ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers paid tribute to groundskeeper Gary Vanden Berg beginning Wednesday by wearing uniform patches with the letters "GV" above their hearts.Vanden Berg, who spent more than half of his life as a Brewers employee, died late Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 59. "I think it's great that we are [wearing patches]," pitcher Randy Wolf said. "You know, he's a part of the Brewer family and has been for a while. It's very sad. I talked to him quite a bit about certain things. I've always wanted to talk to the grounds crew about things I like or don't like about the mound. And I want to be involved. "The one thing that you learn throughout the years with the grounds crew guys is that they want to make it right. So if I have an issue with the mound, if I think it's too wet, too dry, he was always great, very receptive toward things." This season was Vanden Berg's 31st as a member of the Brewers' grounds crew, a department he led for the past 21 years. Last year, he was diagnosed with renal sarcoma, a cancer of the kidneys, but continued to work at Miller Park in 2011 as much as possible. "It's really sad, because you just see what happened over the course of the year, and [it was] just amazing how you could basically have your life just kind of squeezed out of you that way," Wolf said. "To watch his deterioration over the year was drastic. ... It was pretty sad." The disease cost manager Ron Roenicke a chance to really get to know Vanden Berg, who was among the club's five longest-tenured employees and one of its most well-liked. "Hey, he was with the organization for a long time," Roenicke said. "The people that knew him well ... had a lot of respect for him and what he has done for the club, and as a person, too."
Concern over family tickets a misunderstanding
ST. LOUIS -- Any apparent issues with seating for the families of Brewers players at Busch Stadium turned out to be "much ado about nothing."
It was a misunderstanding that blew up into an ESPN.com story on Wednesday charging the Cardinals of gamesmanship, but a misunderstanding nonetheless.
In fact, some might consider their seats -- many of which are in three catered, first-level party suites down the first-base line -- an upgrade over the usual spots behind home plate.
"It's different than what they're used to when they come here as a visiting team," said Katy Feeney, senior vice president of scheduling for Major League Baseball. "It's nothing different than what they gave the Phillies, it's nothing different than what they did in '09 when they were in the postseason.
"[The families] can get in and out very easily. They don't even have to come through the crowds. In some ways, it's an advantage."
All of the players' wives, children and other immediate family members were able to fit in the suites, aside from the ones who chose to use some tickets in the main seating area.
Brewers left-hander Randy Wolf and manager Ron Roenicke met with the media before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday, and neither expressed much concern over the apparent issue.
Said Wolf: "If I were to have a list of things to think about, that would definitely be at the bottom."
But there was some concern that the families would be scattered all over the stadium before the players fully grasped the situation, said Brewers director of team travel Dan Larrea.
Most of the tickets provided in the main seating area were for Brewers staff members who made the trip down from Milwaukee. In the end, the club even ended up sending back most of the tickets allotted for family members in the main seating area of the stadium.
"There are no security issues, which was the first concern," Larrea said. "It was an overreaction initially, but everything was worked out. There is no 'ticketgate.'"
Kotsay starts in center, bats second
ST. LOUIS -- Looking to trade some offense for defense in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke gave Mark Kotsay a rare start in center field.
This marked just the third time since June 13 that Kotsay was utilized as Milwaukee's starting center fielder. But his past history against Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter, combined with Nyjer Morgan's recent struggles, led Roenicke to alter his lineup."I always feel good when Kotsay is in the lineup," Roenicke said. "When we start him, he seems to have a big day, something always good seems to happen when he's in there. Numbers matched up good. I think, too, if Nyjer had been swinging the bat well, I wouldn't have even thought about this, but I think it's the right thing to do here."
Kotsay batted .273 with three home runs and a .731 OPS in the 50 games he started during the regular season. He entered Wednesday's Game 3 with four hits in 11 career at-bats against Carpenter.
Morgan batted just .245 in his last 45 at-bats dating back to Sept. 8. He has four hits, including two doubles, in 23 career at-bats against Carpenter.
Suppan honored to throw out first pitch
ST. LOUIS -- It was about 10 days ago that the Cardinals reached out to former postseason hero Jeff Suppan, saying they'd love to have him throw out the ceremonial first pitch if they made it to the National League Championship Series.
Suppan obliged and didn't back down -- even though St. Louis' opponent represented a bit of an awkward situation.
See, Cards and Brewers fans tend to have two very drastic viewpoints of Suppan.
Cards fans, for the most part, love him -- he pitched three solid years in St. Louis, culminating in a 2006 season when he was named the NLCS Most Valuable Player and helped win a World Series. Brewers fans? Not so much. Suppan signed a four-year, $42 million contract with Milwaukee in '07, then posted a 29-36 record and a 5.08 ERA before being released three months into the 2010 season.
Regardless, Suppan -- appropriately wearing a red- and blue-striped long-sleeve shirt -- took the mound before the start of Game 3 of the NLCS at Busch Stadium on Wednesday night. He called the experience "weird, but it's not in a bad way.
"It was just one of those things where, when I ran out to the mound, I can say hello to both teams," Suppan said with a smile.
"For me, it was a great honor to come out and throw the first pitch," he added. "I was hoping to throw a strike, but I think it was up and away."
Suppan, who said he still feels a "very strong connection" to St. Louis, went 138-143 with a 4.69 ERA while pitching for six different organizations in 16 seasons in the big leagues. After being released by the Brewers, he re-signed with the Cardinals and posted a 3.84 ERA in 70 1/3 innings to close out last season.
This year, he swallowed his pride and spent the entire 2011 campaign with the Royals' Triple-A squad in Omaha -- one he proudly points out won the Pacific Coast League championship -- going 11-8 with a 4.78 ERA in 28 games (27 starts).
Somehow, the 36-year-old right-hander wants to keep pitching.
"I enjoy playing; I enjoy pitching," Suppan said. "I feel like I was healthy this year, and I was able to go out and make some starts and help the team. ... I'm just going to get ready for next year, and whatever happens, I'd like to go to Spring Training, hopefully have a chance to make a team. So, we'll see."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.