Thanks for a magical season

Dear Brewers Fans,

For the first time in my seven seasons as owner, this letter begins with a November date. We played deep into October, and then we all learned firsthand what former Major League Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti meant when he wrote about baseball: "It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart."

Until October 16, through 203 games in 230 days (including Spring Training), the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers surmounted every challenge put in front of them. After winning 91 out of the first 156 games, we needed to beat the Marlins on a Friday night in Milwaukee to clinch the team’s first NL Central Division title. We did. After winning 95 out of the first 161 games, we still needed to beat the Pirates in Milwaukee in game 162 to clinch home-field advantage in the NL Division Series. We did–for win 96, a franchise record in Manager Ron Roenicke’s first season. After winning the first two home games versus the Diamondbacks in the NLDS, we had to return home and win Game 5 in order to advance to the NL Championship Series. We did–Nyjer Morgan’s walk-off tenth-inning single gave us our first playoff series win in 29 years. Then, after winning two of the first five games versus St. Louis in the NLCS, we had to return home and win two games in order to advance to the World Series. We did not–and our collective hearts were broken.

For solace, I turned not to former Yale professor Giamatti but to Texas Rangers Manager Ron Washington, who has tried to explain the inexplicable in our sport by saying, "That’s the way baseball go." I have to say, I agree.

The 2011 season was magical, not only for the Brewers, but for all of Major League Baseball. On the final day of the regular season, eight of the 15 games directly affected either the Wild Card races or home-field advantage for the playoffs–with several coming down to the last inning. Thirty-eight out of a possible 41 postseason games were played, tying the record for the most in the 17 years of the current playoff format. Game 6, among the most exciting games in World Series history, extended the Series to Game 7 for the first time since 2002. I take great pride that our team was an integral part of the most memorable season in recent baseball history. The Brewers were not only a great local story, but also a great national story, landing us on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the first time since 1987.

Our partnership with you, the fans, made all of this possible. With all the records we set this year, perhaps the most meaningful was the attendance record–3,071,373–which ranked us seventh-best among all Major League teams. This marked the third season in the past four that we drew more than three million fans. The Brewers were one of only eight teams to accomplish this. Your support continues to provide a significant home-field advantage for us: We established a franchise record with 57 home wins this season, and our .704 home winning percentage was the best in MLB. The growth of Brewers Community Foundation (BCF) in its second year also demonstrates how broadly our community supports the team and ultimately one another. In addition to all the roster players contributing to BCF, the 50/50 Raffle raised $1.8 million, which enabled us to support more than 150 not-for-profit organizations that provide basic-needs, educational, recreational and health-related services to the greater Milwaukee area and Wisconsin communities.

This season, 48 players wore a Brewers uniform, and there were many remarkable personal achievements on the field. For the sixth consecutive season, at least three Brewers players were NL All Stars, and for the first time in franchise history, we had three starters: Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks and Ryan Braun. Prince set a franchise record with his fifth consecutive 30+ home run season, and Ryan became only the second 30/30 player in team history–30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke became the first Brewers pitchers to have over 200 strikeouts in the same season, and Yovani had a personal best 17 wins. We also led the NL with 185 home runs.

Our success was truly a team effort, and not just on the field. The Milwaukee Brewers have 250 fulltime hardworking employees, with baseball operations led by Doug Melvin and business operations led by Rick Schlesinger and Bob Quinn. The game we see on the field is the end product of the work of our entire organization. For example, we all know one of the most exciting moments at Miller Park is when John Axford (the Ax Man!) enters the game in the ninth inning; this season he led the NL with a franchise record 46 saves, 43 of them consecutive (another team record). Many people know that Pitching Coach Rick Kranitz and Bullpen Coach Stan Kyles prepare John to face each game’s opponent. However, very few people know that a dedicated Canadian scout, Jay Lapp, had the vision to see John’s raw ability nearly four years ago, and that an equally dedicated Florida Class A pitching coach, Fred Dabney, worked with John on his pitching mechanics to help develop him into the dominant closer he is today.

Together we have gone from our first .500 season (2005) to our first winning season (2007), to our first playoff appearance (2008), to our first Central Division title (2011) and NLCS appearance (2011). In my 2008 letter, I gave you my commitment to try to make that postseason the "first in a lifetime," not a "once in a lifetime" event. I am gratified to have made good on that pledge within three seasons. (Only the Phillies, Yankees and Rays have qualified for more postseason appearances in the last four years.) In the movie Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones says that baseball "reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again." There are 106 days until Spring Training. We all will be working hard in the hope that it "could be again" in 2012.

Go Brewers!

Mark Attanasio, Milwaukee Brewers chairman and principal owner.

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