Bowling returns to Miller Park
Brewers also hosted PBA's Masters finals in 2004
MILWAUKEE -- Bowling pro Danny Wiseman first learned how to bowl when he was 5, but he didn't spend much time in bowling alleys as a child.
Instead, Wiseman loved putting on his cleats and heading out to the baseball fields in his hometown of Baltimore for Little League games. He was a switch-hitter and also played some third base, but other kids knew him because of his fastball.
Wiseman said by the time he was 9, he could throw the ball 50 mph -- as hard as boys three years his senior.
"Some of the guys that I played with back home, they said, 'Man, everybody was scared of you because you threw it so hard,'" Wiseman said. "Baseball was my first love and bowling second."
Wiseman fulfilled his childhood dream of playing in a big-league ballpark -- kind of -- when he won the United States Bowling Congress Masters tournament at Miller Park in October 2004. It was the first time a baseball stadium had ever hosted a Professional Bowlers Association event.
The Masters finals will return to Miller Park this year on Sunday, Oct. 28, the Brewers announced in a press conference Thursday. Four lanes will be installed along the infield dirt from first to second base for the nationally televised event, said Rick Schlesinger, Brewers executive vice president of business operations.
USBC chief executive officer Roger Dalkin, PBA Tour director Kirk von Krueger and Wiseman also attended the press conference.
"Hopefully, I will still be the only pro bowler to have won in a baseball stadium," Wiseman said. "That's my goal. I've got to defend."
The Masters, one of the PBA's four major events, will feature an expected field of more than 500 of the world's top professional and amateur bowlers and total prize money of more than $350,000. The event will also include Bowlfest, a festival that will allow fans to mingle with bowlers and watch the installation of the lanes.
The Brewers have a contingency plan in place, though, in case the team makes it to the World Series and has to play Game 4 at Miller Park that day. The AMF Bowlero Lanes in Wauwatosa, Wis., will be the alternate site for the finals.
"Frankly, as a Milwaukee resident, I hope we have to work with our contingency plan," Dalkin said.
More than 4,300 spectators showed up to watch the event in 2004. Dalkin said the first-base and right-field stands can hold up to 12,000 fans, and he expects a large turnout for the 2007 Masters finals because the Green Bay Packers don't play that Sunday. Instead, the Packers take on the Denver Broncos in a Monday Night Football showdown the following night.
The PBA held the 2005 Masters finals in U.S. Cellular Arena in downtown Milwaukee, and last year's finals took place at the Wisconsin Exposition Center at the State Fair Park in the city's suburbs.
Dalkin said the USBC chose to move the Masters back to Miller Park so people would more likely consider bowling a sport, instead of just a recreational activity.
"Bowling is a sport, just like baseball, just like football, basketball," Dalkin said. "This is a sporting venue where people know athletes compete, and what better place to showcase our athletes than a venue such as this?"
But bowling in a ballpark takes some getting used to. The temperature hovered around a chilly 55 degrees in Miller Park during the 2004 event, Wiseman said. He ended up liking it, though, because he was sick of glaring lights in bowling alleys getting him sweaty in front of television cameras.
The real adjustment for Wiseman came when he made his first few warmup tosses. The ballpark's high roof played tricks on his eyes and made the ball look like it was rolling more slowly than usual.
"It was very, very harrowing," Wiseman said, laughing. "It just felt like the ball took forever to get down the lane."
The 17-year veteran adjusted well enough, though, capturing his 11th career title and the $100,000 cash prize. Wiseman called the 2004 win an unforgettable moment in his career and ranked it right up there along with winning his first career title in front of family and friends in Baltimore in 1990.
"People identify with that, 'Oh, you're the guy that won inside a baseball stadium,'" Wiseman said. "I get so many questions even to this day in bowling pro-ams: 'How was it bowling inside that baseball stadium?'"
And to top it all, the event gave 39-year-old the thrill of playing in a Major League ballpark. Wiseman still rues the day when he walked away from baseball as a 13-year-old.
It rained persistently that spring day, causing the pitcher's mound to disintegrate. Wiseman kept slipping and sliding and pleaded with his coach to add dirt to the mound, he said. But his coach refused and instead substituted his son into the game to take Wiseman's spot.
The son quickly complained about the mound, and Wiseman's coach immediately added dirt to it. Wiseman can't remember or wouldn't give the names of the parties involved, but he said he never felt the same about baseball again and poured his heart into bowling after that.
Wiseman remains an Orioles fan and occasionally visits a batting cage, but he has no complaints about the way his life turned out.
"I wouldn't change a thing, being that I've been around the world throwing a bowling ball," he said. "If I would have stuck with [baseball], who knows? I might not be standing here right now because of bowling. Things happen for a reason."
Fans can purchase tickets for the 2007 Masters finals beginning June 11 from the Brewers ticket office at (414) 902-4000 or on Brewers.com. Ticket prices range from $10-$75.
Kelvin Ang is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.