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Brewers arrive with little time to spare

Brewers arrive with little time to spare

MILWAUKEE -- A number of Brewers learned first-hand Friday what the fans already knew: Opening Day traffic can be a bear.

Players were granted a much later than usual report time because they didn't arrive from San Francisco until 3 a.m. CT, about 12 hours before Braden Looper was to throw the first pitch in Milwaukee's home opener against the rival Cubs. Players typically arrive five or six hours before a game; on Friday, Prince Fielder arrived after noon to a nearly empty clubhouse.

The Brewers announced at 12:30 p.m. that all of Miller Park's lots were full, more than 2 1/2 hours before game time. Corey Hart was rushing around the clubhouse at 2 p.m. and said he had just arrived.

"There's just a lot going on right now," Hart said.

At least the rush job might help players wake up.

"I think everybody will be awake," manager Ken Macha said. "Opening Day, at home ... it seems like we've been on a two-month road trip, from Arizona to L.A. and then San Francisco, and I think everybody is eager to get back.

"One of the nice things about your home opener, particularly this year for the Brewers, these fans are going to let them know how much they appreciated last year and they're going to let them know how much they're looking forward to this season. So fatigue, I don't think that's going to be a factor."

A sellout crowd was mostly in place by the time public address announcer Robb Edwards introduced the Cubs and Brewers along the foul lines. Joseph Attanasio, the father of the Brewers' principal owner, sang the national anthem (the Brewers entered the day 4-0 in home openers when he sings) after a moment of silence was observed for fallen Angels pitcher Nick Adenhardt. Jeff Skiles, a Wisconsin native and the first officer of the US Airways flight that successfully landed in New York's Hudson River in January, threw the ceremonial first pitch.

Macha was set to manage his first Brewers home game, but he'd experienced one before. Macha was an Angels coach in 1993, when the Brewers and Angels squared off in two Opening Days, first in Anaheim and then in Milwaukee. The Brewers lost both games.

"This is a baseball town," Macha said of Milwaukee. "People love their baseball here and they're real loyal to their team. I've experienced that, and it's something special, so I'm very much looking forward to that."

The home opener gave players their first chance to step onto Miller Park's new playing surface, which was replaced early in the offseason. In right field, the wall was painted a bright shade of blue for the new AirTran Landing Zone. In center field, Harley-Davidson motorcycles were on display as part of a new party area.

And in left field, there were a trio of new banners hanging above the wall, one recognizing the 1981 American League Division Series between the Brewers and Yankees, one for the 1982 AL champion Brewers and another for the 2008 National League Wild Card winners.

"I'm one of those guys who's a sucker for the hardware," principal owner Mark Attanasio said. "So I love it."

Attanasio is hoping to bring home some more hardware this season, even if the majority of observers don't expect him to get it. The Cubs are almost universally expected to repeat as NL Central champs, and many preseason prognosticators picked the Reds and Cardinals to finish ahead of the Brewers, as well.

"It surprised me a little bit, given the fact that we've got eight returning position players," Attanasio said. "In terms of bothering me, though, I'd rather fly under the radar screen. In 2007, there was a lot of hype about our team, especially when we jumped out to a big lead, and it put pressure on it. I think it creates less pressure [now], and it's good that people don't think we're very good.

"We know we're good. Maybe it's good if others don't think so."

Attanasio, incidentally, found a silver lining in the Brewers' quick turnaround from Thursday to Friday. It was mostly caused by the Giants who scheduled a 5 p.m. CT (3 p.m. local time) "getaway day" game, then exacerbated by the new MLB Network, which pushed the start time back another hour to accommodate a national broadcast.

"We're now a national attraction," Attanasio said. "We were the national game last night on MLB Network, and Sunday night we have an ESPN game here. We love that for a lot of reasons, including that it helps us recruit players.

"But it creates some scheduling challenges for us because we're playing night games and we're flying at times you would normally be home resting. It's all part of the evolution of what we're doing here. On balance, I enjoy having the national attention."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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