The Milwaukee Brewers are beginning to pack up their winter home and head back to the Brew City to begin the 2012 season. A lot has gone on over the past few weeks at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, and if you haven’t had the time or the effort to keep up with it all I don’t blame you. Spring Training can be – and often is – a hectic time for teams as they need to get players in shape and build a winning roster. I don’t know how they keep track of everything, let alone fans.
So here’s a late Spring Training rundown, in three parts, on some of the best and the worst player performances, news, and notes surrounding the Milwaukee Brewers.
It’s always nice to start out with the good news, isn’t it? There have been a lot of good performances in Spring Training so far, but five players have impressed me offensively through Cactus League play.
Jonathan Lucroy has come out of the box as one of the hitters leading the Brew Crew in Batting Average (.512), and On Base Percentage as well as second on the team in OPS and Slugging. Add that to the fact that he has only struck out three times in 43 at-bats. It’s the kind of offensive production we have been waiting for from the young catcher. He still needs work defensively – especially when it comes to throwing to bases, but numbers like this will impress fans throughout the league.
Scooter Gennett is like a more versatile, younger version of what everyone always wanted Craig Counsell to be. I mean no disrespect to Craiggers when I say that, but there’s no doubt this kid will be a Major League player soon. He only had 10 at-bats this season in Phoenix, but talk about making the most of your opportunities – Scooter had five hits, only one K, a double, a triple, a home run, three runs scored and three RBIs.
Norichika Aoki had a rough start to Spring Training, but it really turned it up as play continued. He has a great swing that can give him power and still hit for average. He also turned out to be a rather gifted base runner who nabbed three bags during Spring Training. I’d like to see someone with that kind of ability draw more walks (he had only 3 thus far), but if he keeps proving his worth across the board he will be an asset wherever we decide to put him – which hopefully is in the lineup more often than not.
Rickie Weeks suddenly has some plate discipline. We all knew he was a power hitter, but Rickie surprised me by drawing 12 walks in Spring Training so far, with none of them being intentional (although the pair of HBP may have been, who knows). To give you an example of just how surprising this really was to me, Weeks walked a grand total of 50 times last year in 453 at-bats. He’s had 38 in Spring Training. Is this a new Rickie we’re seeing? Well, not exactly – he still struck out 14 times, but if he can build on that patience at the plate, he’s only going to see his numbers go up in every area.
Alex Gonzalez is most definitely the man we’ve been looking for on the left side of the infield. We
already knew that he has been performing well for his entire career, but age was a concern for some with his signing. That age (35, by the way) does not seem to be stopping him at all thus far. He is hitting .400 in 45 at-bats so far and has shown some handy glove work to boot. Consistency has been lacking at shortstop for Milwaukee for a long time, but if Gonzalez can keep up his good work it may just be a thing of the past.
Off the field, the Milwaukee Brewers have been making waves as well. Two stories from the press wires have me very excited for the future of the Crew.
The first is the nearing extension of Milwaukee’s spring training facility, Maryvale Baseball Park. According to the Brewers’ website, both sides have agreed in principal to terms for a extension that could last up to ten years. There is flexibility in the agreement as well, as Milwaukee has the option to opt out and search for greener pastures during the 2015 Spring Training season. Maryvale has been a great home-away-from-home for Milwaukee since the turn of the century, and every fan I’ve spoken to about it simply raves about the park in terms of proximity to the field and the overall facilities.
The team has issues with some of the training complex and practice grounds, with team officials telling the Brewers website that some of the facilities are just too small for the team. Maryvale and Phoenix officials have said that expansion for the park is part of larger goals for the overall neighborhood, and they seem willing – at least for now – to acquiesce to some of the team’s suggestions for improvement. The issues don’t seem to be deal breakers in any way, and both sides appear to want to cooperate with one another to keep Phoenix and the Milwaukee Brewers as Spring Training bedfellows.
And finally, from the Maryvale park to Miller Park. Brewers press officials recently released a statement that is good news for anyone who loves baseball and the environment. The U.S. Green Building Council has officially given Miller Park a LEED Certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a voluntary process facilities can choose to take to create a more sustainable and energy efficient design. Miller Park is only the third professional sports stadium to receive the certification, and the only one with a retractable roof to hold the distinction.
This is amazing, because with a retractable roof ventilation and air circulation are obviously a huge issue (anyone who’s gone to a game with the roof closed on a humid day knows what I’m talking about). According to the press release the team hired Johnson Controls to help with the process, and along with revamping the air system the stadiums recycling facilities have nearly doubled. That brand new HD scoreboard helped, too, reducing energy costs by about 50%. We always knew Miller Park was something special, and now we can say they have re-doubled their efforts to make the areas surrounding the stadium a better place as well.