It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe asleep. But there’s a phone ringing in the Brewers Clubhouse: something’s happening on the field. Who answers that call? Is it someone who already knows the leaders, knows the post season, someone tested and ready to lead in a heated pennant race? It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?
He’s Craig Counsell. And he approved this message. And you will fall in the love with this guy.
That’s right, Craig Counsell, Wisconsin’s prodigal baseball son. Growing up in Whitefish Whitefolks Bay and attending high school there placed Counsell perfectly at the age of a starry-eyed little league and high school baseball player during the heydays of Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount, and the rest of Harvey’s Wallbangers. What an influence.
Think of what an asset this guy is: He can play defense at 3rd, 2nd, and Short. He can hit in the leadoff spot, he can pinch-hit, wherever. He is clutch (can you think of a time when you have ever thought, “Oh shit, Craig Counsell’s up, game over”). He is a veteran’s veteran — two rings, never lost a series in the post season, 2001 NLCS MVP. And most important to the clubhouse and the fans, he’s a character.
I mean just look at him before he even steps in the batter’s box. That nose, the skinny frame, and the receding hairline makes you think he’s a member of the Buchel family. His baby face makes you wonder if he’s really turning 38 this year. And then he steps into the box — and to Jimi’s “Watchtower,” the acrobatic body contortion begins.
Last year’s batting stance was pretty comical with his back facing the pitcher, his bat way high in the air, and twisting almost 180 degrees to hit the ball. This year his stance is still somewhat unusual but it’s not as strange as last year’s stance, perhaps he learned his lesson after cracking a rib while taking a swing. Still no batting gloves, just like Jason Kendall, Counsell is so tough.
Counsell’s nickname is “The Rooster,” according to Geoff Jenkins from last year. Perhaps there’s a reason why he got that nickname, maybe it’s as sexplicit as Randy Johnson’s “Big Unit.” But the PG version would indicate Counsell’s resemblance to a rooster.
You can’t talk about “The Rooster” without mentioning his exciting playoff experiences. Counsell’s crowning playoff performance resulted in him winning the 2001 NLCS MVP award as a D-back.
(Hopefully his experience could benefit the Crew as the Brewers are the only NL team never to play in an NLCS game.) Counsell was also a pivotal part in two, walk-off World Series Game 7’s.
In 1997, Counsell scored the winning run in the bottom of the 11th on an RBI single. The reason the battle went to extras was because of Craig’s bottom of the 9th sac fly that tied the game. The spikes he wore when he scored the winning run are on display at Cooperstown.
Then in 2001, when the newest expansion team was in the WS against the Evil Empire (and hey, if a new guy taking on an empire isn’t American, I don’t know what is), the D-backs took the Yanks to Game 7. Counsell was hit by a Mariano Rivera pitch in the bottom of the 9th that loaded the bases for the famous Luis Gonzalez walk-off, bloop single into shallow center. I remember watching that historical moment and thanking the baseball gods for not allowing New York to tie 9/11 and a Yankees World Series win together in some act of divine reparation. Thank you, baseball gods, for stopping Steinbrenner and his terrorists (that’s right, I said it). And thank you Craig Counsell.
In the last 9 days, Counsell has been a starter to fill in for the injured Hardy and Weeks. In that time he’s batted .297, scored 7 runs with 11 hits and 4 walks. Great, experienced batting. And most importantly, he hit his first home run of the season against the Jays.
It’s 3 am. Do you know who’s keeping your infield safe?