Milwaukee Talks: Brewers Senior Director of Media Relations Mike Vassallo
Brewers Senior Director of Media Relations Mike Vassallo didn't grow up rooting for Milwaukee. The Long Island native was a Mets fan who first worked for the Yankees, then traveled to the Reds, and finally arrived with the Crew in 2006.
As a fan, you probably don't know Vassallo personally, but you've heard his voice in the background of radio broadcasts, announcing player's milestones. Or you're one of the almost 7,700 people who follow him on Twitter. Or maybe you've seen him on the field at Miller Park, pointing players to the right interview.
Day in and day out, Vassallo is embedded with the Brewers, working incredibly long hours, and not just during the baseball season. Here's his story.
OnMilwaukee.com: What was your path to Milwaukee?
Mike Vassallo: I'm from Valley Stream, Long Island and I moved to Huntington, Long Island when I was in 11th grade. I was in college in 1995, at SUNY Oswego, and whenever I'd come home for the summer, I'd try to get a job at Pfizer. My whole family worked there at one point or another. One night I had tickets to the Yankees game, and I was going to take the subway there, but I wasn't that familiar with the city. There was an older gentleman named Andy; he used to greet people in the lobby and press the elevator buttons at Pfizer, but his night job was doing the same thing at Yankee Stadium. I went over with him on the train, and I brought a baseball with me, because I was a big Phil Rizzuto fan – I wasn't really a Yankees fan. I went in with Andy, and Rizzuto went up the elevator and signed my ball. I overheard Phil tell Andy that his assistant never showed up anymore. I remember it like it was yesterday. I raised my hand and said, "I'll do it for free."
Phil was taken aback, but Andy vouched for me. For the rest of the summer, whenever the Yankees were on WPIX, I would get a credential and be his gopher, getting coffee for him and keeping score for him during the innings he didn't announce.
When I went back to school, I put on my resume "personal assistant to Phil Rizzuto," which is still on there to this day. That lead to an internship with the Yankees in '97, and they hired me after that. I went to the Reds as assistant director of media relations in December of '99, and then to the Brewers. My first day with the Brewers was the day before Opening Day in 2006.
OMC: In a market like this, is it unusual for a team to bring in someone from the East Coast? And did you have a hard time acclimating to the Midwest?
MV: Not really, because Cincinnati is very similar. It was more of an adjustment going from New York to Cincinnati.
OMC: Who did you root for as a kid?
MV: The Mets and the Twins. Then, I was for whatever team that was going to hire me to go to the next level.
OMC: Did this job turn you into a Brewers fan?
MV: Oh, of course. I rooted for every team that I worked for.
OMC: What's it like to work and interact with professional baseball players every day? They must live in an entirely different kind of world than people like you and me.
MV: Honestly, I don't look at them any differently than I do my good friends back in Long Island. They make a heck of a lot more money, but they're normal people, pretty much. I'm not awed by them, and if I need to, I tell them what's on my mind, whether it's positive or negative. I think they appreciate that.
OMC: Spending so much time with players, have you developed friendships with any of these guys?
MV: You rarely become what I'd call friends, necessarily. There are a few, though. Dmitri Young and Sean Casey are good friends of mine to this day. There are some guys on the team that I'm close with.
OMC: Does it work the other way? Are you friends with the members of the media that you work with?
MV: Oh yeah. Tom Haudricourt and Adam McCalvy, I would call two of my closest friends, not only in Milwaukee but overall. You spend so much time with them and get to know them as people. I value the relationships that I have with our beat reporters.
OMC: I don't know if people understand the long hours you guys work. What kind of toll does that take on you, personally?
MV: People realize that we work long hours, but I don't know if they know to what degree they realize how much we work. People ask me what this city is like, what that city is like. I mean, I have an idea, but not as much as I should after going to all these places all of these times. For me, it's pretty much go to the hotel, wake up, go to the ballpark, then go back to the hotel. A lot of guys don't realize – including the players – that the day doesn't end when the game ends. When I get back to that hotel, I'm working on the game notes for the next day, which takes a couple of hours every night. Right back at it the next day.
I get asked all the time, "What do you do in the winter?" They think that I'm off. Granted it's not as many hours, but it's still a 9-5 job.
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