PHOENIX -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin was asked for a moment that defined the Brewers' rise from perennial National League Central cellar dwellers to perennial division contenders. He came up with a very specific answer: June 25, 2005.On that night, former first-round Draft picks Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder each hit their first home runs in a 7-6 win over the Twins. Among the more than 44,000 fans in attendance that Saturday night was Ryan Braun, another first-round pick who had been introduced at Miller Park earlier in the day. "If you're looking for the moment," Melvin said, "maybe that's it." So it was fitting that Braun, Fielder and Weeks are representing the Brewers together at the 82nd All-Star Game in Phoenix. It's the sixth straight year that at least three Brewers made the cut and the second straight year that it was a homegrown trio.
"I remember it well," Fielder said. "Rickie hit his off of Johan [Santana], and I hit mine off of [Jesse] Crain. It was really exciting. I remember floating around the bases."
This particular homegrown trio is especially tied to the Brewers' building project. Fielder was the Brewers' first-round Draft pick in 2002, the year the big league club lost 106 games. That forgettable season positioned the Brewers to nab Weeks second overall the following year. Both Fielder and Weeks joined Milwaukee's starting lineup for good in 2005, when Braun was drafted by the Brewers fifth overall and the team went 81-81 for its first non-losing season since 1992 (92-70).By May 2007, they were playing together, and, thanks in no small part to Braun's NL Rookie of the Year season and Fielder's 50 home runs, leading the franchise to its first winning season since Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Jim Gantner were still teammates in 1992. By 2008, the Brewers were back in the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. And it all started -- sort of -- with that 2005 win over the Twins. "It's cool for me knowing that we were all drafted by the Brewers and developed by the Brewers and made it here," Braun said. "We've seen each other grow as players, but as people as well. It's definitely special and you try to enjoy it. We're a small-market team, and this isn't something that happens every day. We recognize how fortunate we are to be at the All-Star Game."
Braun, Fielder and Weeks are the first trio of Brewers elected to start the same All-Star Game."We knew in the back of our minds that we had some pretty good All-Star-caliber players and one day maybe we can all come along and play together in the game," Weeks said. "It's even more special to come up with these guys. I know that can't happen too often. It's really great to know they have your back."
Braun was the NL's top overall vote-getter, but he was forced to pull out of the Midsummer Classic on Saturday because of a lingering left calf injury. He traveled to Phoenix as a fan instead, and planned to cheer NL captain Fielder and Weeks in Monday's State Farm Home Run Derby and Tuesday's All-Star Game.Fielder is making his third All-Star start and Weeks his first. The Brewers pushed hard for Weeks, who passed the Reds' Brandon Phillips, in the final week of the fan balloting. Weeks leads NL second basemen with 67 runs scored and 17 home runs in his second consecutive healthy, productive season. He was rewarded in Spring Training with a four-year contract extension. "It's one of those things where, if you play this game hard enough, you get individual accolades," Weeks said of the All-Star nod. "It's one of the things you want to accomplish one day." Fielder has somehow avoided the distractions that usually plague players in their contract years. He's a free agent at season's end but has been a force all year, as he's tied for the NL lead with 72 RBIs and also tied with Dodgers All-Star Matt Kemp for second in the NL in home runs with 22. Fielder won starting duties by garnering more fan votes than the past two NL MVPs -- Joey Votto of the Reds and Albert Pujols of the Cardinals. He passed Pujols over the final week of the balloting. "It means a lot," Fielder said. "It's just an honor. Those two other guys are All-Stars and MVPs, so for me to be able to start this game is just an honor. I'm very appreciative." The trio has come a long way since that fateful day in June six years ago.
"I remember being there and being introduced to the fans in Milwaukee," Braun said. "I got the opportunity to see Miller Park for the first time and to see those guys hit their first home run was a special day for me. I know I won't forget that."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.