Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 5/12/12
MILWAUKEE Draped over the rail of the opposing dugout at Miller Park, Cubs manager Dale Sveum watched intently, rarely breaking his gaze, as left fielder Ryan Braun squared up and hit ball after ball during the Brewers batting practice on Friday. It's unusual for an opposing manager to be out so early before their own team takes to the field, and it's especially rare for one to watch batting practice so closely. But Sveum continued to look on, his eyes following the balls Braun hit to the Miller Park outfield. A random passerby might assume Sveum was scouting his opponent by how closely he seemed to watch, observing mechanics and approach. But Sveum knows all these things already. He wasn't scouting. He was reminiscing. Not long before Braun squared up at the plate for batting practice, he glided across the grass behind home plate, a huge smile across his face. He had seen Sveum standing idly near the opposing dugout, and as he came up to him, he pulled him into a huge hug. Sveum was returning home his "second home," as he calls it. Milwaukee was where Sveum's playing career would always be tied to, where his biggest hit an 1987 Easter Sunday walk-off home run that will forever be a part of Brewers' lore had taken place. But for Braun and the other Brewers teammates that would take turns hugging Sveum, they were welcoming home their former coach. "I've spent a lot of years in this city, in the old stadium and in the new stadium," Sveum said on Friday. "It is a part of me, there's no doubt about it. It's always nice to come back for a few days and see everybody." Sveum played in Milwaukee for five years, but for the past six years before the 2012 season, Sveum had been the Brewers' batting coach. He had helped craft Braun into an MVP. He had helped make Milwaukee into an offensive powerhouse over the past few years and an NL Central division winner in 2011. He even acted as interim manager for a period in 2010 before the Brewers hired Roenicke. It was only so long, the Brewers players knew, before a team saw Sveum's potential as a full-fledged manager. "He had that type of aura about him," second baseman Rickie Weeks said. "Obviously, he's a baseball guy, he knows the game. It was inevitable that he was going to get a manager's job and this year his opportunity came." Being a manager requires the innate ability to connect with all different kinds of personalities, to challenge players in different ways, and to give your players confidence over the course of a long season. Those are all things, Weeks said, that Sveum brought to the Brewers last season, despite only being the team's batting coach. "It's just a special knack," Weeks said. "Certain managers have that special leadership ability. And he did." Catcher Jonathan Lucroy knew that potential was there while sitting in the dugout last season, as Sveum would consistently talk during games about what his next move would be, if he were making the decision. Like Weeks said, the "aura" was undeniable. "The manager's attitude was always there," Lucroy said. And this weekend, back at his old stomping grounds. Sveum will get his second opportunity to take on Brewers manager Ron Roenicke in nine-inning chess match. Roenicke got the best Sveum in the pair's first meeting in Chicago, as the Brewers took three out of four in the second week of April. And on Friday night, it was Roenicke that emerged victorious again. Considering their time together, Roenicke said coaching matchups like this weekend's with Sveum are the kind he looks forward to during a long baseball season. "He knows what we're going to do, I know what he's going to do," Roenicke said. "I like that challenge. Plus, he's a good guy, he works hard, and he does things the right way. I enjoy that way more than somebody over on the other side that I may not have that same respect for." That respect was mutual throughout all of Miller Park on Friday night as the Cubs lineup and coaches were announced over the loud speakers. For the first time, Sveum's name was announced for a different team. But to those who know what Sveum has done for Milwaukee and what Milwaukee meant to the Cubs manager, it was a moment of appreciation, just as Sveum had spent much of pre-game batting practice appreciating what he had left behind in Wisconsin. It seemed strange, Sveum said, that he wasn't a part of all of it anymore. As his name rang out over the loud speaker, the fans at Miller Park cheered out of respect for the opposing manager, who would always, in some way, be a part of Milwaukee Brewers baseball. Follow Ryan Kartje on Twitter
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