Brats pop and sizzle beneath the cover of the grill accompanied by an aroma that could make most fan’s bellies rumble. The air is heavy and dense, and fans are slowly starting to trickle into Target Field to watch their hometown Twins take the field against the Oakland Athletics.
The weekend had been hot, so hot that most fans rumbling into the stadium donned light t-shirts or tank tops and the occasional lobster burn from the sun and farmer’s tan are on display. The beer cart and concessions are steady as people find ways to wet their throats from the blistering heat; and then he appears. “Cold beer here. Ice cold beer,” Wally the Beerman rumbles. A few grown men run to him and yell, “Hey it’s Wally, Wally the Beerman!” Wally fishes into his change apron and pulls out a few baseball cards. He hands them over to his fans and laughs. “I’ll see you a little later,” he says.
A brat pops and the grill lets off smoke, grabbing Wally’s attention. He asks for a brat, watching as couples walk by and kids race in with their gloves strapped to their hand, hoping for their chance of grabbing a ballpark gift, a foul ball. He laughs at the little boys running into the park and says the best thing about his job is the people. With brat in hand, Wally begins teasing a 40-something couple about their licenses. He tells the lady there is something wrong with her license, and then he tells the man the same thing. “What,” they ask. He says they don’t have any phone numbers. Both the man and woman look confused, and then he says, “you two must have been married for a few years.” The couple laugh, as most of the people do when Wally has some fun with them. Mostly grown men flock to Wally with recollections of the first time they ever met him. Most start out with, “When I was a boy … .”
Wally began serving beer as a vendor for wrestling matches in 1970. Before he worked as a vendor, he was vice president of operations for a whole sale pharmaceutical company. He started vending because an employee’s brother needed someone to work a University of Minnesota wrestling match. Wally figured, “I’ll give it a try,” and worked a game. He said the experience was fun and he kept going back to see the people. Thirty three years later, he continues to serve beer as a vendor for the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild, the Saint Paul Saints, Canterbury Park, Shrine Circus and Lori Line concerts. Wally said, “Vikings games are the best from a financial standpoint”, but his favorite sport to vend for is baseball. “You’ve got six, seven, 10 games in a row and you’re there each night with a lot of the same people,” he says. “They don’t forget you.” Wally says he is always for hire, stating that he once worked Kent Hrbek’s retirement party at Planet Hollywood.
Working for professional sports teams, Wally McNeil grew into Wally the Beerman. His job as a vice president of operations for wholesale pharmaceuticals slowly became less important to him, as he made more and more money. His white polo, displaying Wally the Beerman in yellow stitch, begins to show his popularity. Throw in a recognizable “Ice cold beer,” and a baseball card, and Minnesota sports fans of all teams instantly know who is coming. He has become so popular to the Minnesota sports scene that he has appeared in Sports Illustrated three times in 1987, 1988 and 1996. He also has appeared on the Travel Channel, the Discovery Channel, ESPN, MTV, NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox Sports. “It’s the best part-time (Full Time) job a guy could have,” he says.
Success hasn’t only brought Wally popularity and financial gain, but he has been able to meet a good majority of the players for the teams he works for, something he says is always fun. But even as a fan of the players he meets, he still is asked to appear on the occasional commercial. Most recently he did a commercial about the dangers of drinking and driving with Tom Prince, reserve catcher for the Minnesota Twins.
Wally carts his own personal carrier for the beverages, even though the Twins supply one for the vendors. He stocks up on beer, alcoholic fruit beverages, water and Powerade. Sweat drips from his head and by the third inning his shirt is dripping with sweat as well. He grabs a towel and wipes his face and then is in the back of the beer cooler grabbing more supplies. Oddly enough, with Wally working, the beer cart business is slow and less frequented. Wally doesn’t mind, he enjoys the action and says the people seem to enjoy chatting with him. “There are no hard parts,” Wally says. “As long as the good Lord let’s me and I have fun doing this.” “You’ve got to be a people person to do this.”
The moral of the story
Wally gave it a try. He found it to be fun. He stayed focused and consistent. Mr. McNeil, with his smile, his energy, his personality and his time. Became a public figure. Because he was always there at the various venues! Wally the Beerman saw “the trees through the forest.” He understands… the importance of promotion, client “face to face” contact. Building relationships. He realized it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. I once read a quote from Chris Daughtry, (one of the many finalists of American Idol) and arguably the most successful of all the idols to this day, “how he worked and waited 25+ years to become an overnight success.”
There isn’t one. Except this; Wally understood the following: Attitude + Consistency + Enjoyment + Time = Success!