'No butterflies': Wiemer proves he belongs in Crew debut

April 1st, 2023

CHICAGO -- The day began with a Wrigley Field tradition. Brewers rookies, clad in full uniform, crossed the street for a coffee run and returned with enough caffeine to kill a billy goat.

One rookie was exempt. While Brice Turang and Gus Varland were trying to keep the Frappuccinos separate from the flat whites, was pacing the center field warning track. Not only was Wiemer preparing for his Major League debut on a day he expected to play a doubleheader with Triple-A Nashville, he was doing it while a brisk wind whipped the flags overhead.

“He’s lived for this moment ever since he was little. Since he could pick up a bat,” said Nicole Wiemer, Joey’s mom, who braved the cold and pregame rain so she could witness her son bloop the first pitch he saw in the big leagues for a double in the Brewers’ 3-1 win over the Cubs.

“For him,” said Joe Wiemer Sr., “there’s definitely no butterflies. That kid is ready for this.” 

Truth be told, the Brewers were not so sure when Spring Training began whether Wiemer was ready for this. The 24-year-old is their No. 3-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, the No. 90 prospect in baseball, but he was not supposed to compete for the Opening Day roster. That changed because of Tyrone Taylor’s elbow injury and fellow prospect Sal Frelick’s participation in the World Baseball Classic, which created a mountain of Cactus League at-bats for Wiemer. He impressed with loud contact, speed on the bases and proficiency at all three outfield positions, and he remained in contention for the big leagues until the day before the Brewers broke camp.

Ultimately, the club assigned him to Triple-A Nashville, but Wiemer never played a game there. Brewers infielder Luis Urías suffered a serious left hamstring strain on Opening Day that was diagnosed on Friday afternoon, about the same time Wiemer was stopped by Sounds manager Rick Sweet on the way to the batting cage in Nashville.

“Where are you going?” Sweet asked.

Wiemer responded that he was going to hit.

“Don’t do that,” Sweet said. “You’re headed to Chicago.”

Wiemer immediately phoned his father, who was driving from the family home in Michigan to Nashville. It was a brief conversation.

Joey Wiemer's mother (third from the left) and father (third from the right) take in their son's debut with family and friends. (photo via Adam McCalvy)

“Stop,” Joey told his dad. “I’m going to Chicago.”

And then?

“Click,” Joe Sr. said, smiling. “That was it.”

His son has always been a little unorthodox. Wiemer’s favorite player growing up was also the player he’d be compared to coming out of the University of Cincinnati in 2020: Gangly outfielder Hunter Pence. The Brewers took Wiemer in the fourth round that year and he hit 48 home runs and posted an .872 OPS in his first two professional seasons.

Wiemer’s uniqueness is one of the things Brewers manager Craig Counsell likes most about the kid.

“It’s just different-looking,” Counsell said. “It’s not quiet, clean and smooth -- it’s just the way he does it. But it’s still a hitter, and I think he’s got a good foundation for being a good offensive player. It’s entertaining to watch, really, because it just looks different. And you celebrate that.”

Wiemer had little to say on Saturday morning as he found his way around the clubhouse. Asked how he dealt with the temporary disappointment of not making the Major League team out of Spring Training, he said, “Just be where my feet are. I thought there was a chance, didn’t end up happening, life goes on. It happened pretty quick.”

And asked what was going through his mind now that he made it, he said, “A lot. Just excitement. Ready to go.”

Joey Wiemer (center) rejoins his family and friends after a successful rookie debut. (photo via Nicole Wiemer)

To hear his family and friends tell it, Wiemer’s rise is no surprise. Joe Sr. has been expecting his son to make it to the Majors since he was five years old, playing with kids twice his age on a 10U team that won a city championship.

“To give you an idea of Joey’s mindset,” said Nicole, “when he went to the Cape [Cod League] in college, he went as an alternate. When I found out, I was like, ‘Well, what happens if you don’t make the team and you have to come back home?’ He was like, ‘Mom, I’ll be fine.’ And he made the all-star team.”

“He doesn’t lack confidence,” Joe Sr. said.

The younger Wiemer says he picked up his work ethic from his dad, an electrician, and his mom, a respiratory technician. That followed him to college, where he played alongside Dondrae Bremner, Paul Komistek, Beau Keathley and Sean McLaughlin, all of whom were in the stands Saturday.

Joey Wiemer's college teammates make the trip to Wrigley Field to see his MLB debut. (photo via Adam McCalvy)

“We knew it was going to happen sooner or later,” said Komistek, Wiemer’s college roommate and a fellow outfielder.

“It’s something we’ve been talking about for the last two years,” Bremner said. “For the day to finally be here, it’s amazing. … We’re more so surprised at the time it happened, with two days ago it being Opening Day and him saying he was going to start in Nashville. Now we’re here in Chicago. It’s unreal.”