Homestander: Opening Day Edition

HomestanderEach Thursday preceding Brewers weekend home stands, Tyler Maas will help prepare fans for all elements of the upcoming series with the Homestander. Tyler prints Wisconsin-themed shirts at Forward Fabrics and contributes to such fine publications as Milwaukee Magazine and The A.V. Club Milwaukee. All views, naughty words and weirdo sentiments are his own. Follow him at @TylerJamesMaas.

In many ways, October 3, 2012 wasn't that long ago. We have the same president. The lease I signed for my apartment has yet to expire. "Gangnam Style" is, unfortunately, still taking faint, periodic breaths of relevance. Though fewer than six months have elapsed since that early October night, it seems like eons have passed. That evening, Vince, myself and a documented 34,449 others (More like 12,000. We alone were handed 20 free tickets by people who had extras) witnessed the last regular season Brewers game that's occurred to date. Fittingly, it was a loss brought on by the bullpen.

Each of the days sitting between October 4 through this coming Easter Sunday is the longest day for Brewers fans. While there are some worthwhile things like Packer season, holidays, the return of beloved TV shows, the occasional concert or comedy show, feigning interest in Spring Training, and out-of-town excursions to occupy our interest and funnel our attention into, it all amounts to just temporary rest stops on the lengthy, desolate road that connects the last out of one season to the first pitch of the next.

Opening Day is special. Not only does it mark the return of baseball, but it also signals the true beginning of a cycle that includes grilling, outdoor drinking, the notion that before 161 more of these games are through being played the snow will melt and leaves will grow on (and later, fall off) trees. We'll be met by familiar sights, sounds and smells. There's also an infinite field of unpredictable possibilities that span April 1, 2013 and yet-to-be-known departure date of Brewers baseball. Maybe Ryan Braun will earn another MVP award that will be given to Buster Posey. Bob Uecker could muster the funniest statement of his broadcast career. A bevy of Twitter accounts devoted to Miller Park animals could be born. Any one of us could bone someone in one of the single occupancy shitters on the 400 level.

So much could happen. And I'm ready for it. Bring on baseball.

MicroBrew
I'll start small with our inaugural minor league honoree. At 5'10'' and 155 lbs, Ryan Joseph "Scooter" Gennett's steady advancement through the minors proves that if we all work hard enough, we could all be one catastrophic Rickie Weeks injury away from making the big leagues. I can't wait to hear how scrappy he is once he makes the 25-man roster in 2016.

Blatz from the Pabst
Occasionally, you'll hear stories about how pitchers like Trevor Hoffman or Kenley Jansen came up as position players before becoming dominant closers. Other times, struggling young pitchers like Rick Ankiel or Adam Loewen successfully make the transition to outfielder. But it's a rarity in modern baseball to see a player be asked to pitch, play outfield and pinch hit. Brooks Kieschnick was one of the few bright spots for some of the most dreadful Brewers teams ever (2003-04). In 2003, Kiesch bombed seven homers into the right field stands in only 70 at-bats (a humungous head-era Barry Bonds-like HR rate). He hit .300 that year--which kind of made up for his 5.26 ERA. Tables turned in '04, when his 3.77 ERA dwarfed is power.

While the fact that a middle reliever was called upon to pinch hit with the game on the line or stuck in left field on double-switches was more of a testament to how bad those Brewers teams were than how good Brooks was, there will always be a place in my heart for him. Plus, he follows me on Twitter, which is pretty much a dream come true.

Handy Heckle (Rockies)
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Tailgating Tips
To eat: As boring as this choice is, I suggest starting the season off right with a brat (your choice, I suggest Usinger's), a child-sized fist full of Frank's kraut and a smattering of Koop's Arizona Heat mustard set atop a bun. Uecker swears by pretzilla, but if you're not pulling down $7 residual checks every time Homeward Bound 2: Lost In San Francisco is on ABC Family, a Roundy's hot dog bun will do just fine. The bun is a means of conveyance more than anything else.
To drink: Hinterland Winterland. One of the only bad things about spring is grocery stores and bars throughout the state slowly ridding their stock of delicious, tasty, suicide-staving winter beers. Come late February, I hoard them, especially Winterland, which the crown jewel of Green Bay-based Hinterland Brewery. I wonder if I'd like winter beers as much if they were widely available year-round. I dream to one day live in a world where I can find out instead of stubbornly choking down flat hooch in July.
Avoid: Playing catch with a football. You're about to attend a baseball game, man. Show some class. You don't see me breaking out the badminton net outside the Bradley Center before Bucks tip-off. Well, excluding that one time.

Tailgating Tunes
We'll start with an obvious one. I've loved Call Me Lightning since 2003, when I (a senior in high school at the time) saw them open for a local band I liked at Lawrence University. Between Nathan Lilly's unmistakable howls and moans, Shane Hochstetler's incredible drumming (and comically large bass drum) and 10 years worth of songs about ghosts, dragons, blood and serving unwitting dinner guests your feces disguised as chocolate pudding, they're still one of my favorite bands... not just in Milwaukee, but on Earth. Last summer, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a wedding of some friends that Call Me Lightning played. They dusted off some old songs I hadn't heard them play in years and the bride stage-dove. I'll never forget it.

If you're not going to be in Appleton for a different show Saturday, I suggest going to see CML at Cactus Club in Milwaukee, picking up some CDs and playing them in the general admission lot Monday. You'll be the hit of Gantner's Gardens 2.

If you can't make it to Miller Park...
Every week, I'll recommend a bar to take in a Brewers game. While most will be in the Milwaukee area, I'll occasionally pick an out-of-town tavern.

Two weeks ago, I went to Madison for a friend's 30th birthday party. I only make it to Madison 2-3 times annually, but nearly every time, I stop by Red Shed (406 N. Frances St., Madison) for one--OK... usually two or three--of the bar's incredible and gigantic long island iced teas. Served in mason jars, these potent $7 cocktails are good enough to rationalize going to a bar with (what I, in my limited experiences, assume to be) Red Shed's general clientele. Last time I was there, one dude tried to play his friend's leg like a guitar, causing him to fall and break his half-full jar on the floor. Then another guy fist-bumped me outside the bathroom because he just "rocked an awesome piss." They probably have TVs. I can't remember... long islands and all.

Ad-monishment
As summer approaches, Noah's Ark is likely putting the finishing touches on the next batch of its genius "I just remembered what water feels like!" TV commercials. Beyond being annoying as shit, this poorly-thought concept seems to suggest that simply touching water is as good as going down a waterside. If that's the case, why would anyone drive to Wisconsin Dells and pay a $20 entrance fee to bob around in a wave pool full of stranger urine when almost as much fun can be had flailing in a puddle or douching yourself in front of the kitchen sink?

Follow
@ShitUeckSays - The account was started by my pal Steve last year to document some of Mr. Baseball's best quotes. It's one of the best ways to kill an afternoon at work. Frank Caliendo even follows it... but don't let that stop you from following too.

Have any ideas for any of these categories? Email tips to ForwardFabrics@gmail.com.

In addition to contributing to Miller Park Drunk, Tyler Maas writes for Milwaukee Magazine, The A.V. Club Milwaukee and The A.V. Club Madison. When he isn't writing, he's holding down the Forward Fabrics shop. He wholeheartedly endorses Frank's Sauerkaut, Koops' Arizona Heat mustard and removing the DH from baseball altogether. Follow him on Twitter @TylerJamesMaas.

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