This weekend, they're adversaries, managing against each other for the first time as the Brewers take on the Twins in Minneapolis.
"Somebody you know as a kid, somebody you looked up to as a kid, there's always a little different feeling, but we're adults now. We're doing the same job," Counsell said.
Counsell's team got the best of Molitor's Friday, as the Brewers won, 10-5. Before the game, the two new managers had a chance to catch up.
"We're both new at this. He's got 30 games on me, I guess, and he's got more life experience. That's a nice way of saying it," Counsell said with a laugh. "But we just shared some good memories as much as anything."
Those memories started at a young age for Counsell. With his father working in the Brewers' organization, he had an inside track to the players. The two families lived close to each other, and Counsell's dad was close to Molitor.
"I was around him a lot in his youth," Molitor said. "He was one of those guys when he had the opportunity to hang with his dad at the ballpark, he was going to be there. He was around a lot."
Counsell eventually went off to college and had a professional career of his own, but his time in his youth around the Brewers clearly made an impression.
"If you grew up in Milwaukee in the '80s, then you loved Paul Molitor. You loved Robin Yount. You loved Jim Gantner," Counsell said. "If you were a baseball fan, those were your guys. Those were the jerseys you wore. Those were the people you imitated. There's no question about it."
Counsell sported Molitor's number -- four -- at times during his playing career.
And though their careers diverged for a while, they both found their way into managing.
Molitor's path was more traditional, spending time in other coaching positions before taking the helm in Minnesota this season.
Counsell, on the other hand, joined the Brewers' front office after his playing career and jumped from there to the bench just over a month ago after the Brewers dismissed Ron Roenicke.
"He's probably smart enough to serve in a lot of roles in this game, but he's settled in for the challenge of managing," Molitor said.
And though the two are in opposite dugouts this weekend, they've enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect.
"It's a fun weekend for you," Counsell said. "It's fun to get a chance to compete against a guy like that."
Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.