Milwaukee Talks: Brewers Senior Director of Media Relations Mike Vassallo
OMC: What were the playoffs like in 2008 and 2011? I know it was an extra month of hard work, but was it thrilling for you?
MV: I got spoiled early, because we won the World Series in 1998 and 1999 with the Yankees. But it was extra rewarding to experience it at the director level with the Brewers. I have very few memories from '08 or '11, actually, because it was such a grind.
OMC: You got a promotion recently, right? What changed?
MV: A nicer title and a raise, but also it showed that they appreciate the work that I've done. The job, itself, really hasn't changed all that much.
OMC: Speaking of things that have changed, media relations must be an entirely different beast than when you broke in. Facebook, Twitter, fan blogs. You, yourself, have almost 8,000 Twitter followers, so you're part of the change. It used to be that only the beat guys had a voice. Now everyone has a voice, right?
MV: It's good and bad. Rumors about trades have always gone out, but never this quickly. At the touch of a button, thousands or millions of people can see these rumors, and most of them aren't true. So that's a negative. But a positive is that I'm able to get out information about our team to our fans.
OMC: I know you're engaged, so you must have a little time for life outside work, right?
MV: Yeah, I try to make as much time as I can for my fiancée, Jeana. She works for Kohl's corporate, so she's very busy, too. Not the hours that we do, but she's understanding of what I do. It's a good thing that when I met her I was already well into my career, so nothing was surprising. But it's still a challenge. I can't imagine how it will be when kids get into the picture.
OMC: Have you ever seen a Brewers game from outside the press box?
MV: Yes, maybe once a year. I took Jeana to Wrigley a couple of years ago. I went with her and her family to Target Field – she's from Minnesota.
OMC: And you're a wrestling fan?
OMC: A serious wrestling fan?
MV: Uh huh.
OMC: Like, old-school '80s wrestling?
MV: Big time. I always rooted for the heels, the bad guys. I found that most people outgrow it at 12 or 13-years-old, but I've always found it entertaining. I understand that it's not "real," but I don't really look at it any differently than someone watching a soap opera or any other TV show.
OMC: Does this explain why I've seen the Honky Tonk Man at Maryvale?
MV: Yes. When I was with the Yankees, it must have been a boring day, because I e-mailed the PR guy for the WWF, as it was called then, and I asked him if he could get me Honky Tonk Man's theme song on a CD. A couple of weeks go by, and my phone rings at Yankee Stadium. The PR guy from the WWF says, "Hey, it's Jay. I'm here with the Honky Tonk Man," and then Honky says hello. I thought it was one of my friends pranking me. I didn't believe it at first, but after a while they convinced me that it was really them, and I got to talking to him. I did my impersonation of him, and he said I did it better than he does. He lives in Arizona and told me, "If you're ever out here, look me up."
A year or so passed, and I was with the Reds. I made the trip to Arizona with the team, so just for the heck of it, I emailed him and reminded him of that call with the Yankees. Sure enough, he sent me back a message, and we ended up going out for lunch that day at California Pizza Kitchen. We've been friends ever since. I have him to Spring Training pretty much every year.
OMC: So, would you say you'd be more star struck around, say, the Iron Sheik or Hulk Hogan, than Ken Griffey?
MV: I hated Hogan, but if the Iron Sheik and Hank Aaron walked in here right now, I'd be walking toward the Iron Sheik (laughs).
OMC: I guess you can get used to being around baseball players, but is there room to grow in this job? Can you be with the Brewers for the rest of your career, or is the plan to be the Tyler Barnes for another team?
MV: I don't want that position. I'm doing exactly what I set out to do from day one with the Yankees. I wanted to be director of media relations for a team. I respect what people do above me, but I'd miss the day-to-day interaction with the players, the banter with Rock and B.A. (Bill Schroeder and Brian Anderson) on the planes and on the road trips. I shouldn't say I couldn't, because if I have kids someday, I might not have any choice. But ideally, I'm doing exactly what I want to do.
OMC: And I bet your best stories are the ones you can't tell me.
MV: Most of memories over the last 17 years of being in the game, have nothing to do with what happened on the field. I have very few memories of actual games. It's just the people that you remember.
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