In his second stint with Milwaukee, Jeff Cirillo is off to a fast start. Signed to a Minor League contract during the offseason, Cirillo was the Brewers Opening Day third baseman. Cirillo played in Milwaukee from 1994-99 and currently holds the Brewers career batting average record (.307) as well as the Brewers NL record for highest batting average in a season (.326), which he accomplished in 1999. Cirillo chatted with fans about being back in a Brewers uniform.
Jeff Cirillo: Hey guys. All I can say is, it can only get better. Let's start taking some questions.
kuehlebohnen: It's great to have you back in Milwaukee, Jeff! How has it been different your second time around with the Brewers?
Cirillo: Well, it's completely different. Obviously, it's a new manager and general manager. Geoff Jenkins was just a kid when I was there first. Now he's the leader of the team. The team is a lot different -- there is a lot better pitching now than what we had back in the day.
jason21nl: Are you happy to be back in Milwaukee?
Cirillo: Yeah. Milwaukee has always been great. I've always loved it there. If it wasn't so cold I would live there. But the last week has been trying. I just always had success with the Brewers. That's all I've really known. I figured if I could get back to the level of play I was at, it would be with Milwaukee.
mlb_com_member: Hey Jeff, thanks for all your hard work and dedication to the team. Keep up the good work and help turn this little skid around for us. When you are in a hitters count, what pitch and location do you look for?
Cirillo: Usually ahead in the count I look in, and down in the count I look away. It's easier to drive a ball that's in by pulling it then it is when your're looking away, for me anyway. I'm trying basically to hit like Little League 101: See ball, hit ball. The last couple of years I was put into a mechanical toe-tap and I was always late with my feet. I couldn't get out of it. Now I'm out of it.
Jennifer_Giese: What do you see ahead for the Brewers even after these six straight losses?
Cirillo: I've always told guys that between every mountain there's two valleys.
peavey: With young shortstop J.J. Hardy struggling a bit while getting used to big league pitching, what kinds of things do you say to him from a veteran perspective as advice or to try and encourage him?
Cirillo: That part can be hard. You have to be sure that you don't become a slave to those numbers. They can be deceiving at times. You have to look at it as from that day on, you're 0-for-0. Easier said than done, to live in the moment. But we all do it. Instead of thinking of the past or what the future holds, you try to live in the moment. Everyone does.
brewpr: Jeff, what is your favorite memory as a member of the Brewers?
Cirillo: My relationships with the people that I came up with made this a great working environment for me to succeed, and maybe to exceed expectations that I had for myself. Phil Garner and Sal Bando and Jon Greenberg. It's hard to pick one game or one moment, but I would have to say that making the All-Star Game as a Brewer was a pretty special moment.
madisonian: Thanks for coming back to Milwaukee and trying to help build a winner. How long do you think you'll continue to play?
Cirillo: Day to day, buddy. I just try to do like I did in Spring Training, live every day like it's a gift to be on the field. Don't look at the past and don't dive into the future too much.
crazyforcappy: Who do you consider your best friend in baseball?
Cirillo: I would say Mike Matheny is up there. We've kind of lost touch. Brent Mayne.
peavey: Have you read Jose Canseco's book yet? If yes, what did you think of it? If not, do you plan to read it at some point?
Cirillo: I have not read it. I would read it, though. I wish it would have been a more credible source that wrote the book.
Jennifer_Giese: What do you think of the third base rotations?
Cirillo: I think that if Russell Branyan were healthy, he would be playing a lot against right-handed pitchers. Other than that, I don't know.
Base_Ball_4: Who is your childhood sports idol?
Cirillo: George Brett and Robin Yount and all of the Dodgers. They're both from California -- Brett is from El Segundo and Robin Yount is from the San Fernando Valley, where I was from.
brewcity79: Jeff, I know Carlos Lee is in a bit of a slump right now, and most folks are attributing it to getting used to National League pitching. Can you comment on your league-swapping experiences in this regard?
Cirillo: Carlos is a hitter. And I think that good hitters find a way to hit and he's just like everyone else on this team -- we're in it together. Unfortunately, that's how slumps work. The difficulty of switching leagues is not underrated. Pitchers have scouting reports on us and they just throw the ball. There's no visual there. Hitters know a guy's got a fastball, slider, changeup curve, but you don't know what it looks like. The slider might have short break, long break, it might be hard or soft. There's a comfort level in knowing you've faced a guy before. Otherwise it's 'What's he got? What's he got?' In general, I like playing in the National League better.
Base_Ball Hey Jeff, great to have you back. What changes do you see in this Brewers team compared to the to the team in the mid/late 90's?
Cirillo: Better pitching. I think that Benny Sheets and Doug Davis are tough. I think Chris Capuano and Victor Santos are good. I'm comparing that to Rafael Roque, Scott Karl, Brad Woodall, Jim Abbott. Not to take anything away from those guys, but I just think we have a better staff now. If we would have gotten some better pitching in 1996 we would have gone farther. We were two games under .500, but we had a great lineup.
jason21nl: Is it true, when you're in a slump, you sleep with your bat?
Cirillo: Sometimes. I usually just take it home with me.
kuehlebohnen: If you were not playing baseball, what would you be doing? Would you use your communications degree to get into sportscasting?
Cirillo: Maybe. I think that there might be a future there. I don't know. It really wasn't an emphasis on broadcasting for me, it was more on marketing and public speaking. It was basically a back door to the business school without the math.
oskiano: What are your favorite cities to visit?
