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Brewers: Redemption Time
With a new season upon them, the Brewers will try to make up for the last one.

All About Braun

Ryan Braun may not have been the star of the game. He had a hit, stole a base and scored a run in Milwaukee's 2-0 win. He even became a trivial footnote when his infield hit was overturned on replay, making him part of the first play reversed under MLB's expanded replay rules. It was a nice game for Braun. It was not nearly among his best.

And yet, because it was his first game back from his lengthy suspension, and because he got a hero's reception from most Brewers fans, Braun was most definitely the star of the postgame. He was asked about his day. Others were asked about his day. National media, taking to Twitter to chide Brewers fans for all their cheers, shined a spotlight on his day.

And Braun, well, he just tried to treat it like any old day. But even the normally unflappable Braun admitted he wasn't immune from the affects of all the attention, particularly during his first at bat.

"It was an emotional moment for me," Braun said of that initial roar from the fans. "I kind of allowed the adrenaline and emotion of the moment to take over, and had a pretty horrendous at bat. But it's something that I'm very thankful for and appreciative of."

It's become clear throughout spring that Braun and his Brewers teammates are ready to move on from 2013. And they are surely hoping others will do so sooner rather than later.

But that wasn't going to happen on Opening Day. So they settled for celebrating the reception that he got.

"Outstanding," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of the raucous cheers that Braun's received. "And I'm really glad that it was that way. These people here are great. I've said all along that we're a very forgiving people and we should be."

One national media member asked Braun directly whether the positive reception had anything to do with playing in front of (an ostensibly more polite) Midwestern crowd rather than (those ostensibly caustic) Easterners.
"I think it's more about being at home than on the road more than anything else," Braun said. "I don't know that it's necessarily about being in the Midwest."

But he does know life on the road will surely be different.

"I'm not necessarily anticipating the same welcome I got today in Boston or Philadelphia."

He'll also be facing the same questions on each trip that he had to deal with today. He might have the home debut out of the way, but with every road trip, he'll be debuting again, and facing the same old queries from all new faces.

He's no doubt used to that by now, just as surely as his teammates are sick of it.

After the game, some of the first questions Jonathan Lucroy had to answer were about, you guessed it, Ryan Braun. He greeted them politely, saying he expected the fans' positive reception, and gave the same rote responses about how Braun has served his time and, so long as he plays well and works hard, all is good.

At which point I asked Lucroy how long he figured he'd have to keep answering questions about Braun.

"Hopefully today's the last day I do it," Lucroy said. "Please. You guys are killing me."

Lucroy always has been an optimist.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, where I tweet as howiemag, and listen to me talk sports with Mitch Teich once a month on WUWM's "Lake Effect." And don't forget to get a comprehensive roundup of Brewers news and views from Kyle Lobner's daily Frosty Mug.

Selig Gets Nostalgic

Bud Selig just met the media in one (rather large) corner of the press box.

Positioned so that he could still watch the Brewers-Braves game on a TV as the mass interview proceeded, Selig waxed nostalgic about what he's promised will be his final Opening Day as commissioner of Major League Baseball. And he would occasionally interrupt his own answers by giving play by play nuggets to the reporters.

For however you view Selig, he's always been a baseball fan. And next year, if he follows through with his plans, he'll be just another fan.

"Opening Day is a very special day, always. I've thought back to a lot of them," Selig said. "I don't look at it as bittersweet. It's a decision that I've made. In life, there's a time to come, but there's also a time to go."

Much of the impromptu presser focused on Selig's role in Milwaukee baseball, specifically getting the Brewers to town after the Braves had left. "March 31, 1970, 10:15 at night," Selig remembered. "The Seattle Pilots became, in one minute, the Milwaukee Brewers.

"No matter what's happened to me in my long career, that will always be my proudest accomplishment," Selig said, "ecause the odds were really stacked against us. I mean, really stacked against us." And soon, he paused, looking at the TV. "Oohhh, he caught it at the wall," And then, Selig finished his thought. "Baseball didn't want to come back here."

He continued his walk down memory lane, touching on the battle to get Miller Park built, his ascension to commissioner, the institution of revenue sharing, adding the wildcard to the playoffs, and baseball's drug testing program. He said he was particularly proud about overseeing 20-plus years of labor peace, as well as baseball's extended period of massive economic growth and competitive balance.

And he dodged questions about who will take over the commissioner's office, though he did say he'll play a significant role in the succession plan. And he said he looked forward to a retirement that included teaching and writing a book.

And as he wrapped up the 13-minute press conference, he reflected on how healthy the Brewers are as a franchise, and was particularly complimentary of current owner Mark Attanasio.

"It's on great footing," Selig said, "as a lot of our franchises are - and Segura makes a great play and throws him out."

