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Broadening Milwaukee's fanbase...and more

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Drew Olson has an interesting story on some off-the-field impact Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder could have on the team--a change from the past several incarnations of the Brewers:

"The Brewers have painstakingly tried to get the black community interested in the team," Haywood said. "They've been involved in the Boys and Girls Club, the Northwest Little League and the Beckum-Stapleton Little League forever. They've tried to do some things. But this is the first time in a long time they've had African-American ballplayers who were talented and playing in Milwaukee. The last time was probably when they had 'Vaughnie' (Greg Vaughn) and 'Hambone' (Darryl Hamilton). The past few years, they had Jeffrey Hammonds and some other guys, but Hammonds was a paid mercenary and he didn't perform."

It's a delicate subject, but a couple of years ago--even Opening Day last year--the Brewers had a strikingly white team. The only team I can think of that was anwhere close to that was last year's Athletics. Now, it's an entirely different story (for the A's, too, with newcomers Milton Bradley and Frank Thomas).

I've been going to games all over the country for more than fifteen years now, and I've stopped being surprised by the homogeneity of the crowd. In New York, things have changed somewhat with the influx of Japanese players, and surely the Latino community has turned out for the new Mets. But outside of the Apple, it'll take more of an effort to broaden the fanbase.

I sincerely hope--for social reasons, for economic reasons, for on-the-field reasons--that the Brewers can energize the African-American community. For one thing, the Prince-Rickie tandem has the potential to be very, very special, the sort of thing that gets 8-year-old kids in Prince Fielder jerseys and Brewers caps to play baseball in the park after school.

Additionally--and I admit I care about this team's revenue more than just about anybody who doesn't earn a living off of it--the Brewers are a tiny market, by MLB standards. The idea that a large swathe of Milwaukee--whether along racial lines or something else--more or less doesn't come out to games...well, that sounds like a problem that needs to be fixed.

In other news: As I mentioned last night, Ben Sheets was solid in his outing in Huntsville. Great to see the velocity is there. Here's the MLB.com article, which has a great picture of Sheets in a Huntsville cap. The Journal Sentinel article on the night doesn't have much more in the way of info, but it does have this story:

Such was Huntsville's collection of accessories that there was no belt for its temp pitcher.

"What does it say," Sheets began, unbuckling the belt, "when you have to borrow a belt from the other team and it says 'Cox' on it?"

What Sheets was wearing, it turns out, was a Braves organization hand-me-down from Atlanta manager Bobby Cox.

"Ned is going to love that," said Sheets, referring to Ned Yost, his manager in Milwaukee and a former Braves coach.

Tonight: Game time: 7:05 CT. Dave Bush vs. Russ Ortiz and the Diamondbacks. I'll put up a game thread in a little while. I'm going to a great concert tonight, so--grr--I probably won't be back until the 6th or 7th inning.

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