Mutual respect adds to Brewers-Cubs rivalry

Published Apr. 9, 2012 9:05 p.m. EDT


Back in September 2008, a crazy series of events led to Dale Sveum entering the visitor's dugout at Wrigley Field as the interim manager of the Milwaukee Brewers.

A team doesn't often change managers with 12 games left in its season, let alone when it's in the middle of a pennant race, but that was exactly the scenario that landed Sveum in a high-pressure situation.

What Sveum didn't know at that time was that his next crack at leading a team would come in the very dugout he was staring across the diamond at that September day in 2008.

When he wasn't chosen as the Brewers' full-time manager after getting them to the playoffs -- Milwaukee went with Ken Macha for two years and then hired Ron Roenicke before last season -- Sveum stayed on as the team's hitting coach for three more seasons before the Chicago Cubs hired him as their new manager this past offseason.

"It's kind of ironic that both times my first time managing was in this stadium," Sveum said. "It is weird to be in this dugout."

One important thing Sveum took from the circus that surrounded his hiring and first series at Wrigley Field in 2008 was how to deal with controlling his emotions.

"Leading up to it you get a lot of anxiety, but once the game starts you know that this is where you're supposed to be and where I am most comfortable," Sveum said.

Though he spent just one season coaching under Roenicke, Sveum says he learned a lot from the Brewers' manager and has taken many of Roenicke's techniques with him to Chicago.

"He is my kind of manager," said Sveum, who will face off with Roenicke frequently as NL Central opponents. "The biggest thing you take from Ron is his positive attitude. He's the same guy every day in the clubhouse, and he doesn't change during the stressful times. You learn a lot from a guy like that."

While Sveum learned a lot from Roenicke, the Brewers' players learned a lot from Sveum and respect him a great deal. He is considered a mentor to many of them, and because of that the Brewers want to beat him even more.

"We always got along with (the Cubs), but with Dale there it might be a little more intense," Brewers right fielder Corey Hart said of the rivalry. "You always want to beat your old coach."

Hart's stance is not unique.

"He is the enemy now, and we are going to do everything we can to try and beat him, but he is a great guy and I love him and wish him well," Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks said.

Starting pitcher Randy Wolf jokingly added an exception to that statement.

"I wish him a lot of luck, but not in the win category and not against the Brewers," Wolf said.

The feelings work both ways.

"I'm going to be on the other side of the fence rooting against them when for years I've been rooting for them," Sveum said. "Now I have to figure out how to try and get them out."

Some may think the new Cubs skipper has an advantage over his new rivals. Serving as the hitting coach for the majority of his new opponents, Sveum knows the strengths and weaknesses of the Brewers' swings better than most managers.

"I think it is an advantage," Sveum said. "(But) we all know how to pitch to guys and get guys out. Pitchers still need to make pitches and not make mistakes. Everyone knows people's weaknesses now with video, but you still have to execute."