Get ready to root, root, root for the home team at Miller Park this year.
A Season of Hope
Milwaukee is a city that’s good at being excited. And the air inside Miller Park is crackling with optimism tied to an unmistakable fact: The franchise’s rebuild has turned the corner, and this year, the Brewers are going for it.
Fans of small-market teams such as the Brewers are accustomed to, even comfortable with, the process of exchanging good players for younger ones who will hopefully achieve greatness in the future.
It has meant saying goodbye to onetime faces of the franchise such as Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez – sacrifices for the greater good. Trades such as these made Brewers out of Travis “Mayor of Ding Dong City” Shaw, Zach Davies, Domingo Santana, Chase Anderson and Josh Hader – young talents who are already in major big-league roles and may be headed for stardom. Most of them arrived at the hand of general manager David Stearns, who was just 30 when he replaced Doug Melvin in 2015.
This young core jelled last season, sooner than many fans expected, and the Crew led the NL Central for 69 days before falling behind the already-rebuilt Chicago Cubs in late July. Look no further than there if you need hope that what Stearns is doing can work. Before the Cubs won the 2016 World Series, their fans endured particularly miserable seasons in 2012 and 2013. Last year’s world champion Houston Astros had god-awful seasons in the same span. Both franchises’ bottoming-out seasons came in the first two years of a new GM’s tenure.
The Brewers’ off-season indicated they’re done rebuilding, flipping the script to add significant big-league talent to make a near-term push for a title. On Jan. 25, Stearns traded four promising prospects for Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich, a 26-year-old outfielder who projects as the 40th-best major leaguer this season, according to fangraphs.com. Later that afternoon, more news: The Brewers had signed free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain to a lucrative five-year contract. At 31 years old, Cain has ranked as the game’s fourth-best outfielder since 2015.
The Brewers opened the season without making good on persistent rumors the team could yet add a high-end starting pitcher via free agency or trade. Even had that piece fallen into place, talk of a Brewers World Series in 2018 was probably premature. But one thing seems certain: We’ll no longer be looking for flashes of potential at Miller Park, but wins. — Chris Drosner
Lately stadium food announcements seem to have become a contest to offer the weirdest eats. (Deep-fried beef and bean nachos on a stick, anyone?) But these three additions to Miller Park’s 2018 food roster sound more mouthwatering than outrageous. – Ann Christenson
Steak and cheese chips
A riff on nachos using house-fried kettle chips as the base, with a blanket topping of braised beef-cheese sauce.
Johnsonville Beer Cheese Sausage
This year the Famous Racing Sausages switched allegiance (sponsorship) from Klement’s to Johnsonville, and a brat infused with cheddar and beer is a natural for this ballpark.
There are two types of Polish dumplings available, and we’re especially excited about the potato/cheese-filled ones served with warm sauerkraut and smoked bacon tossed in sweet bacon dressing.
Ever since Miller Park opened in 2001, Tim Kaebisch has been building Lego models of the stadium. His ninth version – made of about 37,000 blocks and complete with electric motors, sensors and lights – is expected to return to display sometime in April at the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Walter Schroeder Library. – Leah Harris
When the Brewers have left the field at Miller Park, and you and the thousands of other fans are back at home, another team is hard at work. Their mission: to clean up the mess that’s left behind.
It’s no small feat, taking up to six and a half hours for 65 to 120 workers to scrub the park from Terrace to Diamond Box, according to Gregory Heath, COO of Performance Clean, the contract janitorial service for Miller Park.
The first step is the “pick” phase, where cleaners gather paper cups, wrappers and so forth. But the time-consuming task is those pesky peanut shells. Enter the blowers, which resemble a typical leaf blower. Workers use them to blast debris from one corner of the stadium to the other. Finally, large power washers are deployed to scrub away soda or beer spills, followed by a quick wipe-down to dry the seats.
Less ubiquitous than peanut shells, but more daunting, is vomit, which tends to occur during children’s camps or well, you can imagine. Employees don gloves and use chemicals to deal with this challenge.
The more of the 41,900 seats that are full, the bigger the post-game mess. That means well-attended games, such as those against the Chicago Cubs, tend to be the messiest. — Claire Swinarski
These days, major league baseball players dress in synthetic blends that wick away moisture and keep players relatively cool. The players of 19th century Wisconsin were not so fortunate, running the bases in sweat-soaked, wool flannel uniforms.
On display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, is one such shirt worn by Baraboo farm laborer Legrand Lippitt, who played in the 1860s. According to the Hall of Fame, the artifact is the oldest baseball uniform known to exist in its vast collection.
The jersey is in the “shield front” style popular in the mid-to-late 1800s, with a large piece of fabric bearing a “B” in Old English lettering (for Baraboo) buttoned to the front. This setup allowed manufacturers to sell the same shirt but different shields to other teams. “It’s surprisingly heavy,” says Tom Shieber, senior curator at the Hall of Fame. “It’s not the modern-day wicking uniforms you have today.
Lippitt’s family donated the uniform about three decades after his death in 1939. Not much is known about the man, and historians know of no descendants living in the Baraboo area.
However, a 1925 article from the Baraboo Daily News describes him as a “champion fast base runner” who was also skilled at catching “those long high drives on the fly.” It also describes Baraboo playing against teams in Lodi and Portage, suggesting some kind of loose organization (if not a proper league) within just a few years of the state’s founding in 1848. — Gene Armas