A look inside the clubhouse culture of Triple-A baseball’s best team.
The Nashville Sounds have been a high-level affiliate of Minor League Baseball in the Milwaukee Brewers organization for what feels like forever. After a 723-713 stretch of play from 2005 to 2014, the Sounds spent 2015 to 2018 as an affiliate of the Oakland Athletics and then 2019 to 2020 in the Texas Rangers organization.
Fast forward to 2021 and the Sounds returned to the Brewers organization where they belong as a part of Minor League realignment. While 2021 did not go according to plan (63-56 record, fourth place finish in the division), the club recently wrapped up a 2022 regular season that was one for the ages.
Manager Rick Sweet, at the helm of Brewers’ Triple-A clubs since 2014, led this Nashville squad to not only a division title, but also the best record in all of Triple-A baseball. The Sounds put up their best winning percentage (.611) since the 2007 season and the third best season ever for the team, topping this mark only one other time since 1980.
So, what exactly clicked for the Brewers’ Triple-A club and what made the 2022 Sounds special?
For starters, it all begins with a solid coaching staff, one that the players on this squad highly value.
“Our coaching staff and training staff was unbelievable,” says Peter Strzelecki, who made 27 appearances out of the Sounds’ bullpen before earning his first promotion to the big leagues and making 30 more appearances out of the Brewers’ bullpen.
“It all starts with the staff. Rick (Sweet, manager), Al (LeBeouf, hitting coach) and Ned (Yost IV, general coach) are the best human beings I’ve come across in baseball,” says Matt Lipka, a longtime minor league speedster who is in his second tenure with the Sounds. “They saved me from an overcrowded situation in Rochester (Washington Nationals Triple-A affiliate) and allowed me to be a part of a team that I knew I could contribute to in a big way.”
“The coaches trust the players to get the job done. Through the relationships they take the time to build with the players, expressing that trust, that breeds confidence amongst the players. On the flipside, the players trust that this coaching staff will put them in situations that they can succeed in,” says 35-year-old Josh Lindblom, who is wrapping up his third season in the Brewers organization and second with the Sounds.
“With the incredible amount of turnover you experience at the Triple-A level and playing with the deck stacked against you at all times, it made winning this year so much harder but so much more rewarding,” he continues.
A common theme throughout conversations with this club is how well teammates worked together and how everybody seemed to get along.
“As a guy that came in about halfway through the year (acquired in a minor trade in June), the first thing I noticed is how easy it was to adjust to this team/clubhouse. I immediately felt like I had been there the entire year,” says infielder Patrick Dorrian.
“Everyone really got along with each other. You take a team with a lot of baseball talent and pair it with how much everyone enjoyed being together, you have the best team in minor league baseball,” Strzelecki stated when asked about the clubhouse culture.
Weston Wilson, a 28-year-old infielder who just wrapped up his second full season with the Sounds, says it was just a matter of not letting anything get in the way of the bigger picture and getting everyone to believe that this could be their year. “No matter who it was, everyone bought in,” Wilson told FanSided. “We just liked to have fun all the time, whether it’s in the clubhouse, in the dugout or on the field.”
“All around the best clubhouse I’ve ever been a part of in all my years in baseball,” says right-handed starter Dylan File, coming off of his second year with the Sounds.
“All of the guys pushed me every single day to try and find the best version of myself. No one ever needed to be the ‘hero’, no one ever tried to do too much, and everyone stayed within themselves and trusted the guys around them”, said Dorrian.
“As soon as I returned to Nashville, I noticed that this group was extremely tight. Even tighter than our group in 2021,” says Lipka, a veteran of 12 minor league seasons who has spent time with each of the Braves, Rangers, Giants, Yankees, Diamondbacks, Nationals and Brewers organizations. “We hung out with each other on and off the field and pulled for each other no matter what and that is not always there in other organizations.”
“To look back and see a team that genuinely wanted not only themselves to do well, but everyone around them to do well, it’s pretty special to reflect on”, says Lindblom.
File, 26, goes on to say, “I think a lot of it came from knowing where our big-league team was, there wasn’t going to be many opportunities to play in the big leagues which made all of us play even better. At the Triple-A environment where there’s always so much movement, we all became very close and learned to make the game fun with the team we assembled.”
Members of the Nashville Sounds happy this special season happened, regardless of how things ended.
With the Sounds ultimately falling to the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays Triple-A affiliate) in the International League Championship Game in the form of a 13-0 shutout loss, the players on the team are choosing to look at things in a positive light.
“While it wasn’t the ideal end to the season, win or lose this will always be the best clubhouse to be in,” says File.
Lipka shares that sentiment, saying, “I wish we were able to bring home something more than we did heading to Vegas (where the championship game was held), but a one game playoff doesn’t define the season we put together. I am beyond grateful to have been a part of this team that flat out dominated all year long.”
“Last but certainly not least, and something that I don’t think is talked about enough, is just playing in Nashville. It’s a city deserving of a major league team, the front office and everyone behind the scenes make it feel like home for us. The games are electric and there is a buzz at our games that isn’t felt at other stadiums. The last two seasons I have felt a sense of pride throwing on that NASH jersey and I think a lot of players feel the same. You rise to the occasion more often when you feel that way as a player”, finishes Lipka.
Want your voice heard? Join the Reviewing The Brew team!
This year’s Nashville Sounds team was filled with more talent than we’ve seen in many years, as evidenced by the incredible finish to the MiLB regular season. The continued development of this squad will be one to keep an eye on for many years to come.