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Fathers start tradition in Brewers' press box

Four dads gather families for Sunday brunches
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Father/kid combos go way back at Milwaukee's Major League ballparks. Manager Craig Counsell was a regular at County Stadium during the 1980s when his dad, John, worked in the Brewers' front office. In the 90s, Wendy Selig-Prieb ran the team, while her father, Bud Selig, served as MLB Commissioner.

After the Crew moved to Miller Park, Prince Fielder's sons, Jaden and Haven, learned the location of every hidden clubhouse treat. Today's team has Hernan Perez and his 3-year-old son, Christopher, who at a young age has already -- and hilariously -- mastered most of dad's teammates' batting stances.

MILWAUKEE -- Father/kid combos go way back at Milwaukee's Major League ballparks. Manager Craig Counsell was a regular at County Stadium during the 1980s when his dad, John, worked in the Brewers' front office. In the 90s, Wendy Selig-Prieb ran the team, while her father, Bud Selig, served as MLB Commissioner.

After the Crew moved to Miller Park, Prince Fielder's sons, Jaden and Haven, learned the location of every hidden clubhouse treat. Today's team has Hernan Perez and his 3-year-old son, Christopher, who at a young age has already -- and hilariously -- mastered most of dad's teammates' batting stances.

But on Sundays in the press box, there is a new tradition being built by four young fathers.

"It's kind of like the playground," said one of those dads, Brewers radio broadcaster Lane Grindle. "Instead of meeting at the park, we meet at the ballpark."

:: Father's Day 2017 ::

It happens when the Brewers play at home on a Sunday. Grindle, fellow radio voice Jeff Levering and two members of the team's media relations department -- senior director Mike Vassallo and senior manager Ken Spindler -- meet their wives and children in the dining room behind the press box for one big family brunch.

For an hour or so, the place comes alive. If you want pancakes, you're wise to get in line before the kids arrive.

It will be that way again on Father's Day when the Brewers host the Padres.

"I think it's great," Vassallo said. "We have very unique jobs that require us to spend a great deal of time away from our families, so any time you have a chance to get everyone together, you take it. And the kids seem to like it."

The kids are one sibling shy of fielding their own team. Grindle and his wife, Ali, have a starting infield with their four children, ranging in age from 8 to 23 months (Josie, Payton, Harper and Luke). Ken and Michelle Spindler have 5-year-old daughter Morgan and 2-year-old son Mason. Jeff and Ashley Levering have a precocious 2-year-old son, Brock, and Mike and Jeana Vassallo have a 15-month-old son, Jaxon.

Tweet from @AdamMcCalvy: Happy (almost) Father's Day to four great dads. On a Sunday morning tradition at Miller Park: https://t.co/Bhiz9JdQOH pic.twitter.com/0IPlpmSXTh

"It's getting the kids exposed to baseball, but more than anything, it's just a chance to come see dad at the ballpark," Jeff Levering said. "I love that the Brewers give us an opportunity to do this. They understand the grind that we go through."

"My 3-year-old can sing 'Take Me Out to The Ballgame.' My 2-year-old mimics batters when you pitch to him, and spits on the plate," Grindle said. "They're around baseball so much that they pick stuff up. It's fun to watch them grow up around the game."

The tradition started with the Spindlers. Michelle, a teacher, used to work evenings in the Brewers' family room at Miller Park, keeping kids occupied during games and tutoring the sons of Fielder and Corey Hart. She left that second job when she and Ken became parents themselves, but started bringing Morgan to the ballpark for Sunday breakfasts. When Mason was born, he came, too.

"They started the breakfast club, I guess," Ken Spindler said.

Since then, it has grown.

"To me, that's what being a parent is all about," Spindler said. "Tying baseball and family together. It doesn't get any better than that."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Milwaukee Brewers