At which point, someone asked if Selig would use his retirement to start a play-by-play career.

"Well, that's what I wanted to be way back when."

Is that why he started MLB network?

"That's exactly right. but they haven't asked me to go on it yet, either."

Maybe there's still time.

Check back throughout the day for more updates from Miller Park. And don’t forget to get all the Brewers news and views from Kyle Lobner’s daily Frosty Mug.

According to Lou

You can love a lot of things about Opening Day: The pageantry, the baseball, the food, the optimism.

But my favorite part of Opening Day has nothing to do with that. It is, without fail, catching up with Lou Mongtomery.

He's worked for the Brewers since 1987, and these days, the longtime usher is usually stationed outside a press box door. The 92-year-old's love affair with the sport began before World War II. He's forgotten more about baseball than most fans know, and he's still as sharp as a samurai's blade.

You won't find a Brewers press box regular who doesn't smile when Lou's name comes up. He is the grandfatherly figure with whom everybody can sit down and see the game through the lens of simpler times.

Prior to the 2013 season, Lou had some health troubles, and watching the Brewers slog through last summer didn't make things much easier. But this past offseason went much smoother for Lou, and he thinks the Brewers got better in the offseason, too.

He likes the additions of Matt Garza and lefty reliever Will Smith. And you don't get to to be 92 years old without being something of an optimist. "If they can avoid the DL," Lou says of the Brewers, "I think they can contend."

He stopped short of predicting a pennant for the Brewers. But you get the feeling that few things would make him happier.

Check back throughout the day for more updates from Miller Park. And don’t forget to get all the Brewers news and views from Kyle Lobner’s daily Frosty Mug.

The Fans Love Hank the Dog

Maybe you heard something about the Milwaukee Brewers adopting a stray dog. Or maybe you've spent the last month on Mars.

Well, if you thought the love affair between Brewers fans and Hank the Dog is cooling, think again. For proof, look no further than the Opening Day introductions.

As the Brewers lined up along the first base line, some familiar names prompted their familiar level of cheers. Carlos Gomez got a fine ovation. Ryan Braun may have earned a louder one than most expected, and if anyone was booing, they were drowned out fully. And fans clearly hadn't forgotten what Jean Segura did last season.

But the loudest pregame ovation didn't come during those introductions.

It came later, when Bernie Brewer walked Hank the Dog to home plate.

You'll be happy to hear that Hank appeared to take the adulation in stride, and left no presents from his presence behind.

Check back throughout the day for more updates from Miller Park. And don’t forget to get all the Brewers news and views from Kyle Lobner’s daily Frosty Mug.

Brewers: Redemption Time

Your long national winter is over.

With every whiff of grill smoke from the parking lot, with every pre-noon beer cracked open and every game of catch between father and son, the message resonated with familiar clartiy. The Milwaukee Brewers are home again.

In fact, if the weather folks are earning their money, they’ll even be playing in 58-degree weather today before things dip back into the 40s. Maybe it’s just Mother Nature’s way of trying to redeem herself.

Redemption just might be a theme for this year’s Brewers. The team wants to make up for a dismal 2013, one that saw them finish 74-88, but that record barely scratches the surface of the troubled season.

Injuries to players like Corey Hart, Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Braun torpedoed the heart of the club’s lineup right out of the gates. A six-win May torpedoed the season before it could reach maturity. And Ryan Braun’s 65-game suspension under baseball’s performance enhancing drug policy torpedoed much of the goodwill he’d built up with Milwaukee’s fan base.

But now, the Brewers can point to the calendar and say that was all in the past.

Braun spent much of the offseason quietly trying to win back his fans, be it with personal phone calls to season ticket-holders or through appearances for charitable causes. Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said Monday that he thinks Braun is on the right track, and has been since admitting his wrongs. “That’s where his path to redemption started.” The overwhelming cheers that answered his pregame introduction would seem to indicate he's well down the path.

As for the overall team, both Attanasio and Doug Melvin struck an upbeat tone at their Opening Day press conference. “It’s a fresh start,” Melvin said.

Both Attanasio and Melvin alluded to the signing of top-end starting pitcher Matt Garza as proof of their belief in the team. Garza is guaranteed to make at least $50 million over four years, a record free-agent deal for the Brewers. Incentives and a fifth-season option could make the contract worth $67 million. “We put the resources behind the club because we think we can win,” Attanasio said.

And they say they aren’t alone in that belief.

“I think it starts in the clubhouse. I think the guys are confident,” Attanasio said. “We see a difference in the confidence level of the clubhouse this year than last year. You can’t manufacture that.”

Check back throughout the day for more updates from Miller Park. And don’t forget to get all the Brewers news and views from Kyle Lobner’s daily Frosty Mug.

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