The glories of spring in Milwaukee include rumbling thunderstorms, the reappearance of lush green grass, the first blush of wildflowers and baseball!
Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash once said that of all the sports, baseball is the most intellectually appealing because of its volume of history, or what he called its "meat."
An example of that meat was a record set on Opening Day at Miller Park. The record had nothing to do with horrid weather. In fact, though the roof was closed, it was sunny and mild. The record had nothing to do with giant numbers of tailgaters, the length of the line of cars waiting to get into parking lots, the size of the sell-out crowd or the amount of beer consumed, though I'm sure those were nearly incalculable.
On April 2, 2007, Ben Sheets became the third pitcher in Major League history to pitch a complete game, giving up just two hits and no walks, on Opening Day. I can still feel the glow from that game, and the whoopla of hope that always attends a new season. Strolling into my seat at the stadium with a hot dog in my hand, I felt like I was coming home. One of the ushers even gave me a quick hug to welcome me back. Once I sat down, I greeted the regulars who sit near me and caught up on their news. I may not know them well, but over the summer, I spend more time sitting with them than I do with my closest friends. We have one major thing in common: we are faithful to our team.
This year, the faithful are having fun. By now, even my buddies who don't know a balk from a walk, a middle reliever from a closer or an RBI from an ERA, have heard my team is winning. When they see me, they say, "I heard the Brewers are in first place, right? Think they'll win the World Series?"
And I flinch. I want to plug my ears as I mumble how they have many more games to go, and how I hope they stay healthy. Inside I'm praying, "Oh, please don't jinx them."
The team swept the world champion Cards with timely hits, stolen bases, bunts and sac flies. My Brewers are slamming lots of fan-pleasing, base-clearing, pitcher-bashing home runs.
All four of the outfielders are playing well. Both Kevin Mench and Geoff Jenkins are blistering the ball. Jenkins has always been impressive, chasing a fly ball and rifling a throw to beat the runner, but this year he's jaw-dropping. Corey Hart intercepts flies so efficiently, he makes the job look easy. Billy Hall gets better every day -- and he was good to begin with.
The double-play action of J.J. Hardy, Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder often stops my breath. J.J.'s moves are so smooth I could watch the replays over and over. Weeks' sudden power at the plate is startling. Fielder is a rock in every meaning of the word. He's a tough fielder, a reliable batter, and runs the bases like a jet-powered tank.
It's fun having Craig Counsell back, especially when he hits the ball exactly where it needs to be, like down the left-field line with two on. Johnny Estrada is a perfect addition to the team. I'm crazy about having a catcher who can hit and throw out base-stealers.
No pitcher is smoother, quicker, more efficient, or more graceful than Sheets in his windup and release. I have to add that no pitcher looks more awkward swinging a bat than our Bennie. I regret I didn't see the game where he actually got a hit and scored a run. But I can't complain, because I was lucky enough to watch both him and Jeff Suppan pitch complete games.
P.S. Maybe next month I'll write about chin vs. lip facial hair trends on members of the team, as well as shaved vs. thatched heads and fitted vs. baggy uniforms. I also hope to report the results of my survey on who female fans think is the cutest guy on the team.
P.P.S. Did I mention how much fun this team is?