January 2007

Nothing Special

I have a new favorite former Brewer.  It had been a Robin Yount/Paul Molitor combo until last week.  My new favorite former Brewer is Larry Hisle.  Larry Hisle calls his life "nothing special" but he is making new fans every day in the Milwaukee area, even though it has been 25 years since he played his last game in the Big Leagues.  That was 1982…as a member of the most beloved Brewers team in franchise history.  He played in only nine games that year and didn’t contribute much (2 HR, 5 RBI).  But only five years prior to ’82, he was one of the most productive players in the big leagues.  During Larry’s two All-Star years, (’77 in Minnesota, ’78 in Milwaukee) he drove in a combined 234 runs and hit 62 long balls.  Those are the stats.  For me, the most important production came after his time as a player when he began his work in the Brewers Community Relations Department. 

Larry speaks at numerous schools every week and last Friday, I heard Larry’s story for the first time during a school visit at the Business and Economics Academy of Milwaukee.  It was an appearance arranged by Brewers Community Relations Director, Leonard Peace (who has quite a story of his own). We made the stop at the central-city charter school to promote the MLB S.C.O.R.E. program.  School, Community, Opportunity, Role Models, and Excellence are the words that make up the acronym.  Leonard and I gave out T shirts, baseballs and bookmarks…Larry Hisle delivered the message.   

Sixth, seventh and eighth graders filled the cafeteria, "ooh-ing" and "awe-ing" as Larry spoke about his playing days and the rewards that go with a 14 year career in the Major Leagues.  But all were quiet and attentive when Larry spoke of his childhood.  How he made himself into "something" after starting out with more of "nothing" than anyone else in the room. 

When Larry was about the same age as the students in the audience, he was an orphan.  Both of his parents died, one year apart, before his twelfth birthday.  His entire upbringing was spent enduring the sting of extreme poverty.  There was violence on every corner.  But he spoke of his late mother’s message of hope that stayed with him.  He made it out of an unhealthy environment because he chose to listen to his conscience, choosing "right" instead of "easy."

That was the message that Larry delivered to the children at the Academy.  He asked them to make a choice to overcome, every day, over and over and over, just like he did.  He did not grow up hoping to play professional sports.  His hope was to be a teacher and a coach so he could make an impact on others…even though he grew up in a world where most "others" were not offering the same service in return.

Larry gave these students a message of "can" because he DID.  No matter the environment an individual is born into, we are all born special.  With unique gifts and talents.  Then, by our own choosing, we become SOMETHING or NOTHING…or somewhere in between.  Larry calls his career "nothing special."  He says what he does now is "nothing special."  I disagree.  Larry’s childhood and his terrific Major League career are only part of the "something" that he has become.  His message to thousands of school kids every year is the REAL "something" that makes him truly "special." 

Larry Hisle…my new favorite former Brewer.

Have a great week.

BA

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Ned Goes Pop?

Last Friday, I signed off for the final time on Spurs TV during another blowout win for the Spurs over the Chris Paul-less Hornets.  After eight years on the air and 14 total with the organization, I said my goodbye’s and closed the book on my NBA life.   

Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich offered a heartfelt sendoff.  It lasted 10 minutes and it’s the longest conversation I’ve had with Pop to date (He was ejected in the first quarter of that game, btw).  Up to that point, our relationship was all business.  He was always fair.  He always answered the tough questions.  He was always the most intimidating presence in the room.  But Friday, for the first time, Pop was my buddy.  As we talked about trust and respect and the Brewers (he loves baseball…and Milwaukee) I began thinking about what makes an organization great and what I see building in the Brewers right now.  It’s the same thing I witnessed first hand with the Spurs when Pop took reign over the franchise.

Even Gregg Popovich admits there was a little luck.  To get David Robinson and Tim Duncan in the draft is a once in a lifetime occasion…twice.  Hall of Fame coach John Wooden was right, no matter how you measure coaching or leadership, talent wins games.  But assembling WINNING talent starts with a defined, unwavering leader.  One that establishes a culture of winning not just with the players, but with the organization and even with the fans.  That’s what Pop has done in San Antonio. 

I was with the Spurs for all three championships and I was there prior to the titles as well.  When the only thing "big league" about the city was its "big league" inferiority complex.  But Pop and the Spurs changed all of that.  He took talent and demanded success.  He put himself, and ownership on the plank by demanding the fans demanded success, too.  He only asked that fans welcome players as one of their own and make it so they never want to leave. 

Pop made smart basketball decisions and smart civic decisions.  Winning does a city like milk does a body…good.  Pop knew that.  It was not about getting there, it was about staying there.  There was a title, then there was a push for a new arena.  One that would be loud and intimidating.  Then a new practice facility.  Because players like cool, state of the art gyms to hideout in.  Then two more titles.  And the wheel goes ’round.  Now, stars want to stay there and free agents want to play there, and there is not a negative comment made to a San Antonian that can’t be rebuked with, "yeah, but my team has three rings!"

