Friday, May 21, 2021

More Marlins And Brewers Memories

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH 

The schedule makers have done me a big favor early this season as the main teams I’ve wanted to see are now out of the way.

The San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers were must sees! 

There will be others this season but not so bunched together.

I’ve talked about the Giants losing to the Marlins during the 2003 playoffs in their championship season as I covered that memorable game at Joe Robbie Stadium.

The Baltimore Orioles Deep South Florida Connection, especially in Miami was nostalgic. 

It was great seeing the Arizona Diamondbacks face the Marlins during the last home stand since I lived in the area during their magical World Series run in 2001.

When the Milwaukee Brewers faced the Marlins during Mother’s Day Weekend, more memories went through my head. 

I saw them face the Miami Marlins during June of 2013, the first year I was dating my wife. I enjoyed talking baseball with then Brewers GM Doug Melvin outside the batting cage. 

I also talked to other Brewers as well.

My wife had her first official assignment as a photographer at LoanDepotPark and did a fine job. 

She earned the spot as my official photographer because of her professionalism and production.

It just so happens that my wife is a lifelong Brewers fan as she hails from Menominee Falls, a suburb of Milwaukee.

My history goes real deep with the Brewers as I’ve covered them during Spring Training in the late 1980’s and I took a trip in the early 1990’s when they played in Chandler, AZ. 

Back then, I had the good pleasure of working with Director of Media Relations Tom Skibox. 

I met Tom through a former colleague Andy Liscano, who I originally met in Miami, Fla, and he would later work in Milwaukee as a sports anchor.

I covered some games at Compadre Stadium in Chandler and Skibox made sure I had all the access I needed. 

I’ll never forget the time when I told Tom I was going to Yuma, AZ to see the San Diego Padres play and he told me that I’ll credential you here to save you the time and expense. 

Back then, my goal was to see as many Cactus League Ballparks.

I did go to Yuma but unfortunately, when I got to town, just 15 minutes away from the ballpark off I-10 West, I got a speeding ticket that costs me $180.00. It was definitely a speed trap coming around a corner and just like that, I saw the lights you don’t want to see when you make a mistake on the road.

When I returned to Chandler to cover a Brewers game, I went to Skibox and told him that I enjoyed my experience but did get the speeding ticket. 

I told him that while I should have listened to him, I have no regrets taking the trip and we both laughed off the situation. 

Indeed, a light-hearted moment. To this day, Tom is one of the best Media Relations professionals, I’ve ever worked with. I value him as a good friend.

When it comes to Media Relations professionals, Ken Spindler, also of the Brewers is right up there. 

He accommodated me in September of 2016 vs the Pittsburgh Pirates, where I had a chance to write a story on the team’s former hitting coach Darnell Coles, whom I’ve been friends with for years dating back to his playing days with the Detroit Tigers. 

I did invite Darnell to my wedding but he was unable to attend.

During this assignment, my wife was too short at 5-2 and it didn’t do her any favors as she had issues in the photo well. 

I talked to Ken about this and we had a good chuckle. 

He credentialed her the next day and gave her tips about where she could take photos. The extra day payed big dividends.

Spindler helped me again during Spring Training of 2018 at American Family Fields Ballpark in Phoenix.

Spindler set up an interview with Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton, a native of Lakeland, FL, the Spring Training Home of the Detroit Tigers. 

During the Broxton interview, we talked about his time with the Brewers as well as growing up watching the Tigers as a child.

My wife and I took a red eye flight from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Phoenix and six hours after we arrived in town, we were at the ballpark which is in the Phoenix suburb of Maryvale. 

After leaving Maryvale, Spindler was classy and asked me when I left the facility if I enjoyed my trip to the game and I gave him an overwhelming, YES! 

I thanked Ken for his hospitality as well as his friendship.

During this game vs Colorado, I got to know Rockies Media Relations people real well and I was invited to attend games at their Scottsdale Salt River Fields facility. 

Cory Little set up interviews with DJ LeMahieu and Chris Rusin, both of whom had Metro Detroit ties and I wrote separate columns for the Detroit Monitor.

I also covered Brewers three-game series vs the Detroit Tigers in September of 2018 which they swept and proceeded to win the National League Central Division.

But the emotional attachment to the Brewers was climactic on January 1, 2017, when I get married at Miller Park. 

We rented the restaurant Friday’s and it was a great time as the majority of my family made the trek across I-94 from Metro Detroit to be a part of the event in my wife’s hometown.

There have been a lot of interesting connections between the Brewers and Marlins.

Miami traded Christian Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers and he’s now the cornerstone of their franchise.

Jesus Aguilar had a productive career with the Brewers from 2017-2019 and was an All-Star for Milwaukee in 2018.

Aguilar signed with the Marlins in 2020 and is a key part of this ball club.

One of the most striking similarities between the two clubs is they play in mid-markets therefore, they replicate themselves with lower payrolls and focus on player development.

Former Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton used to hit monster home runs off Brewers pitching. Then again, he towering shots off of every team he faced.

On September 11, 2014, at Miller Park, Stanton was hit by a pitch in the face by pitcher Mike Fiers, and was at first expected to resume play, but subsequent examination determined the injury was more serious. The impact resulted in multiple facial fractures, lacerations, and dental damage. 

