American Family Field isn’t the only new name Milwaukee Brewers fans will need to get used to in 2021.
By Opening Day, the network televising Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Bucks games will have a new name as well, as FOX Sports Wisconsin is set to be rebranded as Bally Sports Wisconsin under an $85 million naming-rights agreement announced earlier this year between Bally’s Sports and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
The network has carried Brewers games since 1996, when it was known as Midwest Sports Channel, and was rebranded to FOX Sports Wisconsin in 2012. Sinclair, which also owns Madison’s WMSN-TV as well as stations in Milwaukee and Green Bay, purchased FOX Sports Wisconsin, along with 20 other regional sports networks, from the Walt Disney Company for $10.6 billion in 2019 and agreed to a multi-year broadcast agreement with the Brewers last month.
Other than the name and branding, little about the broadcasts will change.
Brian Anderson will handle play-by-play duties for a majority of the schedule, with longtime University of Wisconsin radio voice Matt Lepay and Brewers radio announcer Jeff Levering stepping in when Anderson is handling national assignments. Former Brewers catcher Bill Schroeder returns for a 27th season to provide color commentary and analysis while Sophia Minnaert will provide in-game reports and Craig Coshun will anchor pre- and postgame coverage with former Brewers pitcher Jerry Augustine.
Of course, whether or not fans will be able to watch those games depends on how they get their television content. The channel is available on most cable services, including Spectrum, TDS Telecom and Century Link in the Madison Area, as well as to those who subscribe to satellite services like DIRECT TV.
But subscribers to most online streaming services, including popular options like Hulu, Sling and YouTube TV, have been unable to watch Brewers or Bucks games this season because of an ongoing dispute with Sinclair.
Requests for comment from Hulu and YouTube TV were not returned. A Sinclair spokesperson said the company does not comment on negotiations but remains committed to negotiating a “fair agreement” with those streaming services to get games back on their air for those customers.
“At no time have we demanded exorbitant fees for these channels,” the spokesperson said. “Instead, we have consistently offered both pay TV providers extremely fair deals in line with what hundreds of other TV services have agreed to and continue to agree to. However, despite high-profile ad campaigns and website claims touting their live sports content, we have yet to see that same commitment from either provider to put consumers first.
“Unfortunately, at this point we have no choice but to conclude that neither Disney (which owns Hulu) nor Google (which owns YouTube) is willing to engage in good faith discussions or return the RSNs to their platforms.”
The lack of access to game broadcasts is concerning for Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic limiting attendance for games at American Family Field, with even more fans still hesitant to attend large gatherings until vaccines become more widely distributed.
“The media landscape is changing,” Attanasio said. “I’m committed to doing everything I can to deliver the content of our team to all of our fans. We’ll try to work through some of those things. I’d like to hear some of the challenges fans have faced and see if I can address them.”
WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee remains the flagship station for the Brewers Radio Network, which has 44 affiliates across the state including two new ones in Madison, where games can be heard on WOZN 1670 AM and 96.7 FM after Mid-West Family Communications acquired rights to the games aired in Madison and Eau Claire. The previous affiliates were iHEARTMEDIA stations WIBA-AM in Madison and WATQ-FM in Eau Claire.
“There simply is nothing like catching the Brew crew on the radio,” Mid-West Family Broadcasting vice president of programming Randy Hawke said in a statement announcing the move last year. “Each game is an event, and I cannot wait for the season to start so we can experience the tradition that is the Milwaukee Brewers with our fans”.
Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker will be behind the mic for a 51st season with Levering and Lane Grindle sharing those duties and handling a majority of Milwaukee’s road games.
While the Brewers will move to a new station, iHeartMedia won’t be without baseball this summer. FOX Sports 1070 AM (WTSO) will carry broadcasts of Chicago Cubs games in the Madison area.
