MILWAUKEE -- John Axford said his first days of fatherhood have included ups and downs. The Brewers' closer was speaking as the proud dad of a newborn who has not been sleeping through the night. But it's worth it. "It's instant love, and you can't get anything greater than that," Axford said. "I guess you kind of expect it, but it's never what you anticipate. That's what I'm feeling. It's definitely a lot stronger emotional bond than I thought it would be."
Axford was with the Brewers in Florida on June 6 when his wife, Nicole, phoned and said he would be wise to return home to Milwaukee. So he jumped a flight to Chicago's O'Hare Airport, drove the final 90 miles to Milwaukee and arrived just in time for the birth of John Brian Axford on June 7. Dad spent the first day -- a Tuesday -- at the hospital with mom and the baby, then returned to Miller Park on Wednesday and logged a win against the Mets. On Thursday, Nicole and baby John checked out of the hospital. "Things are going well right now," dad said. "Obviously, we're still trying to learn him, and he's probably trying to learn us." The couple has help. Both of John's parents are down from Ontario, and Nicole's mother is on hand, too. The baby is named after his grandparents -- Nicole's father is John, and John's father is Brian. Some teammates have been helping out, too. When Axford returned to work after the birth, he found his locker stocked with everything from diapers, formula and toys for the baby, and a nice bottle of scotch for dad. Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy offered some verbal encouragement; he went through the same thing last August when his first child, a daughter named Ellia, was born during the season. "I gave him some advice about what to expect," Lucroy said. "I heard his kid isn't sleeping good so I was like, 'Welcome to fatherhood.' " Ellia is 10 months old now, so this is Lucroy's first Father's Day, too. The baseball season "can be tough, because you get to see him three hours in the morning and then you're off to the field," Lucroy said. "But that's the way it is, you know? It will be worth it in the end, because if you can make a good career out of baseball, you probably don't have to work when it's done. You can make up for lost time then." Axford is enjoying his new role as dad. "It's a little different, because you're not getting as much sleep as you're used to, and there's baby stuff everywhere, but it's never felt weird," he said. "It's so natural feeling. I've always been a little timid holding other people's children, but I've never felt more comfortable than picking up this little baby. It just felt perfect."