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Brewers happy to share spotlight with Badgers

April 6, 2015

MILWAUKEE – It’s a always big day in Milwaukee. But this year there’s a lot more red at Miller Park.

It’s hard to overshadow Opening Day, but the Wisconsin Badgers are doing it as they get set to battle Duke for the national championship on Monday night. Don’t worry, the Brewers don’t mind a bit.

“It’s a fun experience for everybody here in Wisconsin,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. “I’m a big Bo Ryan fan. We have 162 games left. They’ve got one huge game tonight.”

It should make for one of the more memorable days in Wisconsin sports history.

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Fans lined up early Monday morning to get a prime parking spot and begin tailgating at 10 a.m. before the Brewers hosted the Rockies at 1:10 p.m. But once things wrap up at Miller Park, the state’s attention will shift back to basketball.

“We’ll all be watching them tonight, that’s for sure,” Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said. “I love it.”

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he was happy to share the day, but he did have one caveat.

“As long as we both win, I think it’s great,” Roenicke said. “It’s a big day. No question.”

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Bud Selig, a University of Wisconsin alumnus and MLB commissioner emeritus, was on hand Monday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

He said he’s “worn out already,” but excited for the championship game.

“It’s great,” Selig said. “I’m proud of the Badgers. I’m proud to be a Badger.

“This is a great story. It’s great for the university. It’s great for the state of Wisconsin.”

Remembering Joe

Opening Day brought some mixed emotions for Attanasio.

Monday marked the start of his 11th season as owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, but the first without his father, Joe, who passed away in early January. To honor Joe’s memory, Brewers front-office personnel wore “JOE” pins, and a matching logo was painted behind home plate.

Joseph Attanasio sang the Opening Day national anthem in each of the past 10 years, as well as before a handful of postseason games at Miller Park. The Brewers kept the tradition alive one last time, playing a recording of his rendition from last year’s opener.

“My dad loved baseball, loved the Brewers and loved the community here,” Attanasio said. “I wanted to do something that would honor him that would represent his emotion and be a positive thing. He’s a man who liked to have a good time, and he’d want us all to have a good time today.”

The team also observed a moment of silence for Joe, with the Attanasio family gathered behind the microphone at home plate during the anthem, where Joe traditionally stood.

Selig returns

Selig threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Monday’s game, with Attanasio as his catcher.

The newly retired commissioner also was scheduled to fly to Phoenix later in the day to throw out the first pitch for the Diamondbacks. He said it was believed to be a first for Major League Baseball to have one person throw out the first pitch in two cities on the same day.

The former Brewers owner said he had been warming up recently to avoid bouncing it. He was worried about being heckled by Brewers announcer Bob Uecker.

“Uecker would never forget,” Selig said. “He left a message on my machine that he’s coming out a radar gun.”

While he’s still getting used to Selig’s new role, Attanasio was happy to have him back in Milwaukee.

“I still think of Bud as Commissioner Selig,” Attanasio said. “He did promise to come out to a few more games this year.”

Healthy Brewers

One of the keys to spring training every year is getting through it with a relatively healthy ballclub. The Brewers did that this year and then some.

Aside from reliever Jim Henderson going on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, Milwaukee has no significant injuries to report.

That strong health to start the season could go a long way toward the Brewers’ ability to compete in what may be the toughest division in baseball.

“We have to stay healthy,” Melvin said. “Health is a big issue to a club like ours.”

The most important health issues for the team center around a thumb and a back.

While he’s looked good this spring, the Brewers will keep a close eye on Ryan Braun’s right thumb, a nagging issue which had lingered throughout 2014 and robbed him of his power.

If he gets that power stroke back, the Brewers’ offense will benefit greatly.

“He’s swinging the bat really well,” Roenicke said. “He’s got his swing back.”

Adam Lind’s back issue also will be an ongoing concern, as it could pop up as a problem at any time.

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