MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has said it. Right fielder Corey Hart and other Brewers players have, too. With the turnover the club had in the offseason, the clubhouse hasn’t quite been the lively, boisterous place it was in 2011.
But on Friday, part of that 2011 equation returned to Miller Park. The problem was it was wearing the other team’s uniform.
Pirates infielder Casey McGehee said it was strange not taking the first right turn into the Brewers home clubhouse when he arrived at Miller Park on Friday. McGehee had spent three of his five major league seasons as a fan favorite and clubhouse staple with the Brewers in Milwaukee before being traded last December for Pirates reliever Jose Veras. Prior to the trade, the third baseman had been replaced in the postseason by then-utility infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. after struggling at the plate with a .223 average, 13 homers, and 67 RBI. This season, those struggles seem to have continued, as McGehee is batting just .190 with no home runs and six RBI.
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Before Friday night’s game, McGehee hadn’t had much time to reflect on his trade from Pittsburgh to Milwaukee. He had kept in touch with a few of his friends from Milwaukee and he had tried to remain focused on the task at hand. But it was clearly weighing on his mind in the visitor’s clubhouse at Miller Park.
There was only one comparison that could accurately describe how McGehee was feeling.
“In a way it’s like seeing a girlfriend you broke up with that you don’t necessarily hate, you know what I mean?” McGehee joked. “You don’t want to spend too much time, but at the same time it’s nice to see them.”
Like the Brewers’ clubhouse this season, McGehee said that the Pirates’ clubhouse is a bit quieter than what he was used to in his last three seasons. But as a team very much in transition, hoping to break out, the Pirates allow McGehee to draw several comparisons between his new club and his old one.
“Even though I got to the team a little bit later in the process when I was with Milwaukee,” McGehee said, “I think there’s a lot of similarities between where we’re at here in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee was a couple years prior to me being there. We’ve got some guys here that are just kind of right at that next step to be the next wave of superstars. . . . There’s starting to be some veteran guys that flow in and fill that role of leader. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the Pirates organization.”
As McGehee entered the game as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning on Friday, many of the fans at Miller Park gave him a standing ovation, thanking him for his three years of service in Milwaukee. He walked up to the familiar plate in a Pirates uniform, but for just a moment, McGehee seemed as though he’d never left.