Knebel eager to save games ... and the planet

Brewers announce landmark partnership with SC Johnson to limit plastic waste at Miller Park

January 24th, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers pitchers and on Friday helped launch a first-of-its-kind partnership between the club and Racine-based SC Johnson to recycle the more than one million plastic cups discarded each season at Miller Park. As part of the program, both sides will donate to an environmental organization for every save recorded by a Brewers pitcher.

“I plan to do my part on that,” Knebel said.

Knebel is on the same road back from Tommy John surgery that Suter completed last fall, after which Suter emerged as one of the Brewers’ most reliable relievers in September and helped the team clinch a second straight appearance in the postseason. Knebel has yet to resume throwing off a mound, but he said he has had no setbacks in his comeback from April 3 surgery and is aiming for a 13-month comeback similar to Suter’s in 2018-19.

“I want to be ready to go so I can have no limits for [Brewers manager Craig] Counsell,” Knebel said. “Everything is going well. We’re looking at the 13-month mark. I don’t want to come up here and have Counsell say, ‘We can’t throw him today because he can only go two times a week.’ I think we’re all in agreement there.”

Originally, Knebel expected to be back on a mound in January. That changed, he said, following consultation between his surgeon and the Brewers’ medical staff. He has been throwing on flat ground instead.

A 13-month timetable would put Knebel back in game shape in early May. When he actually pitches in the Major Leagues, however, is dependent on the progress of his Minor League rehab assignment.

“Luckily, I had Suter to watch while he was going through this process [following his surgery in 2018],” Knebel said. “It’s an example, and a really good example. You saw what he did last year.

“It’s all been feeling good. It’s just the normal process.”

Knebel, an All-Star closer in 2018, is critical to Milwaukee’s bullpen plan this season. But he and other Brewers folks had more earthly issues on their minds Friday, when Knebel and Suter, the team's resident environmentalists, helped launch an initiative with SC Johnson chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson to make better use of the plastic cups that fill bins at Miller Park every season.

Starting in 2020, SC Johnson will collect those cups -- the Brewers went through 1.3 million of them last year -- and turn them into bottles for its Scrubbing Bubbles products. It marks the first time that a U.S. pro sports team is linking a waste stream to a specific product. The cups will have SC Johnson’s logo and a description of the effort, directing fans to dispose of them in special containers around the ballpark.

In addition to the recycling effort, the ballclub and SC Johnson will donate to “Players for the Planet” for each Brewers save recorded. Suter has been partnered with that organization for several years.

“It’s really a great step in the right direction,” Suter said. “People are becoming more aware and more concerned about their everyday actions.”

“Suter is, of course, our expert on environmental issues,” Knebel added. “He has definitely changed a lot of guys’ perspectives in the clubhouse, especially mine.”

Last spring, as part of his “Strike Out Waste” effort, Suter distributed glass water bottles to teammates and encouraged them to stop drinking from single-use plastic bottles. Last April, in conjunction with Earth Day, the Brewers announced that they were replacing plastic straws with paper straws at Miller Park.

Now Milwaukee is the latest partner of SC Johnson, which has undertaken an effort of its own to tackle plastic waste. Since 2015, the company has used 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic for its Windex line, and last year it announced that Windex packaging would be made entirely from 100 percent recycled ocean-bound plastic.

“I am so thrilled that people are becoming more and more aware of this issue, because it is a really complicated issue to solve,” said Johnson, a fifth-generation leader of the company. “It is going to take a multitude of solutions. It is going to take government regulation. It’s going to take businesses to innovate. It’s going to take people to change their behavior. And it’s going to take a systemic change to our supply change as companies. None of that is going to happen without society as a whole being aware of the problem and thinking about how to do something about it.”