MILWAUKEE -- The Los Angeles Dodgers finished off their series with the Milwaukee Brewers Thursday, April 19th at Miller Park and left Milwaukee, but the hearts of a few Dodgers players are still here.
When Davey Lopes was managing the Brewers a decade ago, the team lost almost 60 percent of its games and saw rapidly dwindling attendance at Miller Park. He probably can't believe what he sees when he returns to Milwaukee as a coach these days.
Former Brewers players Jerry Hairston Jr. and Tony Gwynn Jr. are happy to discuss where the city is now on the baseball landscape, and they are second-generation big leaguers.
"It's come so far. I don't know that it wasn't a baseball city, but when your team isn't winning, it's less likely that you'll get the support that you want. When you watch how this organization has grown over the last six, seven years, eight years, they have done such a good job, and the fans fill the place, and it makes for a great atmosphere to come watch a baseball game," Gwynn said.
"When you get 40,000, 45,000 fans, 50,000 fans screaming and hollering every night, I don't care what city you are in. It's great. It's a great experience," Hairston said.
Los Angeles is Hairston's ninth major league stop, so he knows something about good places to play, and you would think that he would have had a good experience playing in Milwaukee, but he didn't. "It wasn't a good experience. It was a great experience. I really enjoyed my time here. Unbelievable fans. So passionate about their Brewers, and we had a great run last year," Hairston said.
Chris Capuano pitched for the Brewers for five seasons and loved living on the east side of Milwaukee. Since then, he's been with the New York Mets and now, the Dodgers. "The fans come out here and that's not always the case in some of those bigger markets. It's more of a 'what have you done for me lately,' kind of thing. Paying here in a place like Milwaukee, you appreciate that fan support. The success they've had is undeniable. Attanasio has done a great job of putting a good team together, and the Brewers got a taste of the playoffs and everything, and I would definitely say they are on the map. It's a desirable place for free agents to come, that's for sure," Capuano said.
"I try to tell everybody - if you ever get a chance to play in Milwaukee, you gotta come," Hairston said.
The way the National League schedule works, the Dodgers won't be back at Miller Park all year, until perhaps the playoffs.