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For Players Weekend, a 'Chicken' special

Counsell serves up touching story behind longtime nickname
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell rarely wears his jersey in the dugout, but he'll make an exception for the inaugural Players Weekend, through Sunday throughout MLB.

Managers and coaches are taking part in a collaborative effort between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, with uniformed personnel wearing nicknames on the backs of their jerseys. Counsell is going with "Chicken," a moniker bestowed long ago because of his unusual batting stance, with arms overhead and his arms flapping like wings.

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell rarely wears his jersey in the dugout, but he'll make an exception for the inaugural Players Weekend, through Sunday throughout MLB.

Managers and coaches are taking part in a collaborative effort between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, with uniformed personnel wearing nicknames on the backs of their jerseys. Counsell is going with "Chicken," a moniker bestowed long ago because of his unusual batting stance, with arms overhead and his arms flapping like wings.

But there's much more to the story.

Players Weekend gear available at MLBShop.com

"It's not a nickname that I'm called by my friends or teammates or people here at the field," Counsell said. "It's the product of a great story -- 'The Chicken Runs at Midnight.' It's a wonderful story."

It's a story about a young girl named Amy Donnelly, daughter of longtime Major League coach Rich Donnelly, one of the great storytellers in baseball history whose tenure included a stint in Milwaukee. When she was young, Amy noticed her dad coaching third base for the Pirates, hands cupped over his mouth, shouting instructions to runners chugging his way.

"What are you saying to them?" Amy asked.

Without thinking about it much, Rich answered, "The chicken runs at midnight."

It became their inside joke, always good for a laugh. Amy always kept her sense of humor, dad says, even after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor during Spring Training in 1992. She died nine months later at just 18 years old.

Flash forward to Oct. 26, 1997. Or more precisely, Oct. 27.

Counsell was still at the start of his career, playing Game 7 of the World Series for a Marlins team with Donnelly as third-base coach. In the bottom of the 11th inning, Edgar Renteria singled to center field off the Indians' Charles Nagy, and Donnelly waved Counsell home with the winning run. Counsell threw his arms in the air after touching home plate, an image captured forever in photographs.

Donnelly's two sons were at the game and noticed the time on the big stadium clock. Amidst the celebration, they got dad's attention and pointed in that direction.

It was just after midnight.

The Chicken Runs at Midnight.

To this day, tears well in Donnelly's eyes every time he tells the story.

"It's a story I hope gets told more," Counsell said. "I am a character in the story, [but] the story is not about me. It's a wonderful story about family and baseball that really, if you hear it, I think it affects you.

"I hope someday they'll make a movie about the story. I know some people are trying to make that happen. … It'll make you cry, that's for sure."

Counsell and the rest of the Brewers are wearing their colorful, non-traditional uniforms during a series at Dodger Stadium. Each person in uniform had the opportunity to choose a nickname for the back of the jerseys made by Majestic Athletic, and players are sporting unique spikes, batting gloves, wristbands, compression sleeves, catcher's masks and bats, plus caps from New Era and socks from Stance.

Players Weekend: Nicknames of the game

During pregame workouts and postgame interviews, they will wear T-shirts highlighting a charity or cause of their choice.

Also, each player is wearing a special patch on his sleeve showing the progression of a child evolving into a Major Leaguer. Under that logo is white space, and every player will mark a name of a person who they are grateful to for helping them advance their career, such as family or a coach.

Game-worn Players Weekend jerseys will be auctioned at MLB.com/auctions, with net proceeds donated to the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, a joint effort established in July 2015 by MLB and the MLBPA, with an initial commitment of $30 million focused on improving the caliber, effectiveness and availability of amateur baseball and softball programs across the U.S. and Canada.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

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