and former Bucks' star Sidney Moncrief is yet another assistant.
It was like old home week. Donn lived in Milwaukee from seventh grade to college and still comes here in the summers to visit his mother and take a trip to Door County. Del, whose son, Larry, is director of player personnel for the Bucks, was proudly showing off his grandson to the Maverick's players in the locker room.
Sid, the classiest athlete I have ever dealt with, was sitting on a chair, holding court with several Milwaukee reporters. A couple of us veterans kidded him that he should be sitting on the floor, with his legs straight out and ice packs on both knees. That was the usual post-game posture for Sidney, who had a work ethic that could not be topped.
By the way, controversial Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban, who was fined by the NBA for sitting among the media in Minnesota, sat courtside and visited with fans and reporters before and after the game. He seemed like a real regular guy.
One last buzz on the Dallas connection; Nellie is said to be doing well in his recovery from cancer.
-- While Karl isn't enamored with the work ethic of modern players, the Bucks were playing well enough to pull into a battle for first place in the NBA Central. Look to Friday, when they face a showdown with the Hornets in Charlotte and to a big game against the Knicks at the Bradley Center on Jan. 23.
-- If the Bucks beat the Clippers Tuesday night, it will mark 10 straight wins at the Bradley Center, and Karl said last Saturday night he might shave his head like Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell to celebrate the streak. Robinson, who scored 35 points, Saturday reacted by saying, "He's already halfway there. If that's a way to motivate us, I think he'll shave his head and grow his beard back."
As of this writing, the Admirals had played in an IHL-high 20 one-goal games. They were 8-10-2. So, they're keeping it close and being very competitive. If they can keep doing that, they should improve their record in the last couple months of the season.
The Wave is getting more of an international look. Croatian midfielder Nikola Tomicic had his U.S. visa approved last week and could start playing this week. Sinisa Alebic, another Croatian player, is waiting for his visa to be approved.
-- Kudos to one of my former students at UWM, Lisa Kryzkowski, who recently was drafted by the Atlanta Beat of the new Women's United Soccer Association, which begins play in April.
Lisa was an All American at UWM and also one of the most conscientious students I have ever had. She would do assignments before they were due if she had a road game that conflicted with a class. Good luck as one of the first female pro soccer players in the country, Lisa.
Sports Media Buzz
While I'm on the topic of former students, one of the best things about being a working journalist and teacher is seeing your former "kids" end up in the work force. Drew Olson, who covers the Brewers for the Journal Sentinel, is one of them. So is Brewers' media relations director Jon Greenberg. In fact, those guys met in my Sports and the Media course, became buddies and roommates before each got fulltime jobs and eventually married.
Andy Fenelon and Rick Klauer who work for Packer Plus and JS Online also are former students, as are Todd Rosiak and a host of others who cover prep sports and handle agate at the MJS.
C.J. Knee of WAUK sports talk radio is yet another. Eric Rogers and Amy Stober are in Atlanta at CNN-SI. The list goes on and on, especially if you expand beyond sports journalism to news and PR -- Jessica McBride, Jamaal Abdul Alim, etc.
Bobby Tanzilo, another former student, might be editing this column for OnMilwaukee.com right now. Remember, Bobby, two g's and two n's (how could I forget? -ed.).
All these former students deserve credit themselves for making it in a tough field, but they also should know that I am proud of them and happy that I didn't screw them up too bad.
So many of my former students are now working at the same events as me that I once asked my wife how come I couldn't retire. She replied, "Because you're not old enough or rich enough, but you're working on the old." We've been married 26 years, so she knows what she's talking about.
Look for more Buzz on Milwaukee Pro Sports on OnMilwaukee.com next week.
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, senior lecturer in journalism and mass communication at UWM and publisher of The Brew Crew Review at brewers.rivals.com. Hoffmann also is the author of "Down in the Valley: The History of Milwaukee County Stadium."