Brew City synergy: Brewers meet the best-in-NBA Bucks

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PHOENIX -- Freddy Peralta didn’t play much basketball growing up in the Dominican Republic, but Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks have turned him into a fan.

“So far, it’s great,” Peralta said. “I remember in 2021 when the Bucks won the World Series.”

The what?

It was a slip of tongue, and thankfully his Brewers teammate Garrett Mitchell was there with a friendly correction. All access passes in hand, they were together at the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix with teammates Owen Miller (a Wisconsin native) and Alex Claudio to see the Bucks clinch a playoff spot with a 116-104 win over the Suns.

“_NBA Finals_,” Mitchell says as they both break into laughter.

Peralta may still be working on his basketball terminology, but it’s true that he was in the building when Giannis and the Bucks beat the Suns to clinch the NBA title in July 2021. That day, the Brewers moved up the first pitch of their game against the Royals and principal owner Mark Attanasio secured a suite at Fiserv Forum so his players could enjoy a sort of day-night doubleheader.

Peralta was among the 20 or so Brewers players and personnel who took advantage and attended the Bucks game. They beat the Suns in Game 6 that night, securing Milwaukee’s first major sports championship in 50 years.

“I remember, we were so happy, and we were talking about it: We have to win the World Series,” Peralta said.

Miller grew up just outside Milwaukee and has always liked the Bucks’ role players. Go figure. Two years into his Major League career, he has already started games at all four infield positions.

“I was a big fan when I was little,” Miller said. “I remember the Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings days. … Just seeing the last couple of years, when Giannis got to Milwaukee, and what they’ve done, and winning the championship in 2021, it’s incredible.”

Miller got to let his inner Bucks fan out on Tuesday night when the Brewers quartet were guests of the Bucks, who became the first team in the NBA to reach the 50-win plateau. There were pregame meetings with Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton, the latter a former pitcher at Craig Counsell’s alma mater, Notre Dame, who was a fourth-round Draft pick of the Orioles in 2014 and pitched one season at Low-A Aberdeen before his basketball career took over.

Connaughton is one of Miller’s current favorite Bucks. Big man Joe Ingles, too. Always with the supporting players.

“I like the guys that know their role, that shoot threes and play hustle defense,” Miller said. “Giannis, too, obviously. What he has done for the city is unbelievable.”

Miller and Mitchell had postgame meetings with Brook Lopez and, yes, Antetokounmpo, who is technically one of their bosses. In 2021, Antetokounmpo joined the Brewers’ ownership group. He was the team’s first new individual investor since 2004.

Mitchell, the Brewers’ uber-athletic, rookie center fielder, once pondered a basketball career. He played both sports until his junior year of high school before opting to focus exclusively on baseball, probably a wise decision considering he starred at UCLA and became the Brewers’ second-round Draft pick in 2020.

“I knew that baseball was more my path than basketball, but I always loved it,” Mitchell said. “I knew I had to make a decision, and I knew it was going to be baseball.”

What about Peralta? If given the chance, could he get through the brutal physical test of an NBA season?

“Maybe, yes,” Peralta said. “I do a lot of cardio. So, probably yes.”

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