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An Open Letter to the Fans

MAKING IT BIG

To all the Madison Mallards followers:

My name is John Schmeltzer and I have been doing a Field Experience course for a college class during this summer. I am going to start my fourth year at the University of Wisconsin ? La Crosse this fall. My major is Sports Management and through my 72 hours of field experience with the Mallards this season, I helped enrich my education greatly.
Rich Reynolds, one of the Assistant General Managers and PA announcers, has supervised me for the past couple of months. During this time I have learned numerous things about the Mallard organization that one can only experience through behind the scenes working and planning. Rich has graciously taken me in and shown me the ropes of the organization. I will talk more about these experiences later. First of all, I would like to share with you some of my past experiences about the Madison baseball teams.

I can remember going to the ballpark for the first time back in 1990 and watching my first Madison Muskies game. The team was starting their 8th season of ball and I was starting my youth baseball career. The Muskies were hosting the Springfield Cardinals and that night they gave away Muskie pennants. The reason I can remember this is because I still have the old ticket stub and the pennant still hangs in my room. One thing that really sticks out in my mind about that game is when we were making our way into the stadium the PA announcer was bellowing the opposing teams line-up and after saying each person?s name the whole crowd would yell ?Who?? and he would repeat it and they would say ?Oh.? This chanting from the crowd is still one of the great traditions that the fans of Madison have carried on now for over 20 years. I was only about 8 years old at that time, so the details of the game are all but gone, but I do remember having a great time and trying really hard to retrieve foul balls. Also, after the game I was able to get one of the Muskies players to sign my pennant. Being able to see the players close up and talk to them outside the locker room after every game was a real big thing to me as a youngster. These guys are like bigger then life and pretty intimidating to most kids. However, they have always been very classy individuals and take time to sign autographs after every game. I don?t remember going to many more Muskies games, but for me it was a wonderful experience and something I will never forget.

In 1994 the Madison Hatters replaced the Madison Muskies. I know for sure that I never attended a Hatters game but I do recall a lot of people in the area having issues over them replacing the Muskies. The Hatters only lasted one season and after that season Warner Park got a new tenant and took a year off from baseball.

From 1996 to 2000 the Madison Black Wolf played ball at Warner Park. I attended a game back in 1999 when I was serving as a youth baseball coach in my hometown of Oregon, Wisconsin. The Summer Recreation program that I was working for makes a field trip to Warner Park every year to reward the kids for having a great season. It?s quite a treat for the kids to come to the ballpark and get to see some real organized baseball. The one thing that sticks out in my mind about the ballpark was the fact that it was much less professional looking than it is presently. When you walked into Warner Park four years ago, it was almost like just walking into any other High School ballpark. One of my assistant High School baseball coaches actually had a stay with the Black Wolf and was the person who gave me Rich?s phone number to get this Field Experience. I would like to thank Darrin Everson for helping me find such a great organization to spend my summer with. Speaking of that?. how about those Ducks???

This is the third year of the Madison Mallards and the best one the Madison faithful have ever seen. The Ducks captured the first half title and the right to a spot in the playoffs starting in early August. I must say that when I went in to meet with Rich on May 29th I could feel something special brewing in the air. I met with Rich for a very short amount of time but you could just see that this guy was pumped about this season. He talked a lot about all the changes that had taken place around the stadium and was just very enthusiastic about the organization in general.

On Sunday, June 1st there was an employee meeting which I attended. It was nice because I was able to meet all the people that I would be spending my summer with. Everyone I met was extremely nice and treated me with an abundance of respect. I was new to the whole experience, but it seemed like everyone around me had done this for a few years. It was real comforting to have people around me make me feel so much at home. I could tell there was something about this organization that was special just by being around them for a few hours.

I have been working pretty closely with three other marketing interns: Kevin, Eric and Amanda. I would just like to thank you all very much for taking me in from day one and treating me like I was one of the group. Kevin, Eric and Amanda are the one?s who bust their tails every game looking for people to do crazy things for entertainment purposes during the half innings. They do other things besides this and because of this they should be commended for all the hard work they put into this organization.

Also, Conor is a guy who also goes out every game and has to work with both team?s managers and players getting the scorecard and helping out with little odd jobs during the game. He is a real quiet guy, but extremely hard working at the same time.

I have also been able to see what kind of effort Vern Stenman, the General Manager, and Steve Schmitt, the Owner, have put into the organization. Words cannot describe how busy these two guys are. I see them all the time but I have never really had the chance to talk to them because they are either on the phone or busy helping with something around the ballpark. I know these guys are constantly doing things for the fans and hopefully when you see these guys around, you can thank them for what they have done for this city.

I cannot forget the vendors, clean-up crew, and other staff members. You really can?t say enough about these people. They are always busy and are overlooked by everyone. Without them it would be impossible to have refreshments and buy cool merchandise during the game. They are all very friendly and should not be taken for granted as a part of the Mallards organization.

Now on to the stars of the organization? The players and coaches are what make the Madison Mallards. The players get paid absolutely nothing to come out everyday and perform in front of thousands of screaming fans. They are here for the love of the game. I have been lucky enough to hang out with Darrell Handelsman, the coach of the Mallards, a few times before game time. He is a real down to earth guy who has a great sense of humor and a brilliant mind. He has never had a losing season in all the years he has coached. If you get a chance stop and talk to him sometime, he is a real great guy. The players are also wonderful to be around. They have a swagger about them that makes you have to want to cheer for them. They are always walking around the ballpark and make time to appreciate the fans, staff and media surrounding them.

Last, but not least, are the guys who I have spent most of my time with up in the press box during this summer. Tim Iversen is the organist who is also in his first season with the Mallards organization. He is a real great guy to have around and his contribution to the organization has been greatly appreciated by the entire Mallards team. Also, DJ Matt Howard is present at every game. Matt is definitely one of the most entertaining guys I have ever met. He works along side Rich and helps with sound effects and music before, during and after the game. He also works another full time job, so you could say he is one hard working guy. Finally, Rich Reynolds is not only the Assistant General Manager but he also does the PA announcing, statistics and other jobs that probably go unnoticed to the public eye. Rich has been nothing but a perfect supervisor for me. He has allowed me to be involved with statistics, media, promotions, merchandise, vending, clean-up, scoreboard work, etc. I have been behind the scenes and now realize what types of things have to be done around this ballpark to make this organization a success.

When I first stepped foot into Warner Park back in 1990, I saw a baseball field with fans and players. Now, I step through the gates and I see so much more. I see all the renovations and improvements but I also see a bunch of bright yellow shirts with green lettering on the back that reads ?Staff?. These are the people who make things look the way they should. These people are the ones behind the promotions that are offered and the entertainment provided to the fans. You take things for granted until you really realize the hard work and effort put forward by individuals like these to make an organization run successfully. The time I spent with the Madison Mallards was truly a learning experience that has taught me an abundance of things that will help me while I am pursuing my future career. I would like to thank the owner, staff members, players, coaches, interns, press box personnel and anyone else I am forgetting, for allowing me to ride along on this wonderful journey. It has been an extremely special season and one for the history books, thanks to all the fans that have come out to support the Mallards. Hopefully they will always continue to do so.

I would like to give a special thanks to Rich Reynolds who has made this Field Experience a real fun one, but at the same time extremely educational. Thanks Rich!