A Brewer on the Brewers? MLB player hopes dream becomes reality with Milwaukee

PHOENIX – Time will tell on his game. But there's just no questioning the name.

Of course, we're talking about Brewer Hicklen, non-roster invitee to major-league spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers.

If ever there were a marketing match made in heaven between player and franchise, this one is it as the 28-year-old native of Huntsville, Alabama, will spend the next few weeks engaged in an uphill battle to earn a spot in a Milwaukee outfield bursting at the seams with talent.

Hicklen already has heard the jokes a bunch, and even he can't deny the serendipity.

"Yeah, it is pretty cool," he said. "It's just a family name. It was my great- great-grandmother's maiden name, so my mom decided that she liked it. I had never met another Brewer until a couple years ago, and then this past year in Omaha in Triple-A with the Royals I met a baby that was named Brewer because they saw the scoreboard and liked the name.

"There's some more Brewers out there. There's not a ton, but it's pretty a unique and uncommon name and I'm really excited. I hope the marketing team will have a good time trying to put something together if I do something cool."

Hicklen was known for more than his first name before signing a minor-league deal with Milwaukee in late November.

An accomplished two-way athlete in high school, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Hicklen carried his dual talents to the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he played wide receiver on the football team (which disbanded in 2014 but revived in 2016) and hit .308 with a .911 OPS in 107 games for the Blazers over 2016 and 2017.

"I feel like I'm kind of a power-speed duo that you don't necessarily get," Hicklen said. "I kind of have that hard-headed, hard-nosed, gridiron way that I approach the game. Any time I'm between the white lines I'm going to put my best foot forward. You never know when your last day is going to be playing this game, so I don't take for granted any day or any game."

Brewer Hicklen is in Brewers camp as a non-roster outfielder, and has the perfect name for the franchise.
Brewer Hicklen is in Brewers camp as a non-roster outfielder, and has the perfect name for the franchise.

Hicklen has spent most of his time in minor leagues

Kansas City drafted Hicklen in the seventh round in 2017 and he steadily ascended through the Royals' minor-league system before making his major-league debut on May 26, 2022 with a start in Minnesota.

Hicklen's stay was brief, however. He logged four at-bats over six games, was sent back down to Class AAA Omaha and has been seeking a return to baseball's highest level since.

The Philadelphia Phillies acquired Hicklen for cash last August, but after he played 11 games at Class AAA Lehigh Valley he was cut loose, leading to his signing with the Brewers.

"Any time you get another year to play the game that you've dreamed of playing your entire life, it's a blessing," said Hicklen, a .262 hitter with 25 home runs, 90 runs batted in and an OPS of .829 in 577 games in the minors. "So, I'm truly excited for a new chapter with the Milwaukee Brewers. I've been welcomed with open arms, I've met a lot of great people in the organization and I'm excited for new beginnings."

Hicklen is also realistic about what lies ahead with Cactus League play kicking off Saturday.

Of the eight outfielders in camp, seven are on the 40-man roster and Hicklen isn't one of them. He's undoubtedly done the math and knows that, barring a series of unexpected events, that he's more than likely destined for Class AAA Nashville.

"I think that's one thing, as you continue to stay in the game longer, you mature and really just focus on what you can control and what you do," Hicklen said. "That's something that I've developed over the last couple years, is just trying to embrace each and every day for its own and just go out there and get 1% better.

"That's the only thing that I can control. I just put my best foot forward and hopefully upper management and the front office will make the decision to push me there. But at the end of the day, I can only do my best."

Manager Pat Murphy was asked, tongue-in-cheek, if Hicklen's first name had any bearing on his signing.

"He's an impressive human and an impressive player," he said. In a camp already full of Murphy-bestowed nicknames, Hicklen already has been dubbed, you guessed it, 'Bernie.'

"Speed, power. I'm excited about him," Murphy continued. "I don't care what the first names are."

Perhaps the stars will align and Hicklen will make it to Milwaukee. Imagine what a PR bonanza and fan favorite he could end up being.

"I saw that there's only a handful of people, I think five or six guys, that have played for a team that (shared) a name," Hicklen said. "Angels, a guy named Red. Only a handful, so hopefully I get the opportunity to make the opportunity a reality this year."

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: A Brewer on the Brewers? Player hopes dream becomes a reality