I was a huge baseball fan growing up in the 1980's. I collected baseball cards incessantly from about 1985-1992, and still have thousands of them that are worth less than they were back then. We went to card shows and collected cards of our favorite players, most of whom were little known guys like Junior Noboa, Wallace Johnson, and Nelson Liriano.
I played little league baseball every summer, and the nights I didn't play were mostly spent at the numerous slow pitch softball leagues my Dad played in. My best friend and I were bat boys and later kept score in the official book. At one park they even had one of those metal scoreboards with sliding numbers that we got to "operate" from time to time. The game was the backdrop for much of my spring and summer life from about second grade through junior high.
Then, I lost interest, for the most part. High school and college football became a focus of my life, along with a lot of other things. I still went to the occasional game in person at the University of Iowa, the Cedar Rapids Kernels, or an occasional church trip to the den of spiders and Old Style known as Wrigley Field.
But I stopped paying attention to scores and standings. I pretty much stopped watching baseball on TV. The 1994 strike and the steroids era probably didn't help, but I just lost interest in baseball. Finally, after years of moves throughout the midwest, different jobs, marriage and kids, I moved to Milwaukee in 2012. It happened to be the day after the Brewers last game. We bought a house fairly close to Miller Park, just a ten minute drive. One of the first things we did was eat at Friday's and check out the view of Miller Park. In December we went to the Clubhouse Sale, in the actual visitor's clubhouse. In May, I finally went to my first actual Brewers game and was amazed at the tailgating atmosphere.
Throughout my life, I've been a big high school and college football and basketball fan. I've gone to minor league games at many different places. I grew up going to Big Ten football and basketball games in my hometown. But, wow, this was different.
I went to five games in the very mediocre 2013 season. The Brewers won all five. The last one was in September, during a Packers game, and the Brewers came back to win on a walkoff by Sean Halton, of all people. The next May, during the heady days of early 2014, I got in free to a game against the Pirates in the 8th inning since there was a UWM baseball game afterwards. I stood right behind home plate as Khris Davis drove in two for a walkoff win. I went nuts. It was about the same time I joined Brew Crew Ball. In just a few months, I had found a new passion. Even my wife, who got sick of baseball in childhood with a brother who played on traveling teams, has really gotten into the Brewers. She can identify sliders versus change ups, and watching Fox Sports Wisconsin, laughing at BA and Rock and predicting what Davey Nelson and Sophia will say has become a nightly ritual.
In the last five years, I've been on Miller Park tours, watched my kids run the bases several times, attended spring training this year and watched the kids get dozens of autographs, visited Cooperstown in 2016 and done so many things I never could have imagined five years ago. My daughter was the junior announcer at Maryvale in March, and my son will be the Klement's play ball kid in a couple weeks! My Dad grew up a Milwaukee Braves fan in the 50's (even though he lived in Iowa). He's still a Braves fan but has fallen for the Brewers. We text each other scores, weird baseball happenings and Bob Uecker quotes almost every day.
It's been an amazing journey, given me a passion that I could have never predicted, and connected my family to our city and area in incredible ways. And as I have followed the minor league teams and transactions constantly the last few years, I feel like I know this organization practically top to bottom. I am very thankful for the Brewers and for baseball, for all it has meant to my family and me.