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Brewers fan set to extend Opening Day streak

Brewers fan set to extend Opening Day streak

Brewers fan set to extend Opening Day streak
PHOENIX -- Brewers fan Bob Koehler almost missed the team's home opener in 1993, when a cryptosporidium outbreak sickened about a quarter of the residents of greater Milwaukee. For two days, Koehler could not eat or drink, but he managed to make it to his seat at County Stadium for a streak that's still alive today.

When Koehler settles into section 114, row 3, seat 5 at Miller Park on Monday, an island in a sea of seats near the Brewers' dugout held by principal owner Mark Attanasio, he'll be attending his 34th consecutive Brewers home opener. Koehler is continuing an Opening Day streak that began in 1978 with a win over the Orioles in which new manager George Bamberger's Bombers debuted their new "ball and glove" logo.

A bit more than four years later, Koehler began a new streak. He said he's been in attendance for every pitch of every Brewers home game since midway through the 1982 season.

"But Opening Day, for some reason, you remember those," said Koehler, 53. "I guess because it's the start of something."

Koehler's first home opener was back in 1972, a loss to the Tigers played on a Saturday after a Friday night rainout with fewer than 10,000 people in the stands. Koehler was a teenager at the time, and when he opened the newspaper the following day he found a photograph of himself and his buddies sitting alone in an empty section of seats.

It sparked an obsession with baseball.

"I do think that's what started it," he said. "You know, nobody cared about baseball then. They were coming off a strike season and it was miserable weather. But seeing my picture in the paper somehow made me interested."

From 1978-82, he attended Brewers home openers with his boss. In '83, Koehler bought his own set of full-season tickets for $648. In 2011, he said his tickets set him back $5,265.

At least Koehler saves on parking. He lives in Milwaukee's Story Hill neighborhood, a short walk from County Stadium and now Miller Park. He'd use his vacation days one at a time to attend day games, and about 10 years ago he quit his job at a company that supplies replacement parts for air compressors.

"So now, it's no problem getting to the games," he said.

The best home opener? The 1980 season jumps to mind. A crowd of 53,313 packed County Stadium on a 43-degree day to see the Brewers debut their new, state-of-the-art scoreboard against the Red Sox with a video tribute to manager George Bamberger, who had suffered a heart attack two weeks earlier. Sixto Lezcano delivered a game-winning grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and received two curtain calls.

"Back then, you didn't have the term, 'walk-off,'" Koehler said. "That whole game was great."

Opening Day has changed over the years into an event that Koehler says is almost bigger than the game itself. He notices unfamiliar faces in the seats around him, fans who purchased tickets for the home opener from the regular-season seat holders. That's why Koehler has grown to prefer, say, Game 12 over Game 1.

But somehow, Opening Day is the one that sticks in his memory.

"I'm a hunter, and it's the same thing," he said. "You remember the opening day of pheasants, the opening day of deer. It's the anticipation of the thing."

He's certainly anticipating 2011.

"This is probably the most excited I've been," Koehler said. "Even more than '83, when I was younger and you knew they were coming off a great season. It's too bad [Zack] Greinke got hurt, but I still like our team."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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