Cirillo: Boston is great. San Diego, especially with the new ballpark there. Chicago. You don't get to see much. The only time you get to go out to dinner is if you have a day game in a city and you fly out to a new city and get in at about 8 p.m. You basically see one restaurant. Maybe a mall or the fitness center. The rest of the time you're at the field.
peavey: What other sports do you follow closely besides baseball? What are your favorite teams?
Cirillo: I like football. USC is my favorite team. I follow the Seattle Sonics and Ray Allen, too.
brewpr: What is it like to have so many USC guys on the same team? How about Rich Dauer going into USC Sports Hall of Fame?
Cirillo: I can't believe that we're losing with that much Trojan firepower. Besides me, the Trojans are Jenkins, Chad Moeller and Dauer.
Base_Ball: Jeff, is there anything different in fans from Milwaukee compared to fan elsewhere in baseball?
Cirillo: Yeah, there is. They're very easygoing, happy people. Simple people. They just want the team to win and they're holding out hope. It's not a malicious group. Milwaukee represents the Midwest very well.
Mark_Siech: Hi Jeff. Is keeping your eye on the ball the best batting tip? It seems like some batters are not as consistent watching the pitch.
Cirillo: If your head pulls off, it takes your body off the ball. I wouldn't say that's the most important thing, though. Seeing the ball as quickly as possible out of the pitcher's hand is the most important thing. See it and track it. You won't be able to see the ball hit the bat because it happens too quick.
cjstallman: First off Jeff, it is great to have you back in a Brewers uniform. As a veteran player, what is this team missing to take that next step in the division?
Cirillo: Belief. You have to believe that you can win when you show up on a daily basis. You're there to win a game, not just hoping to win. You get to that point by winning big games, beating teams that in the past you wouldn't have beaten. The Minnesota Twins were in last place for all those years, and then you heard about contraction, and all of a sudden they made the playoffs. They also had a group of guys that came up together. That's why I think Doug Melvin is doing the right thing here with the young players, keeping a group together that will come up together. Guys like Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder and Dave Krynzel. They get comfortable with each other, and they have success winning in the minors. When they come up, they have a winning attitude. It's not just that the Yankees have the best players. They know how to win. They expect to win. When I was with the Mariners those years, we expected to win. Even if we lost the first two games of a series, we knew we would win the third. It was a shock when we lost -- that was the feeling. It was like, 'How did we get beat right there?' I don't know how you can tangibly put it together. It's not a tangible thing.
swimming247: Jeff, it's amazing to have you back in Milwaukee. When I saw you on the Opening Day lineup card I was so excited. Who was your least favorite pitcher to go up against and your favorite one?
Cirillo: My least favorite is probably Tim Hudson. Most favorite is tough to say. Let's say my favorite is the next one I get a hit off of.
Base_Ball_4: With Todd Walker out and now Nomar Garciaparra, how do you like your chances against the Cubs in the next series?
Cirillo: We need to beat everybody, not just one team. During this losing streak, we haven't played one complete, Major League game. That's what we need to focus on.
buckethead213: What do you like to do with your days off if you're not on the road? Enjoy any other hobbies?
Cirillo: It's usually my family -- they take up all my time. Whatever my wife and kids want to do, we do. We're like everybody else -- we go to movies, water parks. We watch TV and read books. That's why a mid-day game at home is great. It makes you feel like you have a family. After night games, I get home and everyone is asleep. And now they're in school, so I only get to see them in the mornings when we have night games.
Base_Ball: Jeff, do you feel baseball should have a salary cap?
Cirillo: I think a salary cap would be fine, as long as there is a minimum to it. There was about $4.3 billion dollars created in revenue last year by baseball, and I think sometimes fans don't realize what that number is. They see salaries of players and they get mad, but some of these teams take the money from other teams in revenue sharing and they don't put it back into their teams, so it doesn't work. A salary cap would work, as long as you have a league minimum and league maximum. There should be a percentage of revenue that goes to the players. You could come up with your numbers that way.
jason21nl: On paper, this team looks solid. Why the troubles scoring runs?
Cirillo Facing pretty good pitching. It's a contagious thing -- hitting is contagious and pitching is contagious and winning is contagious. When you have a younger team, that sometimes manifests itself into something that's a little uglier. Sometimes you run these roller coasters up and down, like our team is doing. That's a tough way to play, a tough way to be consistent. That's why pitching wins. Hitting is going to go up and down -- pitching is the one thing that can remain pretty consistent if you have good pitching.
Base_Ball: Jeff, what do you like about Miller Park and what do you miss about County Stadium?
Cirillo: The clubhouse is unbelievable at Miller Park. I like the Jumbotron and the sound system, and that it's a lot warmer in April instead of having the industrial heater in the dugout. At County Stadium, I miss the huge flag they had in the outfield. I liked the day games there in the summertime. One thing that bugged me, they never painted the flag pole. It was this broken green. One day I was going to go out there and paint it myself. I liked how they had the sausage races on the weekends. Now they have it every day -- back then it was more of a novelty when they showed up. County Stadium also holds memories because it's where I broke in. But I wouldn't trade Miller Park to go back.
Base_Ball_2: Jeff, just wanted to let you know that the fans of Milwaukee are thrilled to have you back. I know if you hang in there you will be starting every day, which is what the team needs. Also tell the team to relax and have some fun!
Cirillo: Thanks, everyone. Glad to be back. I guarantee you we will win another game this year! I have to take off now because we've got early batting practice at Minute Maid Park. Sorry to alter the schedule a bit. We'll have to chat again sometime. It's been fun.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.