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Stearns, Counsell preaching connectedness

Brewers attend Monday Night Raw; Crew to unveil Maryvale renderings
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell and general manager David Stearns each stressed the concept of connectedness during the Brewers' first full team meeting on Tuesday, albeit with different meanings.

Counsell was talking about connectedness in the clubhouse. Stearns spoke of connectedness in the organization.

PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell and general manager David Stearns each stressed the concept of connectedness during the Brewers' first full team meeting on Tuesday, albeit with different meanings.

Counsell was talking about connectedness in the clubhouse. Stearns spoke of connectedness in the organization.

"The main theme I shared was we're going to need contributions from everyone in that room," Stearns said, "and over the course of a Major League season, a number of different players, many of whom don't start the year on the Major League club, have to contribute for us to have a successful season. Over the past two years, we've seen that."

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The math backs him up. In each of the past two seasons, 50 different players appeared in a game for the Brewers.

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At the moment, they have 56 players in big league camp.

"The idea is that their preparation needs to continue, even if they are not one of the 25 who break camp," Stearns said.

Counsell's message was a familiar one. He also spoke last spring and throughout the 2017 season about the need to stay connected.

"The core of the message never changes for me," Counsell said. "You say it in a different way. Look, the most important word for me has been 'connection.' It accomplishes a lot for us. The players have taken ownership of it and it's become important to them."

Tweet from @Brewers: Ryan Braun is getting his 1st reps of the spring today. #CactusCrew pic.twitter.com/GdxhbBioHU

That message worked last year. The Brewers exceeded even their own internal expectations by winning 86 games and finishing one game shy of the Rockies for the second National League Wild Card spot.

Besides players and coaches, the group included owner Mark Attanasio, Stearns' baseball operations team, plus medical personnel and other support staff.

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The Brewers have a heavyweight fan -- literally -- in WWE superstar Braun Strowman, who met with Eric Thames, Brent Suter and Brett Phillips before winning a seven-man gauntlet match during Monday Night Raw in downtown Phoenix. Much of Strowman's immediate family is from Wisconsin, and he's developed a friendship with Brewers media relations director and wrestling fan Mike Vassallo.

Tweet from @Brewers: Some of the #CactusCrew getting ready for @WWE Monday Night Raw in Phoenix! pic.twitter.com/waEOsikUMa

"Super nice guy, and one of the biggest humans I've ever met, for sure," Suter said.

"I love going out with the guys to a wrestling thing like that," Thames said. "It's cool because it's not like a basketball game or a football game, but it's a fun event where you're laughing and having a good time. [The best part was] watching Suter."

Tweet from @Brewers: Last-minute, non-roster invite @BraunStrowman has a message for the rest of @MLB along with @Brett_Phillips8, @EricThames and @bruter24. #CactusCrew #RAW pic.twitter.com/Fy0eKbYPSg

Also in attendance was Brewers catcher Manny Pina, whose son Emmanuel is a diehard John Cena fan. Pina couldn't help but smile when Emmanuel pulled his shirt up over his head to hide his devastation after Cena was pinned.

"Before, he wanted to try to get a picture," Pina said. "So when he started crying I said, 'It's OK, let's go try to take a picture.' But he said, 'No, I don't want it anymore.'"

Tough crowd.

Last call

• Attanasio said the Brewers are days away from releasing renderings of the upcoming reconstruction of Maryvale Baseball Park, a project set to begin at the end of March. He called it a "major transformation," and said, "my excitement is only tempered by the fact that I don't know how they're going to get all this done in the next year."

• Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker was inducted Tuesday into the Cactus League Hall of Fame. Among the other honorees was Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Gaylord Perry, the latter of whom is among the 13 pitchers who surrendered a Uecker home run.

"Every time I see Gaylord, he says, 'Here comes the worst day of my life,'" Uecker said while accepting the Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award in 2003.

Tweet from @Brewers: Congratulations to Mr. Baseball on his induction into the Cactus League Hall of Fame this afternoon! pic.twitter.com/8uwrapbLeB

• The only player missing from Tuesday's full-squad workout was non-roster first baseman Ji-Man Choi, who had a wisdom tooth extracted. He is not expected to miss more than a day or two. Stearns said he was unaware of any other unexpected issues from player physicals.

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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