Being John Brazer is normally just like his job title suggests. It’s a lot of fun and games. Making radio appearances, responding to ticket requests, shaking hands during home games and hanging out at McFaddens. Although on this particular day, with the Phillies in the middle of a miserable season, he plays the Director of No Fun and Lost Games, making for an entertaining day of following him around.
Brazer and I met at Denny’s on City Line Avenue, just before his first radio appearance that day at WMMR. (He conveniently cancelled on the notoriously caustic WIP crew due to “scheduling conflicts.”) Brazer goes over his itinerary with me, which includes two radio appearances, a TV segment, a pre-game show, and a day game at Citizens Bank Park.
As he prepares for the first of the day, he talks about the highs and lows of being the Phillies public relations front man, which basically breaks down to it’s great when you win and not so great when you lose, as he admits that this season, his 11th overall, “has been my toughest yet.”
As Brazer situates himself in the WMMR studio, Joe Conklin wastes no time in digging into the Phillies and their inept play of late, which includes a six game losing streak.
And it’s at that time that I see what being John Brazer is all about.
He deflects the criticism with ease, as he fires back a previously prepared joke. The segue brought a laugh from everyone in the room and effectively set the tone for the rest of the appearance. As he joked and jabbed, Brazer worked in some giveaways, plugged the Phillies and took a request from a WMMR employee for a throwback t-shirt in a size medium.
Next on the list was a short trip (a few floors in the same building) to Q102 and a visit with Chio of Chio in the Morning. The producer greeted us, and immediately expressed thanks for a ticket offer from Brazer, but had to regretfully decline. As we made our way into the studio, Brazer was welcomed by high fives.
He took the spotlight and ran with it, as he proudly shared two stories involving his hot 25 year-old girlfriend. Once again, he hits it out of the park, (which is something he should show Pat Burrell how to do) bringing laughter and appreciation from everyone. He pulls off the visit again with ease, and sets up Diego Ramos with a parking pass for the game on the way out.
We then jump in the car, and head into the city for his appearance on the NBC 10 morning show. Brazer sums up his job as “wheeling and dealing internally and externally,” considering himself more like “a director of favors.” Just like his first two appearances, Brazer is constantly responding to requests. Diego Ramos needs parking, an employee wants a throwback tee, Freddy Mitchell needs tickets in a luxury suite or, as he gets the call as we talk, Rick Tocchet needs four field passes that day to see his buddy Roger Clemens.
The TV segment is short and painless, and even includes a short conversation off-air with a long time friend of Brazer’s, John DaBella. The Phillie Phanatic stopped by, briefly taking some of the PR load off of Brazer’s shoulders.
We then head to the stadium, to meet up with Tocchet for those passes, and to prepare for the day game against the Houston Astros. Right before every home game, Brazer’s phone is constantly buzzing, as he “puts out fires,” which he says is another unavoidable aspect of the job.
We get to the stadium just in time as he hands off the passes and escorts the visitors down to the field. Brazer quickly takes charge and catches Craig Biggio’s attention in the dugout, asking him to help in grabbing the Rocket for Tocchet. Biggio talks about his thoughts on the new park, which he likes, for the exception of the lights on the first base side that get in his eyes when he flags down a flyball in the left centerfield gap.
As I take in the field and my surroundings, I now appreciate the Phillies tag line: Real Grass. Real Fun. Because standing there on the beautifully landscaped infield and looking into the stands is impressive.
Before long Clemens makes his way out to the field. The guy is huge. He has a linebacker build but a soft-spoken demeanor, as he shares six words with me. We wait out their conversation, while nearly melting from the heat, (my black suit was such a bad call) before we head up to Brazer’s office for him to check some last minute emails and voicemails, and make last minute plans for his trip that night to New York.
Whether Brazer is on the phone, on his computer or on the run, he is always “on.” He never rests his infectious personality, even as his team crumbles over the course of the season and the entire city is calling for everyone’s head to roll.
Brazer then runs over to do a pre-game show where he explains the intricacies of the new Mike Lieberthal bobble head doll featured in a crouching position with a removable mask. A creative meeting for bobble heads, which Brazer is part of, that’s great!
The game finally gets underway and just like most of the Phillies season, it was a complete disappointment. Brazer makes his rounds throughout the game, visiting his mother in the lower section, chatting with Keith Jones behind home plate and stopping by the Phillies suite to catch a few innings.
As we buzz around and meet quite a few people, the Phillies lead slips and finally evaporates as they blow a 7-2 lead and lose 12-10 for their seventh consecutive loss. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Todd Pratt hit into a bases loaded triple play, which pretty much sums up the luck for the Phillies this entire season.
As the game goes on, and becomes more and more depressing, Brazer is noticeably affected, when his PR temporarily gives way to his instincts as a fan. He gets angry and upset, which is actually endearing since it shows he’s the right man for the job.
The Phillies are awful and John Brazer knows it. But as the Director of PR for the Phillies he’s not going to admit it– at least not on the record.
Throughout the entire day with Brazer, it’s his tireless dedication and cheerful outlook that stand out more than anything. And considering the state of affairs in the world of the Phillies, where many of the players and front office personnel may be shipped out, that’s saying quite a bit. Go Phils!