Hanel uses position to help others in need
Bullpen catcher donates coats through his Koos for Kids charity
MILWAUKEE -- Technically, Marcus Hanel is not a big leaguer, but that has not stopped him from doing big things in his community.
Through his position as the Brewers' bullpen catcher -- a position he's held for the last 12 seasons in Milwaukee -- Hanel has the opportunity to help others in need. Hanel, as a part of his charitable organization Koos for Kids, visited two local schools last Thursday and two more last Friday to donate winter coats to the students.
"In seven years, we've gone a long way," Hanel said of Koos for Kids, which he founded along with his wife, Jill, and several members of the Racine community. "We went from 13 coats in 2005 to this year we'll be handing out over 900 coats to kids in Southeastern Wisconsin."
Joined by Cecilia Gore, executive director of the Brewers Community Foundation, the Hanels started with a visit to Hayes City-Wide Bilingual School on the south side of Milwaukee. After leaving Hayes, they visited Parkview School on Milwaukee's north side.
Hanel said they also planned to surprise two Racine schools -- Julian Thomas Elementary and Schulte Elementary -- with visits and winter-coat donations.
After the kids at Hayes put on a few entertaining performances for their guests, Hanel delivered a message about the importance of education and teamwork.
Hanel brought up the 2011 National League Central champion Brewers, asking the kids if they thought the players simply showed up to the ballpark and played the games.
"No. We worked really, really hard," Hanel said. "One of our coaches has a saying, 'Teamwork makes the dream work.'"
When his parents came to the United States from Germany, they had nothing, Hanel said. Growing up in Racine, Wis., a factory town 25 miles south of Milwaukee, he knew what it was like to not always have everything he needed.
That is one of the reasons Hanel is so committed to Koos for Kids, which gets its name from Hanel's parents, whose pronunciation of "Marcus" led to the nickname "Koos." The organization's mission is to "enhance the quality of life for terminally ill and disadvantaged children in Southeastern Wisconsin," according to their website.
"We help terminally kids that are in hospitals and very sick, and we also do this event every year, the winter coats," said Jill Hanel. "At Christmas, we'll help families get gifts for the children. We have a Challenger Baseball League, we help children with special needs come out and play baseball, and just teach them how to play."
After his short talk about the importance of education, exercise and teamwork, Hanel revealed his surprise to the students at Hayes.
"Through my organization, Koos for Kids, and with help from the Milwaukee Brewers," said Hanel, "every single kid in here is going to leave with a new winter coat today."
Many of the kids' faces lit up, some jaws dropped and others looked around at each other and their teachers, to be sure that what Hanel had just said really was true.
It is those moments, during which the impact they're having on the children is so clear, that make the Hanels so happy to give back to the community.
"Oh, it's amazing," Jill Hanel said. "And it's truly more blessed to give than to receive. Just to see their faces. We set out to bless these kids and they bless us with their faces."
Hanel has been blessed to make it to the Majors as a bullpen catcher after topping out at Triple-A in a 12-year Minor League career that ended with a six-game stint in Tucson, Ariz., in 1999. The following season, he joined the Brewers for their final season in County Stadium.
This year marked the third in which the Brewers have been involved in helping Koos for Kids provide winter coats to those in need.
"He's passionate about it," Brewers reliever LaTroy Hawkins said. "He's passionate about his faith, and he truly believes that to whom much is given, much is required. That's why he does what he does. ... He uses his opportunity to give back to the community that raised him, and I'm proud of him for that."
The Brewers help the Hanels in raising additional funds, as well as connecting them with schools that are most in need.
"What we do is we raise money so that we can find really great schools and really young, important boys and girls that are going to do wonderful things in the future," Gore told the students at Hayes. "And we give that money to important projects that we hope make a difference."
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.