New Crew catching corps up & at 'em for 'Breakfast Club'

Coordinator Greene helping lay foundation for new era at position with early-morning gatherings

March 7th, 2017

PHOENIX -- While other players are just sitting down to an omelet, the Brewers' "Breakfast Club" is already cooking.

That's what Milwaukee third-base coach Ed Sedar dubbed the daily gathering of Brewers catchers who have been working with catching coordinator Charlie Greene to lay the foundation for a new organizational era at the position. The six-member group -- led by big league candidates , and -- is on the field at 8 a.m. to drill fundamentals.

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"I like it out there early in the mornings," Bandy said. "You come back in here and you've got a nice lather on. You're ready to go."

"There's days where it's a little 'grindy,'" Susac said, "but there's a lot of benefits to it."

Gone is Milwaukee's longtime tandem of and , each of whom was traded last year. Lucroy went to the Rangers the same day the Brewers acquired Susac in a separate trade with the Giants. Maldonado went to the Angels for Bandy. Pina was acquired a year earlier in a trade with the Tigers.

The Crew is likely to pick two players from the trio for the Opening Day roster. Pina is out of Minor League options, Bandy has one and Susac has two.

"We challenged the catchers at the beginning of camp, really, with the understanding that, 'Look, this is the start of it for you guys,'" Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "We're starting anew with our catching. We challenged them to set a really high standard of what the catching is going to look like.

"I think they have all done a really nice job of accepting that challenge and accepting the workload that is going to be on them, accepting their responsibilities and understanding that they are the players who are connected the most to all of our roster. They connect to our pitchers. They connect to position players, obviously, because they are one of them. And they spend more time with the coaching staff than any other position.

"It's a lot of responsibility on that position, and as young players, we're putting a lot of responsibility on them."

Said Susac: "He made a point of telling us this isn't a job just for this year, but for the future."

The principal of the Breakfast Club is Greene, the son of a renowned college coach by the same name who spent 30 years at Miami-Dade Community College and led Team USA in 1988 and '89. Greene Jr. played parts of five seasons in the Major Leagues for the Mets, Orioles, Brewers and Blue Jays before beginning a coaching career in Milwaukee's Minor League chain in 2005.

"Like I told the guys, it's a great opportunity for the guys here to play in the big leagues and get established," Greene said. "Luc had to earn his way, Maldy had to earn his way, and now it's time for a new group to come over there."

Each day brings a new lesson, from receiving to blocking to footwork. One day, Greene set up a pair of pitching machines in the bullpen area at Maryvale Baseball Park. One fired wicked right-handed curveballs in the dirt, and the other had left-handed sliders. Greene introduced the drill like it was Day 1 of basic training.

Besides Bandy, Pina and Susac, the group includes Minor Leaguers , and .

"They're full gear, and the first ball is in the machine at 8 o'clock," Greene said. "Hard stuff, challenging stuff. We wanted to challenge them early in the morning. It's a good way to wake up their hands and their body."

Greene, who sometimes wears catching gear himself, eats it up.

"You just see him and you feel energy," Pina said.

Greene is busier now that the Brewers' Minor League camp is filling up, but the morning Breakfast Club will continue.

"Catching is like a fraternity," Bandy said. "That's what I always say. No one really knows what we go through in each day. It's good that we can help each other out, pick each other up."