Counsell’s return to Milwaukee includes a message of thanks and a chorus of boos

“Listen, clap, boo, whatever, man,” Counsell said before the game when asked what kind of reception he expected. “Just have a good time during the game. That’s what fans can do. Just have a good time. It’s Memorial Day. You don’t have to work today. Let’s all have a good time.

Counsell received some applause from a significant portion of the Cubs fans in attendance — Cubs-Brewers games in Milwaukee usually have a fairly even split of both teams’ fans — but the cheers were drowned out by boos.

“I think the fans are here to enjoy a day and a game of baseball,” Counsell said after the game. ” They do what they want. I hope they had a good time.

Counsell led the Brewers to five playoff appearances over the past six seasons and set franchise records for wins and home games before the Cubs lured him to a five-year contract worth of more than 40 million dollars.

It wasn’t the first time Counsell had success against his former team — the Cubs won two of three against the Brewers at Wrigley Field from May 3-5 — but it was his first time in Milwaukee.

Ryan Hoffman, a Brewers fan from Burlington, Wis., said he planned to “boo a little” and made sure to get tickets for that game because it marked Counsell’s return.

“We wanted to be here for this, make sure we let our opinion be heard a little bit,” Hoffman said.

Counsell had managed the Brewers since May 2015, leading the franchise on its greatest streak of sustained success while posting a 707-625 record. Pat Murphy, who managed Counsell during his college career at Notre Dame and later served as his longtime coach in Milwaukee, replaced him as manager of the Brewers.

“Twenty years from now, we’ll all look back on this and Craig will be recognized as an important part of the Brewers,” Murphy said before the game. “What he’s feeling today, he’s going to go through a lot of emotions, but he’s getting his ball club ready to compete.”

Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich downplayed the hype surrounding the manager’s return to Milwaukee. This four-game series also pits the best teams in the NL Central against each other; the Brewers lead the Cubs by 4½ games.

“Obviously, we have a lot of good memories here with Couns,” said the 2018 National League MVP. “In our mind, it’s no different than a player leaving in free agency. He earned the right to do what he wanted, to go to the highest bidder. I’m happy for him. I still have a great relationship with him.

Many Brewers fans were not so forgiving.

“People feel betrayed,” said Jake Starck, of East Troy, Wis., while wearing a Jackson Chourio Brewers jersey. “I get it. Go get your money. Go do what you want to do. But there’s quite a rivalry. He grew up here. I just feel like it’s going to be like this for a while.

Counsell’s ties to Milwaukee predated his managerial tenure.

He grew up in the Milwaukee suburb of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, as the son of former Brewers director of community affairs John Counsell. The former second baseman played for the Brewers in 2004 and again from 2007-2011.

Counsell was asked Monday if he had ever considered making such a move before leaving the Brewers for Chicago.

“Life takes different turns, man,” Counsell said. “I don’t want to plan my life forever. I want to do things that challenge me, that excite me. I don’t do projects like that. You gotta look around life, man, and see what happens. It’s not something I necessarily expected, but you have to embrace the adventure and go.

Counsell’s background made it especially painful for Brewers fans when he left for a division rival just 90 miles away. Counsell said he understands why some fans might have been angry.

“It’s not my job to tell people what they think about something,” he said. “Understand it, let people feel what they want to feel, and I’m okay with that.” I don’t think everything has to be positive.

“We’re in a public job. We’re in a job with the fans. The fans are allowed to feel whatever they want to feel. … It bothers you at first, of course. Some things that happen bother you, that’s sure. But as it goes, you’re a fan and you feel what you want to feel. You’re entitled to that as a fan, I’m fine with that, I think that’s part of it. which makes the sport fun.