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Life's lessons for prospects, 2006 version

Mass Haas

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4-course education for 5-tool athletes

Brewers give players lessons in life skills

Joseph A. Reaves

The Arizona Republic


If you want to make the major leagues, you're going to have to learn how to hit a forkball.


If you want to make the major leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers you're going to have to learn which fork to use first at a five-star restaurant.


That, and how to hold a wine glass, where to put your napkin and when to stand when your date comes back to the table.


Those were just some of the skills that 18 of the Brewers' top young prospects worked on during a two-hour practice session at Razz's Restaurant & Bar in Scottsdale last week. The Brewers, like many major league teams, are investing time and money these days to make life better for their players - on and off the field.


"We're teaching them life skills outside of baseball," said Reid Nichols, a former major leaguer who is in charge of player development for the Brewers.


"Most of these guys have never been in a place like this."


Some people in Scottsdale have never been in a place like Razz's.


Gourmet magazine rated it one of the top 20 restaurants in Arizona. Esquire magazine called it one of the "Best New Restaurants" in the country in 1996. The New York Times even wrote it up as one of the new breed of eateries catering to the "more sophisticated and demanding clientele" of Phoenix.


Last Thursday night, fresh from postgame showers at Scottsdale Stadium, 18 players from the Brewers' instructional league team gathered around two long tables in Razz's main dining room for a crash course in etiquette.


The players, ages 16 to 22, were all from Latin countries - Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Curacao. The Brewers consider them among their top prospects, and they are in Arizona to play top prospects from other major league clubs in the Instructional League, which runs through Oct. 21.


"Good table manners are a reflection of your social status," Bobbi Jo Haynes says, opening the training session.


Haynes co-owns Razz's with her husband, chef Erasmo "Razz" Kamnitzer, and serves as etiquette guru for the evening.


"The Brewers are giving you this gift to help you get bigger contracts if you have dinner with the sponsors from Budweiser."


A few seconds later, after Becky Schnakenberg translates, the players break into laughter.


Schnakenberg works with the Brewers and six other major league teams on their "career development" programs. She teaches English as a second language to the Spanish-speaking players and elementary Spanish to the English-speaking players.


The Brewers also have more than a dozen other life skills classes for their prospects - everything from sports nutrition to public speaking, banking and finance, umpire education, media training and cultural diversity and awareness.


"We are trying to help them assimilate into the culture," says Schnakenberg, who covers topics such as the legal drinking age, professional behavior and how old a girl should be if a player wants to date her.


The Brewers target their higher-profile prospects and bring them to the states at a younger age.


"Some of these guys would have spent another couple years back home, but now we're bringing them here sometimes when they are 16 years old," Nichols said. "Being thrown into a different culture is tough. I played two years of winter ball in the Dominican, so I know what it's like to have to try to adjust."


Learning how to eat in a fancy restaurant turned out to be a tough adjustment for some of the young Brewers. Uli Snijders, a 20-year-old catcher from Curacao, spent all evening trying to master the continental style of eating with an overturned fork in his left hand. Haynes had to lean over Snijders' shoulders a few times to teach him the knack.


On Thursday, they had four courses - Italian crepes and duck cakes, seafood shrimp, braised beef ribs and a dessert combination of coconut-pineapple crème caramel and chocolate pâté with berries.


"Fold your napkin like this," Haynes tells the class, folding a blue cloth napkin into a triangle. "Place the fold against your waist with the pointed end facing down."


Sixteen-year-old Alixxon Cequea quickly finds out why.


"He wants to know what to do with this?" Schnakenberg translates from Cequea.


Haynes walks around the table to see the young third baseman has a good portion of his appetizer on his lap.


After the laughter stopped, Haynes says: "It's perfectly acceptable to lift your napkin and shake the food back into your plate. If you're not comfortable with that, then that's why you have the napkin folded. You can just double it over and cover the food."


Haynes shakes Cequea's food back onto his plate, and he deftly picks up an overturned fork with his left hand to resume his meal.


"The whole night was spectacular," he says as the class is winding down. "I've never been in a place this, and I never would have learned something like this."


By the end of the evening, the players all have managed to eat continental style. They all have waited until everyone at their table is served before eating. They know to pick up a wine glass only by the stem. They know that if they leave the table, they drape their napkins across the back of their chair. And they learn to stand when their date leaves the table and stand again when the woman is one foot from taking her seat again.


"Even if the woman is liberated and wants to pull out her own chair, you still should stand," Haynes says. "It is a sign of respect."


Up goes a hand, and Schnakenberg translates another question.


"How do we know if a woman is liberated?" a player asks.


More laughter.


"You'll know," Haynes says. "You'll know."

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Anyone have info on Allixon Cequea? I couldn't find any


We're actually aware of a couple of new names from the Latin ranks listed as infielders, Cequea and Luis Sanchez, but because we have literally no information on them in terms of vitals, country, etc. -- we haven't mentioned them nor built Player Index pages for them, preferring to wait until the media guide comes out in the spring. As you read above, Cequea is only 16 years old, apparently, and both he and Luis Sanchez were signed this past July.


Again, I was wondering if anyone was going to mention Cequea specifically in that regard based on that article. It's great to know there are readers out there scouring us for every detail on these things!

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This also seems like something that would really help the NBA, with these young kids coming into the leaque and not knowing a thing about being on their own.


The NBA does do this, and has done it at least since all the cocaine scandals hit pro sports in the '80s. The NBA's rookie seminar is mandatory for all rookies and, iirc, it lasts about a week.



Yeah, I just found an article, they started it in 1986 and it lasts 6 days.


Created in 1986, the (NBA) Rookie Transition Program is the longest-running and most extensive support system in professional sports and features a comprehensive assortment of educational and developmental programs.


Sessions generally run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and are conducted by league and player association personnel, current and former players and experts in each of the fields covered.


Leading professionals facilitate the program using presentations, role-playing, skits and interactive workshops, as well as group breakout sessions. At the end of each day, players participate in an interactive activity designed to highlight the day's lessons. The diverse offering of sessions include:


Professional and Life Skills:

-Computer Training





Player Development:

-Coach's Huddle

-NBA Legends Panel

-Player to Player Panel with current NBA players

-Players Association meeting

-Rules of the Game

-Special Sessions with Bill Russell and Bob Love


Personal Development and Education:

-Character, Image and Ethics Panel

-Driving Safety

-Drugs and Alcohol


-Sexual Health

-Stress and Anger Management



Basically, it sounds like a really intense, week-long college orientation coupled with a few adult education courses. From what I've heard of it, it sounds like a good program.



link: www.nba.com/news/rtp_030919.html

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I'd venture to say that not too many Americans would know what to do at a place like this, much less young Latin players. I know I'd be lost.


'Zactly. Why does it have to be all Latin players? I grew up in a small town in rural WI, and I sure as hell was never taught any of this.

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I grew up in a small town in rural WI, and I sure as hell was never taught any of this.



This reminds me of a banquet I was at at the Pfister one time. I was sitting next to the superintendent of MPS and they had one of those placesettings with 3 forks. The salad came and I asked him if he knew which was the salad fork. He had no idea either, and he surely had to go to tons of banquets and dinners and stuff.

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I think you start from the outside and work your way in with the silverware.


Of course, most functions I go to it's "save your fork for dessert", so I could be wrong.http://forum.brewerfan.net/images/smilies/smile.gif

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