Each new Brewers season, a few players become my favorites. I pay attention to their batting averages and check their other stats. Even after they are traded away from the Brewers, like Scott Podsednik or Lyle Overbay, for examples, I continue to follow their careers.
Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, and Prince Fielder continue to top my list, but this year I've added another.
My criteria varies. I like a player who comes through with a hit when the team is struggling, who makes an amazing play that drives his teammates to victory (the way Rickie Weeks did in the opening game against the Rockies). I like a player who steals a base and fires up the next batter. Of course I always pick the guy who blasts the baseball so hard out of the park, my eyes can't follow it. By the way, good looks don't hurt, either.
If I reach back a few years, Charlie Moore's name pops up, followed by BJ Surhoff. Both had a lot of talent and, I must add, eye appeal, too. Damien Miller not only stole runs from potential base-stealers, but he also stole my admiration. I loved how tough he was. On the internet I found a quote where he says his best playing years were his last three, which he spent as a Brewer.
I have a vivid memory of one of Damien's at-bats that last summer. My husband and I were on vacation and had just arrived at the grocery store. I couldn't leave the car. I had to sit right there so I could hear the last inning of a home Brewers' game. We were behind by three runs. It was the bottom of the ninth, the Crew had loaded the bases, and there were two outs.
Damien was at the plate, fouling off pitches. One. Two. Then another. And another. And then... He hit a grand slam home run. It was thrilling! DAMIEN HIT A WALK-OFF GRAND SLAM HOME RUN!
I bounced and cheered so much the car shook. If there were any witnesses in that parking lot, I'm sure they thought I was having a nervous breakdown.
Then there was the guy I really hoped would finish his career with my team: Mike Matheny.
I spotted Mike when he was up and down from the minors as the Crew's third- or fourth-string catcher. I liked what I saw. He was big. That got my attention. And he was one of the first guys to use the hockey-style facemask.
And when he took off the mask, he still looked good. Throughout his career, Matheny earned his reputation for playing nearly errorless baseball.
And tough? The guy defined tough.
One night in 1998 at County Stadium, my husband and I watched him get hit in the cheek by a ninety-five-mile-an-hour fastball. We heard the sound of the smack all the way out in our seats above third base. A hush fell on the crowd. Matheny didn't even hit the ground. If he hadn't been a bloody mess, he would have taken his base.
On his way to get x-rays and stitches, he assured the coach, Phil Garner, he'd be able to play the next day.
All this is a lead-in to my new hero, another catcher, Jonathan Lucroy. Last year we watched him improve behind the plate. So far, this year looks like it could be his gravy year holding a bat, as well. At almost twenty-five, he plays like a veteran. Can a fan tell how well a pitcher and a catcher play together? All I know is Lucroy looks confident and comfortable with each pitcher, in every kind of situation. That has to be a plus for the team.
And then there's his batting average, .320 last time I checked. The Brewers have a catcher who can hit!
Anne Stratton is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.