I see a lot of Gregg Popovich in Ned Yost.  Same drive, same demeanor, same single mindedness about success.  I love how Yost scoff’s at the notion of "breaking .500."  "We’re here to win the division!" is his response.  It is echoed by Doug Melvin, then it’s echoed by Mark Attanassio.  Three power brokers putting themselves in the hot seat of expectations.  All with defined roles and specific goals for the franchise.

I see a lot of the Spurs in the Brewers.  I understand the economic differences between the NBA and Major League Baseball.  I certainly understand the optimism in all baseball fans this time of year.  But there is a culture of winning brewing in Brewtown.  I may be new, but I’ve seen it come true and wouldn’t it be great…to have a new ’82?  (apologies to Dr. Seuss)

Have a great week!

-BA

An encore from the newest Brewer fan…he wrote it, he plays it, he sings it…PG

Please feel free to send your thoughts/questions to the mailbag…click on the "comments" icon below.

A’s to Q’s

Wow, thanks for all the great comments and email’s.  Means a lot.  I’ll fire up a new entry every Monday and respond to questions/comments on Friday’s…Deal?  I still have a few events in Texas (Spurs, College Hoops) to clean up before I join the team for good and am spending most of my free time throttled in full Brewer download.  Some great nuggets.  Like the fact that there was a "Milwaukee Brewers" team in 1901…led by player/manager Hugh Duffy (HOF ’45).  "Sir" Hugh was the ultimate free agent during an era when such a benefit did not exist…bouncing around between rival leagues taking full advantage of his extraordinary batsman-ship (.324 lifetime hitter).  He hit for the highest single season batting average in MLB history in 1894 (.440- some have it at .438) on his way to the Triple Crown.  He was also credited with being Ted Williams first hitting coach.  Which basically went something like this: "Ted, go in there and get a hit, just like I used to…"  "Yessir, Sir…(hit)…How was that, Sir?"  "Perfect, Ted…come back tomorrow and I’ll coach you some more!"

OK…here we go:

- Yes, there will be Spring Training webcast’s this year.  I’ll be there with Bill for all non-radio games and we’d love to make it as interactive as possible and have some fun.  Stay tuned.

- No, I’m not related to Brian Anderson (LHP) or Brian Anderson (OF).  But, my brother, Mike, played in the Big Leagues, briefly.  Mike is now the pitching coach for Bakersfield (CAL League) in the Texas Rangers system.  He’s 6’3".  I’m 5’9"…Milkman!

- To South Side Rob and Big Rygg: I have no idea how to enter the Brewer Nation into my blog (unless I just did?) but I’m all for it as long as you keep it clean for the kids.  And yes, Jeff from Minneapolis has had a good week on his MySpace site after the Stevie Ray Vaughan link.  I don’t know Jeff but I’m guessing he never realized he had such a big following from Brewer fans.  Good work, Jeff!

Plenty of golf questions coming in, which is cool.

- A tip? OK, tip #1…If you’re going to play stinky golf, play stinky golf fast! 

- I have never played a Wisconsin golf course…I did a tournament in Hudson, though (Troy Burne).

- The top 5 I have played? 

#5. Oak Hill (Rochester, NY). A Donald Ross gem – Shaun Micheel had a good week there in ’03. 

#4.  tie: Pete Dye’s Stadium Course at PGA West (La Quinta, CA) and Ocean Course (Kiawah Island).  Design marvels, both.   

#3. Kinloch Golf Club (Richmond, Va).  Goose bump setting.  Augusta-like without the "toonamunt." 

#2. Bel-Air CC (Beverly Hills). Great design, great weather, celebrities everywhere, and an elevator…on the course…to get you from 9 to 10.  Legendary.

#1a. Spy Glass (Pebble Beach)  Nothing like sea lions interrupting your backswing!

And # 1. The great PV, Pine Valley (outside Philly). Don’t ask, I know a guy who knows a guy, who knows a guy.  But by far, the greatest collection of 18 holes in America.   

That was 7, sorry.

…and speaking of Duffy, I’ll leave you with this…HD

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Just kidding, that was for my 7 year old…here you go: PG

-BA

A proper introduction

Since I am now officially a Brewer, the list of ?things that Daron Sutton did? begins right here in Blog-ville.  I?ll be sending these out weekly so read at your own risk.  To get started, the Brewers have asked that I write about my least favorite subject??ME!?

The most important thing I want you to know about ME is that I try to live my life with an understanding that it?s NOT about ME.  I?m not batting a thousand but I try to live each day with this as my mantra.  Even in blog?s?except this time.  This blog is about ME??cause they?re making me.

I?m 35 years old, married (14 years in February) with a 7-year old daughter.  I was born and raised in the ?live music capital? of the world, Austin, Texas.  Actually, I grew up in a small town outside Austin called Georgetown.  Like most Texas kids, I played football from age 7 through High School, but my passion was always baseball.  Baseball was my ticket to an education.  Luckily, I had a few choices and settled on San Antonio and St. Mary?s University, where I was the catcher for the nationally ranked NAIA powerhouse Rattlers and where I earned a degree in English-Communications.  Aside from the degree, the St. Mary?s move was big for my career because that?s where I connected with the San Antonio Missions (we shared the same stadium) and to the San Antonio Spurs (they practiced in our gym)

During my last two years of college, I interned working as a cameraman for the Public Access channel.  Before you know it, I was doing hand-held camera in the NBA for the Spurs while attending classes and playing college baseball. The life!  And, it was that camera gig that sustained me through the ?dream chasing? portion of the show.

