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Brewers infielder Craig Counsell will take part in "The Nutty Nutcracker" on Saturday. (Milwaukee Ballet photo)

Brewers' Counsell suits up for "Nutty Nutcracker"

Brewers infielder Craig Counsell is at practice and he seems to be enjoying himself.

There is absolutely nothing unusual about that sentence, except that Counsell is indoors, it is December, he is in Wisconsin and he's the only baseball player in the room.

He is not, however, the only athlete.

It's early afternoon at the Milwaukee Ballet studios on the near South Side. The professional dancers are preparing for the "Nutty Nutcracker," a spoof that will close out the annual run of Tchaikovsky's holiday staple "The Nutcracker" Saturday night at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

With choreographer / director Michael Pink and dancer Marc Petrocci calling the shots, the company rehearses several whimsical scenes, some of which features appearances by Counsell and other local notables such as Fox 6 sportscaster Tom Pipines, Business Journal reporter Wendy Strong, some soldiers from the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion, caterer Scott Shully and the Klement's famous racing sausages.

Counsell, who grew up and still lives in Whitefish Bay, was drafted into duty weeks ago.

"I got a call from Dr. Raasch," he says, referring to Brewers' team doctor William Raasch, who also happens to be the orthopedist for the Milwaukee Ballet.

"He asked me if I'd do it and I really couldn't say no to him. I like experiencing new things and doing things I haven't done before. This falls into that category."

Counsell will play himself in the "Nutty Nutcracker," which will feature some deviations from the standard storyline. For example, in the battle between the toy soldiers and rats, the combatants will represent the Brewers and the Cubs.

"They're pretty much telling me what to do and where to go," Counsell says during a break in a rehearsal. "I think it's going to be fun."

The Ballet press office says, "audience members will be delighted as these 'rookie' and professional dancers join little Clara in her dream world filled with pirouetting fairies, marching toy soldiers and dancing teddy bears. Comedy will abound, and the laughs won't end until the final curtain falls."

Counsell seemed comfortable and at ease amid the camaraderie of the dance company.

"There is no doubt these people are athletes," he said. "They've been doing "The Nutcracker" every day, sometimes twice a day, for the past week and they are still here for rehearsal. Some of them even have a show tonight.

"They're definitely athletes. I think in many ways it's like a 9 to 5 job and it definitely doesn't seem like an easy job."

Facing a 95-mph fastball in front of 50,000 screaming fans isn't exactly easy, either. The people in the dance business are aware of that.

"The first time someone mentioned that we might have a Brewers player involved, I thought that was great," said Dennis Buehler, the executive director of the Milwaukee Ballet.

"When I found out that Craig was going to do it, I was really excited. Craig Counsell has been in the World Series (twice). We're glad to have him."


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