A few weeks ago, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy came to a realization. He could remain miserable about the prospect of playing for a team in the throes of a rebuilding effort, or he could make the most of it.
Lucroy chose the latter. He reported to camp this week along with the rest of the team's pitchers and catchers having undergone a sincere change of heart.
"One of the first things that happened here is I met Jacob Nottingham, the kid we just traded for," said Lucroy, referring to the catching prospect acquired from the A's only days earlier. "This kid walked up to me in the cage and asked me for help as soon as I got there. He asked for help with some catching stuff.
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"I was sitting there like, 'Man, this is great.' I love to help like that. It makes you feel good. That willingness to work, it's great, and I've realized that this is what the game is all about. That's what Jason Kendall once did for me.
"So regardless of what I said in the past about not wanting to be on a rebuilding team -- I'm going to make the best out of it. We have a really good group of guys, a good coaching staff, and the fans are awesome and they're going to support us, no matter what. I just want to be positive and I want to have fun."
Those sentiments represented a total turnaround from a month ago, when Lucroy suggested he would rather be traded to a contender than dedicate some of his prime seasons to a rebuilding effort. His frustration had been building for some time, beginning with the Brewers' late-season collapse in 2014 and continuing to the following offseason, when Lucroy and his representative proposed a long-term contract extension and were rebuffed. Last season was no better, as Lucroy fought injuries and a slump, and Milwaukee shifted into rebuilding mode after a 5-17 start.
One by one, other established Brewers players were traded to contenders. For much of this offseason, Lucroy wanted to join them. In mid-January, he made his frustration public.
Does Lucroy regret that?
"I don't have regrets, no. I was just being honest about how I felt," he said. "I don't think anybody wants to be in a situation where people are expecting you to lose. But you can't fall for that mindset.
"It doesn't make sense to come out here and be bitter. It's just about getting back to playing a game for a living, having fun with it. I kind of had an epiphany a couple of weeks ago. I realized, 'I'm going back to the Brewers, no doubt. So let's do something positive.'"
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Lucroy still could be traded. He has two years remaining on a club-friendly contract that pays $4 million in 2016 with a $5.25 million club option for '17. Lucroy will turn 30 in June.
Unlike last year, when Lucroy reported to camp rehabbing a right hamstring injury and then missed time early in the season with a broken left big toe and late in the season with a concussion, he is healthy. He will wear specially made cleats to protect his toes, and a new catcher's mask designed to better absorb the impact of foul tips.
"I feel healthy. I feel strong. I have a newfound joy for the game," Lucroy said. "I know I sound weird. But I'm looking forward. I'm just really, really happy to be back on the baseball field again."