“The Cubs have an enormous fan base in Southern Wisconsin and we at FOX Sports 1070 are excited to deliver the entire season, day and night,” WTSO program director Shawn Prebil said. “This is long overdue for fans of the Cubs and Major League Baseball who will be able to hear the complete season, including regional and divisional matchups. Spring is right around the corner and we can’t wait to have Cubs baseball on FOX Sports 1070.”
Here’s everything you need to know as Milwaukee Brewers kick off spring training in Arizona
Here's everything you need to know as Milwaukee Brewers kick off spring training in Arizona
WHO'S ON THIRD
After Keston Hiura moved to first base to make way for Kolten Wong, third base remained the only position without an obvious starting candidate.
The Brewers brought Travis Shaw back on a minor-league contract, hoping he can return to the form in 2017-18, when he hit 63 home runs with 187 RBI. While Luis Urias (above) and former top-prospect Daniel Robertson are likely to get a shot at winning the job, too.
Acquired last winter in a trade with Seattle, Omar Narváez (above) was supposed to give the Brewers a much-needed offensive boost while admittedly being a work-in-progress behind the plate. Instead, Narvaez was one of many Brewers hitters to struggle last season but surprised the Brewers’ coaching staff and front office with his defensive improvements. He’s back again in 2021 but will have to battle for a job with the likes of Manny Piña, Jacob Nottingham and Luke Maile.
With Brett Anderson returning on a one-year deal, the Brewers will open camp with all five spots of their starting rotation seemingly filled. But as history has shown, it’s rare to get through an entire season with just five starters. So who’s waiting in the wings if and when the Brewers need a replacement? Eric Lauer (above) and Freddy Peralta will try to earn spots in the rotation this spring, as will former UW-Stevens Point standout Jordan Zimmermann, who is in camp on a minor league deal.
PLAYERS TO BE NAMED LATER
It was a quiet offseason for the Brewers, but they weren’t unique in that regard. Across baseball, trades and signings seemed to be few and far between as players and teams both waited out a winter of uncertainty. Now that camps are open, there’s a greater likelihood of trades and with more than 100 free agents still unsigned, the Brewers’ roster could have a new face or two before the season gets underway.
WILL IT LAST?
Baseball is back, but for how long? That might be the single biggest question this spring, not just for the Brewers but baseball as a whole. The pandemic still rages on and though vaccinations are on the rise, one infection can quickly become an outbreak that leaves an entire team sidelined indefinitely. Players resisted requests and suggestions to delay the start of spring training, and the regular season, by a month believing they proved last year they can complete a season safely. But the margin for error is still slim and another full-blown shutdown of spring training, which would ultimately impact the regular season, remains one large outbreak away.
SPRING TRAINING ROSTER
Teams are allowed to have up to 75 players in major league camp at any given time and the Brewers go into camp with all 40 of their roster spots filled along with 20 non-roster invitees. Once the regular season begins, active rosters will revert to the original 26-player limit that was planned for 2020 before the pandemic suspended operations. Teams still are allowed to add an additional player to the active roster for doubleheaders and can have a taxi squad of up to five players — including one catcher — on all road trips. Rosters will expand again in September, but only by two spots for a total of 28.
Pitchers (31): Brett Anderson, Clayton Andrews*, Aaron Ashby*, Alec Bettinger, Phil Bickford, Ray Black, Zach Brown*, Corbin Burnes, Jake Cousins*, J.P. Feyereisen, Dylan File, Josh Hader, Blaine Hardy*, Adrian Houser, Thomas Jankins*, Eric Lauer, Josh Lindblom, Hoby Milner*, Freddy Peralta, Angel Perdomo, Drew Rasmussen, Miguel Sanchez*, Ethan Small*, Brent Suter, Justin Topa, Quintin Torres-Costa*, Bobby Wahl, Devin Williams, Brandon Woodruff, Eric Yardley, Jordan Zimmermann*.
Catchers (6): Mario Feliciano, Payton Henry*, Luke Maile, Omar Narvaez, Jacob Nottingham, Manny Pina.
