It’s the best time of the year for super fan Jacquie Jeffers of Cedar Grove when Brewers blue is back in fashion and her favorite team is on the field
For Jacquie Jeffers, this is the most wonderful time of the year.
One look at her basement says it all. The Cedar Grove resident has a plethora of Milwaukee Brewers memorabilia, much of it signed in person.
Each spring, Jeffers spends one week in Arizona watching Brewers’ spring training games. When she gets home, it’s time for the regular season, and Jeffers has season tickets with a pair of seats near the Brewers dugout.
Jeffers’ passion for baseball began when she was growing up in Saukville. Her parents both played the game, and, with seven brothers and sisters, the siblings could field their own baseball team and once entered a coed softball tournament.
“Baseball was our family thing,” Jeffers said.
She has missed only three opening days since high school and catches road games on TV.
Jeffers played some ball herself, and named her late cocker spaniel after her favorite position, Shortstop. She now has two dogs, a cocker named Scooter after Scooter Gennett and a springer spaniel called Bailee, who arrived already named.
Once when getting Gennett’s autograph, he remembered her dog’s name, she said.
Spring training provides easier access to players who are under less stress since the games don’t count yet.
“They goof around a lot more,” she said.
Jeffers gets grass seats for $10 and bought a Nikon camera and zoom lens to take players’ photos with the plan to get them autographed later.
Years ago, Jeffers got a photo of a rookie she never heard of named Ryan Braun. He later signed the picture.
Jeffers said former Brewers Carlos Gomez was a goofball, and Nijer Morgan lived up to his reputation.
“He was a riot,” she said.
Gomez was one of her favorite players, and Jeffers has a green jersey from a St. Paddy’s day game that he autographed. Free agency and the wheeling and dealing of the professional sports business can be hard on fans. “It seems like every time I like somebody, they get traded,” she said.
Jeffers has passed some of her passion on to her four daughters, one of whom came to love Darryl Hamilton in the early 1990s.
After a game, Jeffers and her daughter Amber Large waited near the dugout to see players. Hamilton walked by but ignored Large’s comment that he was her favorite player. He soon came out of the locker room with his jersey, gave it to Large and signed it.
She was shocked and thrilled. The two stayed in contact for years, even after the Brewers released Hamilton. He would call her on her birthday, and she sent him Girl Scout cookies. Large was heartbroken when she learned Hamilton, 50, was killed by his girlfriend in an alleged murder-suicide in Texas.
Jeffers is spreading her passion to one more generation as she has been taking her grandson, Brayden Oelhafen, now 10, to games the past few years. Beyond quality time, Jeffers noticed a benefit to bringing him along.
“When you have a little kid with, it’s a lot easier to get an autograph,” she said.
Case in point: Oelhafen got his favorite player, Anaheim Angels superstar Mike Trout — often compared to Willie Mays — to sign a ball last year before a game. Trout even walked over to talk to the young fan.
“He was in heaven,” Jeffers said. “Trout’s a nice guy, too.”
While Jeffers said players were more easily accessible at County Stadium, they weren’t always in the mood to sign autographs.
Players sometimes carried boxes to their cars, passing by autograph seekers. Jeffers said ushers told her the boxes were empty; the players just didn’t feel like signing that day.
But her daughters got autographs from some baseball legends when they came to town, including the Oakland A’s Rickey Henderson and the Boston Red Sox’ Jim Rice.
Jeffers passes down another of baseball’s traditions to her grandson. She has him do the scorebook at some games, something she calls a “lost art.”
But their heads remain on a swivel. Jeffers’ seats are in prime foul ball territory, especially for right-handed batters who swing late. They get their fair share of pop-ups, but they also have liners screaming their way. Fortunately, they’ve never been hit.
The family affair at the ballpark continues now that her daughters are grown. Large, who lives in Port Washington, has season tickets. Another of her daughters who lives in Tennessee, had her husband honored last year at the park. Before he left to serve with the Army in Afghanistan, he got to meet Robin Yount, who signed a jersey for him.
Each year, Jeffers said she buys an autographed item at the Brewers store at the stadium. Once, it was a large photo of Braun hitting a ball. A real signed baseball was put in place of the ball. Another year, she bought a chair signed by the 2015 team and players from the legendary 1982 team that nearly won the World Series.
Jeffers had to borrow her husband’s truck to pick it up at the park.
Her most recent acquisition, a grey T-shirt, had an equation with hidden meaning to a non-baseball fan. Even Jeffers couldn’t initially figure out 6+4+3=2. It’s not that new math; it’s position numbers for a double play going from short to second to first.
Jeffers said she doesn’t often eat at the park, but she likes the baked potatoes and the baseball staple, “the good ol’ hot dogs.
“For some reason, they taste better at a baseball game than at home,” she said.
Jeffers saw Robin Yount’s 3,000th hit and the Ryan Braun homer in 2008 against the Cubs that sent the Brewers to the playoffs for the first time since 1982. She attended playoff games in 2008 and 2011.
Jeffers said she likes the final home game of the season, when players toss fans their equipment and other items.
Jeffers describes attending Chicago Cubs games as “terrible” because “there are more Cubs fans than Brewers fans,” and has considered selling those tickets each season for a nice price. Then, each year she reconsiders, not able to sell out her team and her loyal fans sitting nearby who she has gotten to know.
Regardless of the Cubs breaking their 108-year-old title drought last year and Braun being the oldest and one of the few recognizable Brewers returning this season, Jeffers was anxious for the season to start.
“I think the next few years will be exciting with these young people,” she said.
Jacquie Jeffers found a use for all of her old Milwaukee Brewers T-shirts. She had them made into a quilt, which joins her large collection of Brewers’ memorabilia that fill her basement. Many of her items are signed by team members. Photo by Sam Arendt