Many Milwaukee Brewers fans have chomped at the bit for baseball, a part of their regular summer life that has been absent while COVID-19 has been present and dramatically affecting life.
The opener is finally coming for the Brewers, tonight at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs (5:35 p.m. on WTMJ).
“Glad it’s finally here,” said a man who may be more glad than anyone for Opening Day, Brewers manager Craig Counsell, in a conversation with WTMJ and ESPN Milwaukee’s Greg Matzek.
“There’s a baseball game. It counts in the standings.”
Counsell understands, however, that a game with no fans in the stands and physical distancing for protection from a pandemic brings its own unique perspectives.
“It feels like an important day. We’re doing something that’s never been done,” he said.
“That gives you butterflies in itself.”
Counsell said he was proud of his pitchers’ performance during the team’s recent Blue and Gold seven-game series to prepare for the season, and he will focus his efforts on keeping position players rested during a 60-game campaign with fewer days off than normal.
He also understood the slump superstar Christian Yelich endured during that series, where he barely reached the hit column.
“We want every player never to struggle, but it’s the game. It’s hard. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s just easier to identify in baseball. Sometime it’s hard to know when (Milwaukee Bucks star) Giannis (Antetokounmpo) is not playing well, necessarily, because he’s always going to get points. He’s always going to get some rebounds,” said Counsell.
“For Christian, he didn’t have a great camp. He’s been battling himself a little bit, struggling to find the feel. The best thing I can tell you is none of those games counted.”
Neither did Wednesday’s exhibition contest at the Chicago White Sox, where Yelich abruptly ended his slump with one swing of the bat. But sometimes, simply playing another team gets the juices flowing for a competitor like the 2018 MVP.
“The competition changes things for him,” said Counsell.
“We know he’s equipped to do enormous things, and he will. The change of venue and competition ramping up is a perfect recipe for him.”