From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Blane Ferguson:
Fans keep them on the shelves collecting dust and kids bring them to school for show-and-tell, but for some of the Milwaukee Brewers veterans, seeing yourself as a bobblehead is seeing your dreams come to fruition.
“It’s pretty special,” said Brewers pitcher Jonathan Broxton. “I’ve had a couple made and it’s pretty unique. Especially when you get that first one and get to see and put your hands on it. It’s like, ‘Dang that’s really a bobblehead of me.’”
According to the history provided by bobbleheads.com, these little knickknacks have been around since the late 1840s and were brought into Major League Baseball in the 1960s.
“Player-specific dolls for Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Roger Maris, and Roberto Clemente were produced for the first time and sold during the 1960 World Series. Although the uniforms were different, each of them shared the same face. Unfortunately, because of their papier-mache construction, very few of these early bobble head dolls have survived without damage – usually chipping or cracking.”
Having your likeness put on a bobblehead or having your picture plastered on thousands of baseball cards are two rewards for players who have dedicated years of their life to reach that point in their careers.
“It’s surreal,” said Brewers pitcher Dontrelle Willis. “I grew up in Oakland and I got all of the bobbleheads from everybody and the giveaways. I think it’s just part of the mystique of being a major leaguer and being able to get established at the highest level in the world.”
“It’s like having your own baseball card, it’s everybody’s dream,” Willis added.
Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett made his major league bobblehead debut last season, but wasn’t much of a collector as a child.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Gennett said. “When I found out, I was pretty excited. I know my family was excited because they gave me 50 of them to give away.”
Long gone are the days of papier-mache constructed bobbleheads. Today, they’re made from high-quality scans and 3D printing in order to achieve the incredible resemblance of the players they’re honoring.
“I was surprised it looked like me,” Willis said about his earlier memorabilia enshrinement. “It had the hat and everything to the T and I was holding a World Series trophy, so that was pretty cool.”
Gennett joked, “it was cool to see my bobblehead a lot. People say it’s life sized…which is kind of messed up.”
The Brewers have several bobblehead games planned throughout the course of spring training and the regular season. Young fans will have the chance to collect a memento for shelves and perhaps dream of having their own bobblehead one day.
“Save them because you never know what that dream might resonate in to,” Willis said. “I’m sure you can ask all 60 people here that were 12 years old and you told them they’d be at big league camp with the Milwaukee Brewers, they probably wouldn’t believe you. That’s the fun of being able to have the chance to be a major leaguer.”
Picture: Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Dontrelle Willis goes through fielding drills Wednesday morning at Maryvale Baseball Park (Photo by Ryan Bafaloukos).