Craig Counsell stood in front of a Milwaukee Brewers branded backdrop in a hallway at The Wisconsin Center during the team’s annual “On-Deck” event.
Reporters circled him. Counsell answered questions left and right about the off-season, injuries, spring training and more. Veteran left-fielder Ryan Braun meandered around the hallway as well. Well within earshot of Counsell’s responses.
“Ryan has a really fun year ahead of him is what I think,” he said when asked about the possibility of this season being Braun’s last.
“I think it’s a motivating year. He’s already promising me things privately that I am going to hold him to, I’ll tell you that. So I’m interested to see what happens there.”
Braun smiled and continued on his way.
Earlier in the day, Braun was asked about the retirement word when discussing his contract, championship aspirations and future with the organization.
“I don’t take for granted that this could be my last year playing baseball,” he said. “Obviously there is a sense of urgency every year. But for me, knowing that this could be my last chance ever, it’s something that certainly adds to that sense of urgency.
“I feel good about the fact that they put a team together that should be competitive again. We went to the post-season the last two years and the team that we lost to last year ended up winning the whole thing.”
Drafted fifth overall by Milwaukee in 2005, Braun has spent his entire career within the Brewers system. He made his big-league debut in 2007, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
A year before drafting Braun, the franchise was sold by Bud Selig to current owner Mark Attanasio. He was also asked about the possibility of Braun hanging it up after the 2020 season.
Initially, Attanasio joked that the team has a club option on Braun for the 2021 season.
“We’ll try to convince him to play another year but he does have a third child coming,” he said. “He’s one of those exceptional athletes who wants to go out on top so this could be his last season.
“It’s been rare for someone to spend their whole career with one organization. Especially when they perform at the absolute highest level, as he has.”
Braun is in the final year of his five-year, $105 million contract extension.
“It’s definitely a possibility,” Braun added. “We’ll see how the year goes, see where I am at physically and obviously my family is always my top priority, so we’ll see how everything is going.
“I don’t anticipate being able to make a decision until I get through the season, seeing how it goes. Seeing where I am at physically, see how this team looks for next year and see how the family dynamic changes with the third kid.”
The 2011 NL MVP also said that he expects to see a similar number of plate appearances this season as he did last year. Admitting that a good number of those could be while playing first base.
Milwaukee cut ties with first baseman Eric Thames this off-season, but did sign Justin Smoak as a free agent. Braun took reps at first base during the beginning of the 2018 season.
“I think you definitely get a little bit nostalgic and think back on the years and how quickly it goes by. I think there is a little bit more reflection and nostalgia knowing that there is a possibility of (retirement).”