MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WFRV) – After two long seasons of wait-and-see, Opening Day will finally feel “open” once again.
Thursday afternoon at 1:20, the Milwaukee Brewers will take on their division rival Chicago Cubs inside the friendly confines of Wrigley Field – with a full house of fans surrounding the ivy walls for the first time on Opening Day since 2015.
The Major Leagues played the 2020 season without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic, and in 2021, only the Texas Rangers had a full house on Opening Day.
Last year, both the Brewers and Cubs restricted attendance numbers until June.
But now, after two long, uncertain seasons and an even more turbulent lockout, the boys of summer are ready to lace up the cleats and get on the diamond.
The Crew held its final preseason practice Wednesday at American Family Field in Milwaukee, putting together a short workout and addressing the media before heading down I-94 to Wrigleyville.
Thursday afternoon, reigning NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes will become the 33rd Opening Day starter in Brewers history. He’ll square off against the Cubs lineup and right-handed starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks.
“You know there’s going to be a little bit more adrenaline just because it is Opening Day,” Burnes said. “Personally, I try not to make any game bigger than the last.
“When you start making games bigger than they actually are… you know it’s still a baseball game, so if you go out there and you try to put added pressure and added adrenaline, you’re going to go out there and try to do things you haven’t done in the past.”
The Brewers are coming off their fourth straight postseason appearance, bowing out of the playoffs in the National League Division Series against eventual World Series champion Atlanta.
This year, with the same formidable pitching staff back together again and some new reinforcements in the batting lineup, Milwaukee will look to contend for the ultimate crown and get back to the Fall Classic for the first time since 1982.
High expectations are nothing new in the Cream City, especially with the way David Stearns and the Brewers front office have built the team as a contender.
But even with the most experience in the National League at skipper and a seasoned team in the dugout, those Opening Day jitters still arrive right on schedule.
“Opening Day is always something to look forward to,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “No matter how many times you’ve done it, no matter where you’re doing it, Opening Day is a fun day.
“You’re getting on a ride. The baseball season is a long roller coaster ride.”