His name doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame but there should be a place in the Hall for players like Craig Counsell who always seemed to get that big hit to start a rally or move the tying or winning run into scoring position. That is what Counsell did so many times in his career and he did it with humility. He was an old-school type player who played the game hard every day and acted the same whether he was in the starting line up or coming off the bench. He played the game the way it should be played.
Craig Counsell announced his retirement from Major League Baseball early this year and has taken up a spot in the Milwaukee Brewers Front Office. His 15 year career wasn’t filled with All-Star appearances or huge offensive outputs but he did win the NLCS MVP in 2001 and was on two World Series Champion teams (Marlins in 1997 and Diamondbacks in 2001). He has the distinction of being on base during the last two walk-off World Series wins. Something that doesn’t carry a lot of weight but it tells you that Counsell was much more valuable than his stats may say. A .255 career batting average could never tell how many times he hit the ball behind the runner to advance them to the next base, something that has been lost to all those warning track fly balls that are common place these days.
Fans always overlook guys like Counsell because they don’t understand the game of baseball and how it isn’t about home runs and 100 mph fastballs. It is about a fenced in green pasture with diamond dirt cut out with white lines telling you what’s in play. The game is about the daily grind as you play an extra inning game on a get-a-way day while the summer sun is beating down on your back, you’re awaiting the next pitch praying and hoping that the ball is hit to you so you can turn the double play and send the fans home happy with a victory. That 99 hopper through the infield that allowed the runner to go from first to third is more important than that 500 foot solo home run that came in a meaningless blowout nine times out of ten. It is the little things in the game of baseball that make it so unique and easy to love. Craig Counsell was the epitome of the game with each ground ball he fielded and threw onto first for the routine out without any fanfare in sight.
There needs to be more players like Counsell. Those players who do not have the power or the natural ability but have a willingness to lay down a bunt and use what they do have to help the team win, maybe Counsell will be able to find them while serving as a special assistant to Brewer General Manager Bob Melvin. Craig Counsell will be missed on field, just ask any of his former teammates.