ARIZONA — With Opening Day right around the corner, all the work in Arizona is done for the Brewers. The team is back in Milwaukee for two exhibition games before everything starts for real. But they’re hoping what they formed in Phoenix will translate to success here.
For the fans at Maryvale Baseball Park, it’s all about the game, the sun and maybe the atmosphere. For the players, it’s something completely different.
“You will fight harder for a family member than you will for an absolute stranger,” said Carlos Torres, Brewers pitcher.
Standing up for the guy next to you is part of what makes a team stronger, especially during tough times. For the Brewers, coming together as one begins at Spring Training — especially this year where there are so many new faces.
“The bonding is something we’ve done since, what, little league? We’ve gotten used to new guys coming and going from year to year,” said Torres. Then you go to high school and college, year to year, four years at a time, people come and go. And then you get to the minor leagues, it’s year to year, month to month, week to week. And here it’s the same thing.”
For veteran pitcher Carlos Torres, the camaraderie is fueled through the common goal of making the Brewers roster.
“We’ve been able to bond no matter how you look at it. Competition is always good for a team,” Torres said.
Newcomer and first baseman, Eric Thames, sees it in a similar way.
“Everyone is pushing each other and that’s it. We’re pushing each other, trying to win. It’s a team effort. It’s not just one guy doing it. It’s the whole team,” said Thames.
But it’s not just the competition that is building this team. Other factors have to come together for the bonding to really work.
“There’s a lot of similar personalities on this team. Everybody likes to have fun, you know a lot of teammates and they’re real teammates. One guy’s making one hundred million dollars but he stands in the corner doing his own thing. But it’s like everybody’s together hanging out. It’s great,” said Thames.
“The good thing is everyone in that clubhouse, they’re all great people, good teammates,” said Michael Blazek, Brewers pitcher.
It’s a given that most of their time together is spent at the team’s facility in Phoenix.
“I know when we started camp, Counsell preached being connected with everyone. So I think we all took that pretty seriously,” said Blazek.
“You let them form their boundaries with each other and some of their standards, how they interact together. We talk about it, stress it with them. Then I think they kind of decide how they want it to look,” said Brewers Manager Craig Counsell.
Like most players, Blazek finds ways outside of the game of baseball to connect and grow closer to the guys in the clubhouse.
“A lot of us are going to play golf and kind of getting to know each other that way,” said Blazek.
That’s where Blazek found out fellow pitcher, Zach Davies, might have been hiding one of his talents.
“I mean the guy, I wasn’t expecting it, he’s like a scratch golfer. I’m like, I’m playing in his group and I’m like Davies, are you kidding me? You’re like 120 pounds and you’re hitting it as far as Corey’s hitting it. It was impressive to watch him play,” said Blazek.
However, it’s something Davies downplays as it wasn’t his biggest activity away from baseball.
“It’s fun. I want to golf more than I have lately. But, I had a pretty eventful off season so I didn’t get out as much as I wanted to. But, had some fun things getting married and going on the honeymoon kind of takes priority over that,” Davies said.
With his honeymoon in Bora Bora now a wonderful memory, Davies is hoping his new relationships with teammates will create great experiences over the six-month season.
“You’ve got a lot of guys getting experience at the same time and knowing that the guy next to you is doing the same exact thing that you’re doing with the lack of experience but growing at the same time,” Davis said.
The bottom line is to make that 25-man roster and start the season in Milwaukee with the Major League club.