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‘We’re just excited to be here’: Brewers fans celebrate Opening Day in Milwaukee

Brewers beat New York Mets 10-0 in front of a sellout crowd for the home opener

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A boy in a blue Brewers jersey and baseball cap licks his fingers while eating tailgate snacks.
Twelve-year-old Colton Sarver eats snacks at a tailgate Monday, April 3, 2023, at American Family Field in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Brats. Taco salad. Fruit salad. Cheese. Venison. And, of course, beer.

These are the essential components to any successful tailgating party, according to lifelong Milwaukee Brewers fan Mike Faber.

“We got the works, along with the good Miller Lite,” Faber said. “A must.”

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Faber was part of a sellout crowd on Monday at American Family Field to celebrate the return of baseball to Milwaukee. The Brewers celebrated their home opener with a 10-0 win over the New York Mets.

He was also one of thousands of fans who spent several hours tailgating before the game. This year, Faber, who has been coming to Opening Day for over 20 years, brought his three grandsons to the game with him.

Groups of people in lawn chairs grill and drink beer in the parking lot.
Tailgaters enjoy the mild spring weather before the Brewers’ home opener Monday, April 3, 2023, at American Family Field in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

“I waited for a long time to get my grandsons to be able to bring them to games,” Faber said. “It’s great.”

One of the three, 12-year-old Colton Sarver, wasn’t afraid to admit that he skipped school for the game.

“I’d rather be doing this than Forward state testing,” Colton said, referring to state standardized tests.

Todd and Brian Haagensen, two brothers from Mount Pleasant, haven’t missed an Opening Day since the stadium opened in 2001. For the past eight years, they’ve also been the first vehicle in line to tailgate before the game. The duo sported long beards dyed in Brewers blue and gold.

“I don’t know what it is about being first, but it’s always a battle for it,” Brian Haagensen said. “(Opening Day) is always fun because it’s always the same people we see every year.”

Four players stand on green grass while seats remain empty before the game.
Brewers players warm up before their home opener against the Mets on Monday, April 3, 2023, at American Family Field in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Milwaukee resident Marquez Guzman tailgated with his family ahead of the 1:10 p.m. game.

“I take off every year. It’s always booked off on the calendar, so my boss knows,” Guzman said. “For me, it’s the kickoff to the end of winter.”

But some fans decided to go straight into the stadium, including Debbie Coats and her friend Debbie Kolzel. It was Kolzel’s first Opening Day. The two left Oshkosh at 9:30 a.m. to get inside the stadium before the first pitch.

“We’re just excited to be here,” Coats said.

A man uses a spatula to flip burgers on a grill at a tailgate.
Josh Mottl of Racine grills burgers while tailgating Monday, April 3, 2023, at American Family Field in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

It was also 1-year-old Lillian Paulik’s first Opening Day. Her parents, Phillip and Marjorie, brought her to the game, as they recently moved back to Milwaukee.

“It’s very special,” Marjorie Paulik said. “She’s loving it.”

“The vibes been pretty chill,” Phillip Paulik said. “Which is perfect, when you’re tailgating with a kid.”

A man throws a red beanbag in the air while playing a game of bags outside as crowds of tailgaters stand around him.
Jason Yunker of Grafton, right, throws a beanbag while next to his teammate, Dave Labinski of Milwaukee, on Monday, April 3, 2023, at American Family Field in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Inside the stadium, the vibes were decidedly less chill as the team routed the Mets.

The club has high hopes this season. They missed the playoffs last year for the first time in five years. Fans are hopeful an influx of young players — including Brice Turang, Garrett Mitchell and Joey Wiemer — will lead the team to success. Turang hit a grand slam in the fifth inning, making a curtain call following the huge moment.

For Turang, the homerun was extra special, as his family was in attendance to see it.

“I mean, it’s unbelievable,” Turang said during a post-game press conference. “They’re my biggest supporters, they’ve been there for me since I was a little kid and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

The sellout crowd was also able to see new rule changes from Major League Baseball, which have been implemented in order to speed the game up and add more action to America’s pastime. The changes include a pitch clock for the pitcher and batter.

A man stands on the field at American Family Field
Rick Schlesinger, the Brewers’ president of business operations, stands on the field before the team’s home opener Monday, April 3, 2023, at American Family Field in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Rick Schlesinger, the Brewers’ president of business operations, said he’s excited about the new rules.

“Baseball, with the new rule changes, (it’s going to be a) much crisper, faster game, better pace and less dead time,” Schlesinger said before the game.

Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA system predicts the Brewers will finish in first place in the National League Central this season.

“We have some unfinished business after 2022, so we’re looking forward to competing for the Division title,” Schlesinger said.

A blue duffel bag sits on dirt. A yellow Brewers logo is seen on the side.
A Brewers duffel bag left by a player warming up before the team’s home opener against the Mets on Monday, April 3, 2023, at American Family Field in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Following the game, manager Craig Counsell said it was exciting to watch the team’s on-field success. It was the Brewers’ largest margin of a victory in a home opener in franchise history.

“We had a fun day today,” Counsell said during a post-game press conference. “We had a lot of fun, but we have to do it tomorrow.”

Brewers’ backup first baseman, Owen Miller, a Wisconsin native, slept at a friend’s house in Milwaukee before the game Monday. His parents, who live in Fredonia, were also at the game.

“Definitely something I’ll never forget,” Miller said. “It’s cool for all of us and something I’ll always remember.”

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