Brewers All-Star Hart puts aside hurt feelings

Check that All-Star fan ballot again. No sign of Corey Hart.

That’s the clearest indication of where the career of the lanky

right fielder was headed as he left spring training. After a sour

year and a half – and a miserable spring – Hart was a long, long

way from All-Star caliber. He had lost his confidence and his

starting role, and the Brewers’ brass was in a bind.

Hart decided to make changes that have turned around his


He’s among the National League home run leaders, despite saying

he’s not a home run hitter, and he’s the biggest reason the Brewers

have stayed afloat in the first half of the season. Hart was

hitting .288 with 19 homers and 61 RBIs through Monday and he was

also riding a 20-game hitting streak. Hart has made next week’s

All-Star team as part of the players’ vote.

Hart has come a long way from spring training, when he wasn’t

even sure he was going to make the Brewers after winning a $4.8

million arbitration case.

“I got out of a meeting late in the spring with the front

office and those guys and they were panicking because I had a bad

spring,” Hart said. “But I wasn’t really thinking about it, I

assumed I would be the right fielder and then I realized, ‘These

guys don’t like me right now.”’

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said he could see how Hart

would believe that, but said they kept emphasizing that Hart was

better than he’d shown in the spring and second half of the

previous season. Melvin also said that there were no hard feelings

after arbitration.

“Last year, we saw his skills decline,” said Melvin, who

believed the organization made its point with the meeting. “We

thought he could be a better player than what he showed last


Hart reached the 2008 All-Star game in the final vote, then

spent the second half of that year and all of 2009 in a steady

decline. He hit just .252 with 17 homers and 81 RBIs in the second

half of 2008 through last season.

Hart, an 11th round draft pick by Milwaukee in 2001, left the

meeting and got ready for opening day, only to see the team give

the start to veteran Jim Edmonds. Hart spent the first few weeks of

the season checking to see if his name was even on the lineup


“I feel like I still should’ve started opening day because I

had earned it in the past,” he said. “I took that as that I

needed to do something to show them I should be out there every


Hitting coach Dale Sveum thought the same thing and told Hart

that he shouldn’t settle for being a platoon player. When Hart

split at-bats with center fielder Carlos Gomez, and Edmonds got

playing time, Sveum knew Hart’s confidence was low.

“I tried to make him understand how good he was and to remember

those times,” said Sveum, who helped Hart get more comfortable at

the plate through hours of early batting practice and cage work.

“Corey’s always been fun to coach because he plays by the seat of

his pants. He doesn’t always look pretty, but he’s been a very

productive major league player.”

Hart has a refreshing take on his struggles and says he deserved

to be booed.

“A lot of guys would be like, ‘I don’t want to be there

anymore.’ Same thing with the fans, you get booed, you don’t want

to be around it. But, I’ve always liked it here,” he said. “Now,

you get upset and frustrated with how you’re treated sometimes, but

at the same time, a lot of times the way you get treated is your

fault. So, you’ve got to figure out things to change people’s

minds. I’m trying to change the Brewers’ minds, the fans’


The team decided against putting Hart on the All-Star fan

ballot, thinking Edmonds might get hot and make a run at the

midseason exhibition.

“Corey went out and proved us wrong,” Melvin said. “He’s had

a fantastic year and it’s through hard work and dedication and

commitment to making changes.”

Hart insists he wants to stay in Milwaukee even if there’s still

twinges of hurt feelings and his name comes up in trade


“You never want to be traded away because you’re not playing

well and they want somebody else,” Hart said. “Hopefully, they

continue wanting me and realize they don’t want to get rid of