Brewers debuting 'Blue-Gold World Series'

July 13th, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- It’s still not the real thing, but the Brewers are moving closer.

Catcher Omar Narváez and outfielder Avisaíl García were anointed captains for the first -- and hopefully only -- Blue-Gold World Series, a multigame intrasquad matchup that begins Tuesday night at Miller Park. The competition is set to run at least through Friday and will more closely resemble “real” games compared to the controlled scrimmages of recent days, meant to increase the Brewers’ intensity level ahead of a scheduled exhibition at the White Sox on July 22 and Opening Day at the Cubs two days later.

It’s not just for the players. Bona fide Major League umpires will call balls and strikes. Brewers broadcasters will call play by play all week on the livestream, beginning with the television team of Brian Anderson, Bill Schroeder and Sophia Minnaert on the “air” shortly before 6:40 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Radio broadcaters Jeff Levering and Lane Grindle will call some subsequent games.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be different. We’ve never done this,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “I think we’re going to create a different feel with it being at night. We’re going to have some fun with it.”

On one hand, viewers will see something much more closely resembling a regular-season broadcast, starting with the fact the teams will wear contrasting uniforms, Counsell said, after playing in the home whites for recent scrimmages. Pitchers’ outings will be less manipulated than recent games.

On the other hand, Counsell said the games would run only five to seven innings. The livestreams will be produced by the Brewers’ in-house video crew, club spokesperson Tyler Barnes said, so they will not look like regular-season broadcasts on FS Wisconsin. But the aim is to host in-game interviews and to experiment with some unique video features during the games. Miller Park public address announcer Mark Richards will be on hand to introduce players as they step to home plate, though there won’t be walk-up music due to licensing issues. And on Wednesday, the Brewers may begin to experiment with a package of crowd effects recently distributed to teams by Major League Baseball.

“Don’t expect to see perfect,” Counsell said. “Don’t complain about rules being violated during the game. Multiple baseball rules will be violated.”

He added, “It’s important for the players to understand the dial can’t go from 1 to 10, from camp to Opening Day. They understand that. That’s an important part of how we’re trying to prepare them.”

The terms of the series have Counsell’s fingerprints all over it. The term “Blue-Gold” is not just a nod to the Brewers’ recent color scheme before they reverted back to blue and yellow over the offseason, but to Counsell’s roots at the University of Notre Dame, where the spring football game was called the Blue-Gold Game.

What do players expect to get out of these games?

For hitters, it’s all about seeing as much live pitching as possible.

“To go from hitting off the tee to facing 98 mph, it’s definitely been a grind, but we’re all in the same boat,” Lorenzo Cain said. “We’re all just trying to play catch-up at the same time.”

Said Keston Hiura: “I think the big thing is just getting consistency, being able to see [pitching] every single day, and then get feedback from not only yourself but other players as well. Just kind of get your eyes back into the game where you feel like you’re game ready.”

“Feedback” was a common word. In some ways, intrasquad action offers more chances for that.

“It’s going to be a unique opportunity, because usually in Spring Training, you don’t get to have dialogue after games,” Brewers pitcher Josh Lindblom said. “Everybody wants everybody to get better. When I go out and face whoever it might be, say ‘Yeli’ [Christian Yelich], after the game I can go talk to him and say, ‘Hey, is there anything you saw?’ And vice versa.”

“That’s been one of the most interesting parts of this,” Counsell said. “I think the conversation that happens is the pitcher comes into the dugout and there can be a conversation about a sequence that just happened, and the pitcher can ask the hitter, ‘Why didn’t you swing at that?’ Or the hitter can say to the pitcher, ‘I will never hit that pitch if you throw it there and it’s executed.’ It’s a great conversation for guys to get real feedback on their stuff. It’s been very honest.”

The games also offer more chances to get used to the health and safety protocols put in place by MLB to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Brewers ace Brandon Woodruff had to remind himself during an extended outing the other day to retrieve his rosin bag behind the mound after each of his innings. Catchers have caught themselves throwing down to third base after a strikeout, and first baseman Logan Morrison has sometimes been unable to deny the habit of throwing the baseball around the infield after a groundout. Spitting has proven another tough habit to break.

Everyone’s routine has changed in 2020.

“It's hard to think about some of those things, because it's just baseball, you know? It's stuff you do,” first baseman Justin Smoak said. “But I think the biggest thing is going to be no fans in the stands. I mean, that's the weirdest thing that I've seen so far. Just being out there, you’ve got your teammates and stuff like that, but it's quiet. You can hear every noise possible.”

Fans and players alike will have more chances to get used to it beginning Tuesday.

“I think things are going to change,” said Barnes, the club spokesperson. “They’re going to look, feel and sound a little more like regular-season baseball.”