Attanasio's sons honor granddad with anthem

Seven Brewers players relish first Major League Opening Day

April 4th, 2016

MILWAUKEE -- Dan and Mike Attanasio's grandfather performed the national anthem at every Miller Park opener from 2005-14, but never practiced more than the song's first syllable.

"He always said that if you could nail the 'Oh,'" Mike Attanasio said Monday, "then you were all good."

Joe Attanasio passed away last year after battling cancer, and the Brewers aired a recording of his rendition on Opening Day in 2015. On Monday, Attanasio's grandsons began a new tradition by singing it themselves, with father -- and Brewers owner -- Mark Attanasio and the rest of the family standing behind them and the stands full of fans eager for the start of another baseball season.

"Pop-pop," as the boys call their grandfather, would have been proud.

"This meant everything to him," Mike Attanasio said. "He loved Milwaukee, he loved Opening Day, he loved being amongst the fans who welcomed him in. For us to carry on the family tradition and honor him in this way, it's incredible."

"It's a way to feel his presence here today with us," Dan Attanasio said.

It was their second such performance. The Attanasios also sang the anthem prior to last year's season finale against the Cubs.

"I figured if they could handle the Cubbies crowd," Mark Attanasio said, "they could handle this."

Minutes later, after Beckum-Stapleton Little League founder James Beckum's ceremonial first pitch, Wily Peralta fired a strike to Giants leadoff man Denard Span, and the regular season was underway.

Seven Brewers players stepped to the foul line for their first Major League Opening Day, including Keon Broxton. On Saturday afternoon, he was packing his equipment bag in Biloxi, Miss., with the rest of the Brewers, their exhibition season in the books, with no idea whether he was headed to Triple-A Colorado Springs or to Milwaukee.

Manager Craig Counsell broke the news: Broxton was going to the big leagues. Not only that, he was the Brewers' starting center fielder Monday against San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime deal right here," Broxton said. "It's something I'll never forget. It's a special day."

Besides Broxton, the Brewers' first-timers were pitchers Taylor Jungmann and Ariel Pena, infielders Yadiel Rivera and Colin Walsh and outfielders Broxton, Ramon Flores and Domingo Santana. Broxton, Santana and shortstop Jonathan Villar were in their first Opening Day starting lineup.

"There's butterflies for everybody today, and that's a good thing," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "For some guys, there's a lot more. For a guy that it's his first Opening Day and not much experience in the big leagues, it's a little more. For that guy, it's really just stay in the moment of everything. For most, that's how these guys do it. They stay in the moment. You feel the butterflies, but if you stay in the moment, nothing gets too big for you.

"So that's what they'll try to do. You hope that some of those guys use it to do great things."