This Sunday’s Brewers On Deck Gives Fans a Chance to Meet the Stars

…And maybe say something incredibly dumb to them

Jan. 23, 2017
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Hall of Famer Robin Yount and the author, January 1991.

This Sunday at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee, the Brewers will hold “Brewers On Deck 2017,” their annual winter fan festival. Dozens of current and former players will appear to sign autographs and talk with fans. The event certainly has come a long way since it debuted in 2004. The premier On Deck event was held at Brookfield Square Mall and featured a handful of players and music by Miller Park organist Dean Rosko. When the idea of waiting in line at the mall to meet Wayne Franklin lost its appeal, the event was moved to Miller Park. In 2008, with the Brewers finally having broken their two-decade losing streak, On Deck was retooled and moved downtown. Memorabilia dealers, quiz shows, games, and youth instructional clinics were added – features that will all be offered at this weekend’s event.

Brewers On Deck is actually pretty similar in format to the old “Brewersfest” that was hosted at the MECCA in the early 1990s. Nearly 10,000 people showed up for the first-ever Brewersfest in January 1990. A 74-88 record in ’90 tempered enthusiasm over the fest in 1991 and, after attendance dropped considerably,  Brewersfest was put on the waiver wire. Among the crowd that weekend in ’91 was a nine-year-old bespectacled dork from Manitowoc with a mullet and neon Bucks give-away cap (me!). As I milled around the place with my dad, Tom Trebelhorn was gushing at a Q&A session by the newly-acquired Franklin Stubbs, Bud Selig was declaring that the Brewers would be in a new stadium by 1994 (“People keep saying 1993 in the paper but you have to be realistic,” he said), and GM Harry Dalton was speculating that the Brewers might give 45-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, who was considering a comeback, a tryout.

But my most vivid memory of the afternoon – maybe even of my whole childhood – came when I got to meet and have my picture taken with Robin Yount. With the lines at the autograph tables stretching all the way to Franklin, my dad steered me towards the much-shorter lines at the photo stage. As my fortune had it, Yount was the featured Brewer by the time I reached the front of the line. When I took my seat next to Yount, my head buzzing like a Scattergories timer, he asked me about my shirt. As you can see in the picture, I was wearing a plaid shirt direct from the Junior Dan Connor collection, but underneath that, I had on a “Hard Duck Café: New Orleans” novelty tee that my dad had bought me on a business trip (and I’d entirely forgotten, but you can see here that the “hard duck” is actually holding a Confederate flag guitar. Thanks Pop!). So anyway, Yount asked me what was on my shirt and I responded numbly, “It’s the Hard Duck Café.” Yes, I met my baseball hero and engaged in conversation and that was the sentence I said to him, “It’s the Hard Duck Café.” I also just realized that I’m only a year younger now than Yount was when I met him. Hard Duck, indeed.

Anyway, do your kids a favor and take them to Brewers On Deck. Yeah, there’s a lot of waiting in line and spending money and you’ll have to walk around in public with them when they’re (possibly) dressed like idiots, but maybe they’ll get to meet a real, in-person big leaguer. Just about the entire roster and coaching staff will be in attendance, as well as Bob Uecker, Mark Attanasio, and alums like Cecil Cooper, Rollie Fingers, and Robin Yount. If you’re lucky enough to meet Robin, just go ahead and describe your shirt to him. He loves it, trust me.

Brewers On Deck runs from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on January 29 at the Wisconsin Center (400 W. Wisconsin Avenue). Doors open at 7 a.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $9 for kids. For more information, click here

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