There?s been a good rivalry between the Cubs and the Brewers ever since our club moved from the AL to the NL in 1998 — my rookie year — because of the proximity of our cities. Over the years, fans have seen everything from slugfests to pitching duels to walk-off homers to win games. But this past weekend was different because we?re in first place and they?re in second place. There was more on the line.
The atmosphere was great but as it turned out we only won one of the three games at Wrigley. Now we?d like to finish the next week strong as we head into the All-Star break. Then we can get a few days? rest and try to come back and pick up where we left off.
Somebody mentioned to me this morning that we have the best record in the NL at the halfway mark and wondered if back in Spring Training I could have envisioned such a strong first half for our club. Well, everyone wants to have the best record, but you never really know.
I felt coming out of Spring Training that we were going to be a good offensive club and our bullpen was set up kind of nice. So I thought we had the right formula for winning but until you actually get on the field and do the work, you don?t really know. I did think we had a chance to win a lot of games, though.
I?ve said in the past that we have a good mix of talented young players and veterans but I?m not sure anyone understood just how talented some of these young players are. Ryan Braun came up and immediately gave us a jolt with his offense. Corey Hart has come on strong since going into the leadoff spot. He?s doing a tremendous job.
J.J. and Prince are obviously having great seasons -? they?re All-Stars. I think we have a situation in which everyone is doing their part and contributing to the success. Craig Counsell and Tony Graff are having great at-bats and Damian Miller had that walk-off homer for us at home the other day. It seems like we have a different hero each day.
I was lucky enough to play in an All-Star Game once in 2003, but usually I?m one of the many players getting a few days off and watching from home. I?ll typically just watch the pregame ceremonies and the intros then watch a few innings to see my teammates bat or pitch. I rarely watch the entire game because All-Star Games go on for a long time with all of the substitutions and other distractions.
But this year I might have to stay tuned a bit longer considering four of my teammates are in the game. I?ve got to watch Prince and J.J. hit. I?ve got to watch Sheets pitch and I imagine Francisco Cordero might get his turn to pitch pretty late in the game, maybe even the last inning.
J.J. faced some tough competition at shortstop in our league with guys like Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins and Hanley Ramirez. He really earned his place on the team with that kind of competition at his position.
Prince definitely deserved to get the chance to start the All-Star Game, but considering the size of our market, I was absolutely amazed he got the popular fan vote. It shows you how fast he?s making a name for himself around the league.
Foremost, he?s such a great, fun-loving guy to have around the clubhouse on a daily basis. He?s turning into a superstar and the Brewers are lucky to have him.
Maybe I?m biased, but I really don?t think it?s a stretch to say he?s been the first-half MVP in the National League. So I?m really happy for Prince. He?s going to be in the Home Run Derby, too, and I hope he really gets to enjoy the total experience out in San Francisco.
There are always going to be people worried that he?ll mess up his swing trying for home runs, but you know what? There are no guarantees. He should just go have fun and enjoy himself. I was fortunate to get on the team in ?03 and you can?t really explain the feeling. Just being around all of the other great players for a couple of days is an unforgettable experience.
The rest of us on the Brewers will be anxious to get back to the regular season. Winning has made this season a lot of fun so far and I think it?s going to get better. Our club is energized and our fans are energized. It feels great to play home games with the kind of big crowds we?ve been getting in Milwaukee in recent weeks. Good things happen when you?re winning.
Posted by MLB.com on Jenkins’ behalf.