Infielders (11): Orlando Arcia, Zach Green*, Keston Hiura, Tim Lopes, Mark Mathias, Jace Peterson*, Daniel Robertson, Travis Shaw*, Brice Turang*, Luis Urias, Daniel Vogelbach, Kolten Wong.
Outfielders (11): Lorenzo Cain, Dylan Cozens*, Derek Fisher, Avisail Garcia, Tristen Lutz*, Billy McKinney, Garrett Mitchell*, Corey Ray, Pablo Reyes*, Tyrone Taylor, Christian Yelich.
* — Non-roster invitee
Manager Craig Counsell’s coaching staff will have a different look in 2021. Third-base coach Ed Sedar has transitioned into a new, advisory role while longtime bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel’s contract was not renewed by the team after last season.
Sedar will be replaced on the staff by Quintin Berry, who had been the Brewers' minor-league outfield and base-running coordinator for the last two seasons after concluding his 13-year playing career serving as a player/coach with Class AAA Colorado Springs in 2018.
Néstor Corredor and Adam Weisenburger will replace Hanel and Robinson Diaz as the team's bullpen catchers.
The rest of Counsell's staff will remain intact moving forward, including hitting coaches Andy Haines (above left) and Jacob Cruz. Chris Hook and Steve Karsay will handle Milwaukee’s pitchers and bullpen, respectively, and Pat Murphy returns for a sixth season as Counsell’s bench coach.
Jason Lane, the Brewers’ first base coach last season, returns, too, though Counsell planned to decide during spring training where Lane and Berry would be used in games this season.
Manager — Craig Counsell (7th season). Bases — Quintin Berry (1st season), Jason Lane (5th season); Bullpen — Steve Karasy (3rd season); Bench — Pat Murphy (6th season); Hitting — Jacob Cruz (2nd season); Andy Haines (3rd season); Bullpen catchers — Néstor Corredor (1st season); Adam Weisenburger (1st season).
CACTUS LEAGUE SCHEDULE
The Cactus League schedule underwent a last-minute adjustment earlier this month with the elimination of split-squad games. The Brewers will play 27 games in Arizona — 14 at American Family Fields and 13 on the road — and wrap up their exhibition slate with a pair of contests against the Rangers at Globe Life Park on March 29 and 30 before returning to Milwaukee ahead of their April 1 regular-season opener against the Twins at American Family Field.
February: 28 — @ Chicago White Sox. March: 1 — at Diamondbacks; 2 — vs. Athletics.; 3 — at Padres; 4 — vs. Cleveland.; 5 — at Rockies; 6 — vs Cubs; 7 — OFF; 8 — vs. Angels; 9 — vs. Giants; 10 — at Athletics; 11 — vs. Royals; 12 — at Cubs; 13 — vs. Rangers; 14 — at Mariners; 15 — vs. Padres; 16 — at Dodgers; 17 — OFF DAY; 18 — at Angels; 19 — vs. Diamondbacks; 20 — at Reds (7 p.m.); 21 — vs. Mariners; 22 — vs Cleveland; 23 — vs. Dodgers; 25 — at Giants (8 p.m.); 26 — vs. White Sox; 27 — at Royals; 28 — at Reds; 29 — vs. Rangers (Arlington, Texas); 30 — vs. Rangers (Arlington, Texas).
(NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, all games start at 2:10 p.m. local time prior to March 14 and 3:10 p.m. after, due to Arizona not observing Daylight Savings Time)
IF YOU GO
Unlike previous seasons, fans will not be able to watch the team’s workouts, which take place on the complex’s ancillary fields. That means no opportunities for kids — little and big alike — to get autographs and pictures. The team store at American Family Fields will be open and the team announced last week that a limited number of fans — up to 23% of capacity at the 10,000-seat stadium — will be allowed to attend games when Cactus League play gets underway.