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The Miller Park press box is pocked with foul balls that came straight back.
The Miller Park press box is pocked with foul balls that came straight back.

Have you ever caught a foul ball?

I beat the rush and got to Miller Park nice and early tonight, and sitting in the still empty press box, I’ve had some time to think. About baseball, of course.

Within a few feet in either direction of me are 10 ominous looking holes, dimples and marks of where foul balls have struck the press box wall right behind my permanent OnMilwaukee.com seat. The closest, positioned right behind my heart, is marked "5/25/11 Michael Morse vs. Greinke." One behind my right ear simply says "Unknown." Any one of these balls would’ve caused me serious injury, and it’s a reminder not to keep your nose buried in your laptop when the ball is in play.

Speaking of laptops, I had one foul ball clang off my titanium MacBook Air a few years ago. I’m pretty sure any other laptop would’ve shattered, but the only damage was a little dent and a scuff.

I got off lucky.

I’m still a little annoyed that I didn’t catch that ball, actually. Instead of trying to catch it, I covered the my laptop as best as I could and the ball spun off my hands. People booed. I shrugged.

I’m the fan who always brings a glove to the game ... as a fan, anyway.

In the hundreds (maybe?) of Brewers games I’ve attended, I’ve still only caught one legitimate regular season foul ball. It was around 1994 at County Stadium, an easy pop up right to me in the third base lower grandstands, courtesy of Aussie David Nilson. A kid in front of me collided with me to make the play – or maybe it was the other way around – and his mom was angry that I wouldn’t give him the souvenir. I told her that at 20, I was much older than this child, and he would have more time in his life to catch one. Maybe not my finest fan moment.

I did catch an 2002 All Star Game Home Run Derby batting practice ball in the auxiliary press box in the right field bleachers, and I’ve snagged many Spring Training foul balls in Maryvale. I’ve come close on many other regular season occasions, but my lifetime total of caught foul …

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We got inside Plum for a sneak peak the night before opening.
We got inside Plum for a sneak peak the night before opening.

First look: Plum

As first reported by OnMilwaukee.com, Dogg Haus owner Mazen Muna will open Plum, a cocktail lounge at 780 N. Jefferson St., Thursday night. We got inside for a first look.

"We are ready," says Muna, who was putting the finishing touches on the bar Wednesday night. "Many years and thought has gone into this – from the screws that we used, to the ingredients that are going to be in the cocktails and in the menu, along with a hand-selected staff."

The look inside the lounge is purple and sleek. An astroturf wall lines the north side of the space in front of the bar, which focuses on the unique top-shelf liquors Plum will feature. Look up and you’ll see tubes shining the same purple light down, accented with lime green plush chairs. It feels a little like an updated Velvet Room.

Muna credits his business partner, Andre Lewis, for creating the impressive lighting effects that give the space several distinct vibes, including an outdoor patio overlooking Jefferson.

The look is certainly unique for Milwaukee, and Muna credits that to picking up cues from his life well-traveled.

"I’ve been in bars and restaurants in Europe, the Mideast, all over the U.S. and I’ve always picked up the positives from each individual place and they stayed in a memory bank in the back of my head," he says. "What you’re looking at is our thoughts becoming tangible."

This space, however, has been many things over the years. For some reason, nothing has stuck. Muna is aware of the building's reputation, but says now is the time for Plum to succeed.

"Jefferson Street is a very nice area," he says. "People like to go out, young professional crowds, people that work hard and like to enjoy themselves. We just want to help them create their memories by opening and providing a value-added service and bar to the dynamic of the wide phenomenal spectrum of other establishments in the city. It’s just one more option, but it’s a different option."

To Muna, "plum" means fi…

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Plenty of good seats still available.
Plenty of good seats still available.

The magic of the weekday day game

The sounds are a little different inside Miller Park during a weekday day game.

It’s not that it’s much quieter or more empty than a night game, although it’s pretty easy to tell the difference. Even though the parking lots today were jam-packed, there are lots and lots of kids here. And adults who probably should be at work.

"If you play hooky from school, you can play hooky from work," says Brewers Senior Media Relations Director Mike Vassallo. "Maybe guys just taking an extended lunch break to join us at Miller Park."

They used to call it the "businessman’s special," which harkens back to a time that men in suits and hats used to ostensibly get some work done on a home team’s getaway day. From my view in the press box, I can’t see anyone in a suit or tie, but maybe there’s someone closing a deal down there over a Miller Lite.

Says Vassallo, "It’s a slower-pace sport, unlike basketball or hockey, where you can't really sit down and have a conversation without losing track of the action on the court or the ice. Baseball is a slow-paced game. It makes for good conversation, and, I'm sure, good business for people who want to come here."

That’s not just code for finding an excuse to day drink – although in some cases, I’m sure it is.

"It's amazing what you can accomplish by simply stepping out of the office," says Dani Kapitz, who works in corporate real estate, and is watching the game with her boss who has season tickets. "There are some theories that you should work for 45 minutes and break for 15. While that isn't always realistic, it is very convenient and productive to work in a different environment and Miller Park fits that bill."


Dani Kapitz, getting "work" done.

As for the kids, you can hear the higher voices of baseball-crazy children cheering.

"There's a different sound to the crowd," says Vassallo. "A little bit of a younger energy to the crowd."

Up here in the press box, it’s actually pretty empty. Usually you see the …

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Aaron Rodgers isn't the only genius to play in Wisconsin. (PHOTO: Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)
Aaron Rodgers isn't the only genius to play in Wisconsin. (PHOTO: Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

6 Wisconsin athletes who are smarter than you are

Yesterday, Packers fans were delighted to watch Aaron Rodgers dominate on "Celebrity Jeopardy." Indeed, it feels nice to have a smart guy calling signals under center (in your face, Jay Cutler).

But Wisconsin locker rooms have always been full of intelligent players. I came up with this quick list of some of the more obvious ones – and some of the less obvious ones, thanks to my friend Drew Olson. These guys are as brainy as they are talented. In some cases, more of the former than the latter, but who's counting?

1. Mark Loretta (1995-2002)

How many times did Brewers fans hear that Loretta, a Northwestern grad, negotiated his contracts using his business degree? During his career, he took violin lessons. Kmart wanted him for its executive training program. He was a part owner in Swig in Milwaukee. After he retired in 2009, he joined the Padres front office.

2. Junior Bridgeman (Bucks, 1975-1984)

PHOTO: moag.com

Bridgeman has an estimated net worth of $400 million from franchising more than 100 Wendy's restaurants. Needless to say, he made much more off the court than on it.

3. Jerry Kramer (Packers, 1958-1968)

PHOTO: ngscsports.com

I’ve seen Kramer speak, and my jaw dropped at how eloquent a speaker he is, whether talking about football or just life. I mean, he quoted Voltaire off the top of his head. He’s also written three successful books, and is incredibly sharp for 79.

4. Craig Counsell (Brewers, 2004, 2007-2011)

We’ve been told that the new Brewers skipper was managing games in his mind while sitting on the bench during his 16-year career. Time will tell if he’s a baseball genius, but having interviewed him one-on-one in Whitefish Bay, I can attest that he’s a smart guy. Drew had him on his list, too.

5. John Axford (2009-2013)

All you have to do is follow the man, the mustache and the legend on Twitter to see his encyclopedic knowledge of film, pop culture and death metal. A Notre Dame grad, he accurately predicted 14 of the 15 …

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