John Brazer is the Philadelphia Phillies’ man-about-town, goodwill ambassador and all-purpose promoter. He’s also a guy who has spent a lot of quality time in little-ole Delaware. Brazer gave TSD a few moments in between road trips to talk about his life with the Phils, his path to a career in sports marketing and fond memories of “Taco Toss.”
Town Square Delaware: First, what the heck is a director of fun and games?
John Brazer: I have an official title and an unofficial title. My official title at the Phillies is Director of Publicity and the unofficial title is the Director of Fun & Games. In 1994, I started with the Phillies and soon began going on radio stations as the “Manager of Promotions.” My job was to build relationships with the media and garner free publicity for the team. My first couple radio visits were a little bit awkward…I was overdressed for the casual radio world and spent half the interviews explaining my position. My boss and I came up with a plan…ditch the suit and come up with a “fun” nebulous title that somehow explains itself. Over a couple beers, we came up with the “Director of Fun & Games!”
TSD: So you kind of created the role?
JB: Dennis Mannion, our VP of Marketing at the time, had a plan to hire someone for a unique position in baseball…a marketing spokesperson for the team. Dennis wanted to hire someone outside of the industry that knew sports and could think on their feet in a public forum. A wedding in June of 1993 changed my life forever.
TSD: How did you find your way into the world of professional sports? Did that religious studies degree help pave the way?
JB: I went to UVA with Dennis’ sister-in-law, Leslie Gillin. At the time of Leslie’s wedding in 1993, I was working in Washington, DC as an employee benefits consultant for Johnson & Higgins. When I first arrived at the reception, a friend from college told me that he met some guy who was a “bigwig” at the Phillies. Having lived away from Philly since I graduated from Haverford School, I couldn’t wait to meet this guy and hear inside stories about the baseball team that I’ve followed since the early ’70s. Sure enough, Dennis and I met and formed a quick bond. I couldn’t get enough of the Dykstra, Kruk and Mitch stories. Dennis asked me what I did for a living just as the wedding band started playing Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright. Since I did a Joe Cocker/John Belushi imitation in college and performed with several bands in Charlottesville, I made a mad dash for the stage and soon was belting out the second verse of the song. Afterwards, Dennis sought me out and was now really curious about what I did for a living. Somewhat incredulous after hearing my response, Dennis soon discovered that I played and coached lacrosse in Manchester, England for a year and asked me to interview for a position that he recently created. Liberal Arts (Religious Studies Major/History Minor) taught me how to effectively communicate, an essential component of my position.
TSD: What would you recommend to other young people who are interested in getting into sports marketing?
JB: For young people interested in getting into sports, do not follow my path and rely on pure luck. If your college offers a Sports Management major, jump in as soon as possible. During the summer months, seek out an internship with a sports team, a sports media outlet or a business that has a relationship within the sports industry. Also, practice your communication skills…write blogs, engage in social media and take public speaking courses. Also, try to use any networking tool possible to get your foot in the door. Once in the door, make sure to take advantage of every opportunity to further your goals.
TSD: The Phillies have had a tremendous run the last few years. Do you believe you deserve most of the credit for that success?
JB: Since this is my 19th season with the Phillies, I’ve seen it all. For a long time, I was the longest tenured employee that never experienced the playoffs (I started in February of 1994). When we started our playoff run in 2007, it made by job more fun but a lot more hectic. I handle all the radio requests for our players, coaches and front office staff. As you can imagine, requests have been virtually non-stop since September of 2007. In regards to deserving credit for our success? Baseball is a team game. We like to think that our organization is consistent in our approach to the fans and the community in good times and bad.
TSD: You travel a lot around the country with the team — Philadelphia has a pretty infamous reputation as a sports town … how do you think it measures up — positively or negatively — with other big markets?
JB: There is no doubt that Philadelphia is one of the best sports markets in the country. From a pure “passion” perspective, it would be tough for any city to beat Philadelphia in that department. Can we be uniquely tough on some of our athletes? Sure. However, if you are an athlete that gives 110%, you’ll be rewarded by our fans. Ask Aaron Rowand. Or, Chris Coste. Or, Chooch. And if you are able to bring a championship to Philadelphia? Ask anyone on the 2008 team about the World Series parade…
TSD: In your younger years, you were a famous Dewey Beach reveler; are you still a Delaware beachgoer?
JB: I started going to the Delaware beaches in middle school. One of my good friends used to invite me to his family’s condo at Sea Colony. Since I lived in Baltimore and DC for five years, I spent a lot of time at Dewey Beach. In fact, I made sure to call on my Eastern Shore clients on Friday afternoon so I could make the “Taco Toss” at the Lighthouse. Since I do a radio show in Avalon, NJ every Sunday when the team is away, it’s tough for me to visit the Delaware beaches. I’m sure the Bottle & Cork and Grotto Pizza will lure me back in the near future.
TSD: God save us, not the Jersey Shore?!
JB: Yes…the Jersey Shore sans Snookie!
TSD: What’s next for John Brazer? Hopefully plans to visit the First State?
JB: What’s next for me? Not sure exactly but Delaware will always be in my plans. I especially love to play golf at Dupont Country Club, watch concerts at the World Café/Queen Theatre in Wilmington, eat at Six Paupers Tavern and Restaurant in Hockessin and, of course, listen to the Phils on WDEL!