The Stinebrink crew poses for a picture in the visiting dugout Sunday. (click for larger version)
July 23, 2013 | 01:25 AMMark Stinebrink has loved the Milwaukee Brewers for decades.
The 60-year-old, who is the general manager at Stinebrink’s Piggly Wiggly, has played in two Brewers fantasy camps and has had season tickets to Miller Park since 1998. Heck, he has even played poker with Brewer greats Jim Gantner, Jerry Augustine and Gorman Thomas.
But on Sunday, Stinebrink got to live out a Brewers fantasy that may have been his best experience yet.
Back in February, Stinebrink was selected as part of the Brewers’ Fantastic 40 promotion to have his face on the Brewers’ season tickets for the July 21 game against the Miami Marlins. Stinebrink and about 130 other family, friends and colleagues enjoyed a mega-tailgate with two mobile homes and three canopies.
“It was a neat prize for me to win,” Stinebrink said Monday sitting in his office at Lake Geneva’s Piggly Wiggly. “We chose Sunday so my daughters could come up from Illinois. They live south of the border, but they’re still Cheeseheads.”
Season-ticket holders were automatically eligible for the 40-day promotion, which gave away a new prize each day. People were able to sign up for it as well.
After being selected in February, Stinebrink went to Miller Park for a photo shoot where he wore the light green Brewers jersey with his nickname, “Stiney,” on the back.
“I started calling different companies and asked if I could use their season tickets if they weren’t using them,” Stinebrink said. “I wanted all of my seven grandkids and the rest of my family to come to the game. I reached out to anybody and everybody.”
A quirky and fun-loving character, “Stiney” has dressed up as the Piggly Wiggly pig and even worn a dress for work golf outings before and is never afraid to let loose.
He said several people even approached him and asked how he got his face on the ticket. At one point during the game, Stinebrink’s friend stood and yelled to everyone around that his buddy was on the ticket. That got a round of applause.
Stinebrink and his wife sat in the front row of section 121, an arm’s length from the field. The rest of the crew was scattered throughout the stadium. Everyone wore yellow T-shirts with Stinebrink’s face on it and an upside-down Brewers logo, which looked like a pig for Piggly Wiggly.
Stinebrink particularly enjoyed seeing the visiting dugout with his seven grandchildren. Several of the kids got to go down Bernie Brewer’s slide, an iconic slide that the mascot zips down when the Brewers hit a home run.
“I forgot to sign myself up for the slide,” Stinebrink joked. “Why didn’t I do that?”
During the game, Stinebrink’s name was recognized on the JumboTron for 21 years of supporting the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization.
A fantastic finish
The Stinebrink crew entered the parking lot around 10 a.m., and the massive tailgate included brats, hot dogs and bag toss.
“My wife did way too much work,” Stinebrink said. “She even cleaned up after the game. She deserves all the credit.”
But Stinebrink was getting plenty of credit for being on the ticket throughout the game. It was that praise that came back to bite him during the game’s most exciting moment.
It was the bottom of the 13th inning, and the Brewers were coming to bat in a 0-0 game. The marathon was a pitcher’s duel, and little-used minor leaguer Caleb Gindl was the first Brewer to bat in the inning.
This seemed like the perfect time for Stinebrink to leave his seat and use the restroom. He had been waiting since the second inning for the right time, and he thought he wouldn’t miss anything because Gindl hadn’t even hit a major-league home run yet.
So Stinebrink rushed up the stairs of his section only to be stopped by a fellow fan. The fan asked how Stinebrink got his picture on the ticket. The nice guy that he is, Stinebrink explained the story quickly and proceeded to sprint to the restroom.
Gindl did the unthinkable. He cracked a game-winning home run, and Stinebrink heard the call over the radio but was too late to see it in person as he was just exiting the restroom.
“I was trying to get out of my conversation with that guy as fast as I could and ran to the bathroom,” Stinebrink said. “When Gindl hit the homer, I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’”
Despite the bathroom blunder, it was an experience Stinebrink will cherish forever.
“It was a great tailgate, and I’m just happy everything went well,” Stinebrink said. “It was nice to have family and friends together.”