That began with a decision.  After graduation in ?93 and the reality of not being MLB draft worthy, I had three offers.  One: enter the real world with a PR firm.  Two: attend scouting school with the Cincinnati Reds.  Three: accept a radio play-by-play job calling SA Missions Texas League baseball.  I had co-hosted a weekend sports talk show in college and liked the broadcasting angle so for $25 a game, I joined Roy Acuff and Missions Radio and off I went.

The Missions gig was the common thread from 1994-2002.  In the baseball off-season, I worked at a golf course and continued to work in TV production (camera, audio, graphics, etc) to make ends meet.  My wife, Michele, taught Kindergarten (she?s a star, always the most requested teacher) and she supported us financially while I did just enough in the winter to store up enough nuts to keep the dream alive in the summer.   

Now, the 5 key moments that get you?to me and the Brewers (bad grammar):

1994: One of my side jobs was as a ?runner? for ABC?s Monday Night Football, which meant I got to know Jack Buck a little (he called MNF on the radio).  Mr. Buck suggested I send a tape to the legendary CBS Radio baseball producer Norman Baer?which I did.  Mr. Baer responded with big praise of my call and quickly arranged an interview with the San Diego Padres.  It was a radio job but I had only been on the air for ONE season…didn?t get the gig but for a 23 year old hack, it was a huge confidence builder and got me focused on the goal of working my way to the Big Leagues.

1998: After 3 years of ?NO? from every MLB team with an opening, I finally got a ?yes? from ESPN to work the Double A All Star Game.  I had NEVER been on TV before and let me tell you, making your debut on national television is not at all good for your gizzard.  Never-the-less, I made it through and did enough to get 3 more games that year and a handful of games in ?99 and ?00, mostly Little League and Minor League stuff.

1999: The run on ESPN allowed me to make the move from TV tech., to TV announcer fulltime when FSN Southwest took me out of production and put me on the air as the Spurs Sideline Reporter.  My first game was the day after my daughter was born.  I kept that job and added many other FSN TV play-by-play gigs right up until I signed with the Brewers earlier this month?eight years total.

2002: Golf Channel.  Out of the blue, Golf Channel called on a recommendation by one of my ESPN producer?s, Chris Lincoln.  I was pitched as a young baseball announcer who has done some TV, and who ALSO worked in the golf business (I folded shirts and made tee times for a few years).  It was a slam dunk?I went through an interview/audition process and in the Winter of ?02, I cashed in my baseball chips and signed a multi-year deal to become a national cable network golf announcer.  That opportunity meant I was able to do all kind of great things?like, pay my bills, get off minor league buses, travel the country, get off minor league buses, play golf, and get off minor league buses!  I absolutely loved that gig and the people I worked with/for.  Golf is a great sport to cover and the hook-up?s are top notch, top notch!

2006: I had just completed the first year of a 4 year extension with Golf Channel when two MLB teams expressed interest.  I had turned down a MLB job offer in ?04 but this was different.  The Brewers were very aggressive and I was aggressive right back.  It happened so fast, and was so right, that I didn?t even consider the other offer.  As I said in the press conference, I came to Milwaukee saying ?no way? was I going to leave Golf Channel?but I left Milwaukee saying THIS is where I?m supposed to be.  I went through the entire process with the Brewers organization completely open and honest.  I had a great job already but after 7+ hour interview, including an audition with Bill Schroeder, I knew this was the absolute right fit for me.  I told them who I was, where I?d been, and what I was about?and they still wanted me.  The negotiations lasted about 5 minutes and after a painful call to the Golf Channel, I signed with the Brewers.  Then immediately walked out of my house, got a January sunburn and some mexican food and cried like a baby. 

So, here I am and that?s my story.  Thanks for the all of the incredible hospitality and well-wishes.  I’ve already sold my house and I want you to know that I’m pulling 8 generations of Texas roots out of the ground to take this dream job because I love this game, I love this organization and I love your town?and my girls and I can?t wait to make it our town.   

Enough about ME,

-BA

PS: Some clips if you want to check ME out:
Golf Channel: http://www.ifmedia.net/ba-extendedgolf.wmv
ESPN: http://www.ifmedia.net/anderson-baseball.wmv
Misc stuff: http://www.ifmedia.net/anderson-montage.wmv
Missions Radio: http://www.ifmedia.net/anderson-baseballradio1.wma

And, as a music lover, I leave you with a ?gen-u-wine? Austin original.  The grand poo-bah of blues six stringers who died (shortly after this performance) in East Troy, Wisconsin 16 years ago?enjoy:
http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=619630352

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