Typically, come about the end of each September, I begin to slide into a long depression. A couple times in the past decade I have been able to stave off these blues a little longer (2008 and 2011 playoff runs), but usually the end of September means the end of baseball season in Milwaukee. Sure, football and the Green Bay Packers are great and even the Bucks are making some noise this year, but nothing can fill the void in my heart that the Brewers open up when their season ends. There’s just nothing quite like baseball season.
Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training in Maryvale, Arizona last week, a day many consider to be the opening of the new baseball season. For me, it all feels real once I get those Opening Day tickets in my hand. Brewers single-game tickets went on sale today, an event which is kicked off annually with the “Arctic Tailgate.” The Tailgate is an event which I tend to celebrate as a holiday each year, and finally gets my head right and my heart ready for baseball.
Arctic Tailgate is an event held each year by the Brewers the day that single-game tickets (including Opening Day) go on sale. Many true “fans” (that’s short for fanatic, keep in mind), are willing to camp out overnight, forming a line of tents around Miller Park despite the typically frigid temperatures. In fact, this year the club determined that they wouldn’t allow overnight camping due to truly arctic-like conditions, with a low temperature below zero with the wind chill.
For six of the last seven years (I missed a year while I was in basic training), I have been a willing and eager participant in this frozen foolishness, and have had some of the best times of my life. Though we couldn’t line up until 5 AM this morning, typically my friends and I will arrive down at the stadium around 7 or 8 pm the night prior. The first year we went, in 2009, we somehow though that only bringing a small charcoal grill would provide enough ambient heat for eight people. We have learned a lot since then. We have streamlined our approach to include only a few chairs, a fire pit, and that same small grill from ’09. Of course we grill plenty of burgers and bratwursts to go around, and we may partake in a few of the beverages that made Milwaukee famous, as well. “Reveille” plays at around 6 am to wake up sleeping campers, signaling it’s time to pack up and get in line. Without a tent, our group has a much easier time breaking our site down. At 6:30, the line is formed and we are herded inside the stadium, where we wait until the tickets go on sale.
For our troubles as campers, the Brewers reward us quite nicely. Once inside, we are provided donuts from a local bakery, some decent coffee or hot chocolate, and most importantly, respite from the biting wind outside. Bernie, Hank, and the Racing Sausages interact with fans and hand out bobbleheads from years’ past (I got a Carlos Gomez Gold Glove one this year). Brewers’ alumni like Gorman Thomas and Don August have made appearances at the event, as well. Many fans are interviewed by any one of the local news affiliates; I’ve personally been on TV four times. It’s kind of a thrill to see your face on the small screen, in my opinion. Team personnel hand out t-shirts as you walk out the door to the ticket booths, and in my experience tickets typically go on sale at Arctic Tailgate around 8:45 am, which is before they are available online.
After securing our Opening Day tickets for the seventh consecutive year, my friends and I are rewarded with a complimentary hot dog (with Stadium Sauce, of course), chips, and soda, which really hits the spot at around 9:15 am. I head home with renewed vigor for life and mark April 6th down on my calendar.
Do you think I’m crazy for enduring those subzero temps year in and year out when I could just roll the dice online for my Opening Day tickets? I’m not the only “fanatic” that enjoys this event. I spoke with a couple of other Brewer fans that attended this years’ Arctic Tailgate.
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Mark was a Twins’ fan living way up in Superior, Wisconsin, before a job change brought him to Milwaukee. He had always followed the Brewers from afar, but became more interested in the team when he moved four years ago. This was his third Arctic Tailgate, and he and his friends enjoy coming down to be around people as passionate about baseball as they are. Mark purchased Opening Day tickets as well as tickets for the Twins’ series in June.
Candis has been a Brewers’ super fan her whole life, and has been to each Opening Day since 2010. This year was her first Arctic Tailgate, however.
"“It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do, so this year I finally convinced a friend to go with me and see what it was all about. My friend is big on camping, he even has a propane heater, so we were definitely prepared to camp outside before the plans changed.”"
Candis said she had a lot of fun and would gladly return to Arctic Tailgate next year. The highlight of her day? Getting interviewed on by a local news reporter. With Opening Day tickets in hand, Candis boldly predicts 90 wins for the Brewers this year.
Arctic Tailgate is an event I look forward to each and every year. You may think I’m crazy for wanting to camp out in freezing Wisconsin winter for baseball tickets, but I’m not alone in my dedication to the cause. Maybe next year, instead of buying your tickets online, you ought to consider joining in the fun and camping out down at Miller Park for Arctic Tailgate. I’ll see you there!