On September 17, the Marlins announced that Stanton would not play in the last two weeks of the 2014 season. 

In 145 games, Stanton batted .288 with 37 home runs, 105 RBI, 94 walks (24 intentional), a .555 slugging percentage, and a .950 OPS. He finished second in MVP voting to winner Clayton Keyshaw.

Also, Brewers Manager Craig Counsell played on the Marlins under Jim Leyland during their 1997 World Championship season.  

He scored the winning run for the Fish in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 7 on Edgar Renteria’s single over the head of Cleveland Indian’s pitcher Charles Nagy’s head that gave the Marlins a 3-2 lead.

Counsell tied that game in the bottom of the ninth with a sacrifice fly.

During that series Counsell batting average was .182 and was 4-22 in the series, but came through in the clutch. He would win another World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. 

He grew up in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.

The only major two difference between these two clubs comes in the championship department.

The Brewers lone trip to the World Series occurred in 1982 when they were in the American League. Milwaukee lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3.

The Marlins have two World Series Championships in 1997 and 2003.

These two teams didn’t meet during the 2020 COVID-19 shortened 60-game season.

But the last time I did see the Brewers play in was in March 2020 vs the LA Dodgers in Glendale, AZ. That Spring Training Game was the last baseball game I had covered because the following day, MLB completely shutdown because of Covid-19.

Going into this season, Milwaukee led the all-time series 81-73. 

The series resumed from April 26-28 in Milwaukee as the Marlins won two of the three contests.

Milwaukee came to Miami and took two of the three games in South Florida from May 7-9 which was Mother’s Day Weekend. 

I attended two of those games. 

The first was on May 7th when the Marlins defeated the Brewers 6-1.

At the time, this was Milwaukee’s sixth straight loss and fell to 0-5 on its seven game road trip.

Marlins left-handed pitcher Trevor Rogers looked impressive in this game by going five innings, yielding just one run, had six strikeout and only two walks. He improved his record to 4-2.

The Marlins bullpen held the Brewers in check for the final four innings.

The big blow of this game was by Isan Diaz, who hit his first grand slam HR of his off Patrick Weigel, who replaced Brewers starter Brent Suter. At this time, the Marlins had built a 5-0 lead.

The following night I covered the Florida Panthers game vs the Tampa Bay Lightning but Milwaukee did snap their losing streak with a 6-2 win.

The rubber match was on Mother’s Day and Candy came to her first game of the season as a photographer.  Her access was limited but she made the most of the situation. 

Before the game, she toured the stadium and learned about the history of it when this site was formerly the Orange Bowl.

Unfortunately for myself, this was a tough day because it was the first Mother’s Day without my mom, who passed away on November 28, 2020. She battled a long illness and succumbed to COPD. I was able to see her the final five days before she passed away in her Birmingham, MI apartment two days after Thanksgiving.

But I knew she was looking down on me from heaven and was happy that Candy and I were doing what we loved to do. That’s cover sports.

How did this contest turn out?

The Brewers won it 2-1 in 10 innings.

The player that impressed me the most in this game was Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara, who pitched seven innings, gave up one run, had six strikeouts and one walk. He threw 103 pitches and 73 were for strikes. He would get a no decision. Alcantara lowered his ERA to 2.72.

There were no shortage of good photo opportunities for Candy. 

She had a chance to see Aguilar pinch hit and Josh Hadar (3-0) pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts lowering his ERA to 0.71 to earn the win.

Tyrone Taylor hit a two-out tie breaking single in the 10th inning and seven Brewers combined on a six hitter for the 2-1 win. Milwaukee would finish 2-5 on the road trip.

The Marlins fell to 2-7 in one-run games. Marlins Manager Don Mattingly proceeded to second-guess himself for deciding against a sacrifice bunt to start the 10th inning. Instead, Isan Diaz struck out against Drew Rasmussen, dropping his average to .185. 

The Marlins had other issues as well. They committed two errors, went 0-6 with runners in scoring position, had two runners picked off and struck out 12 times, increasing their two-game total to 30.

The teams split the season series 3-3.

The games between these two teams reminded me of the rivalry our football teams have. Candy is a Green Bay Packers fan while I’ve been a Detroit Lion my entire life.

Despite the Milwaukee connections I have with the Brewers and especially with extended family, the Miami Marlins are a team that I’m working with. 

Their Communications Staff treats me great plus I have had a lot of memories covering many of their games in the past. 

So if you want to say that I have a National League team, the Marlins are it!

So it’s no secret where my rooting interest is with the Marlins and things got very animated around our house. 

I can’t forget the fact that I truly enjoy working with Marlins Manager Don Mattingly, whom to this day, I still deserves to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame!

But, I’m also extremely proud of the relationships I have formed through the years with the Brewers which in addition to Skibox and Spindler, another person that I worked with formerly of the Tigers, Tyler Barnes, Senior Vice President of  Communications and Affiliate Operations has always been there when I needed him.

The next Marlins and Brewers memory that takes place is when these two teams return to Miller Park.

But it was fun being a part of this again during a bittersweet Mother’s Day Weekend.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth. 

To see his broadcasts, subscribe to the South  Florida Tribune You Tube Channel for free.

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