Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy is making an unexpected road trip to Washington. It has nothing to do with playing the Nationals.
It's not often that a ballplayer gets to attend a State of the Union address to Congress as the guest of a U.S. senator.
So when the office of Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin called with an invite to sit in on President Barack Obama's speech next week as recognition for the All-Star's charitable work, Lucroy accepted the opportunity.
"Huge honor," Lucroy said in a phone interview from his home in Louisiana. "I'm going to do something not a lot of people get to do. I'm going to do something or see something that a lot of people won't be able to watch or see."
Lucroy finished fourth in voting for NL Most Valuable Player last season after hitting .301 with 13 homers and 69 RBIs, while providing a steady defensive presence.
He's a lead-by-example guy, both on and off the diamond.
A fan favorite in Milwaukee, the 28-year-old Lucroy makes regular visits to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, and has served as a spokesman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Brewers Community Foundation charitable activities.
Lucroy is especially active with organizations associated with the military and veterans, including the Honor Flight Network, which brings World War II veterans to Washington. Lucroy met Johnson's chief of staff during an Honor Flight visit from Milwaukee in November.
Lucroy said causes related to veterans became especially important after his best friend from college, John Coker, was wounded when he was shot during an ambush while serving in Afghanistan.
"When I heard about that, it became personal to me," Lucroy said.
"You walk around Arlington National Cemetery, you'd be humbled," he said. "It's one of those things that I take it serious. I take it personal. I want them to feel important. I want them to feel good."
In a statement, Johnson called Lucroy "an even bigger hero off the field: He is using his baseball fame to highlight some great Wisconsin charities."
Otherwise, Lucroy is going through his normal offseason routine preparing for spring training. The Brewers will report to their spring complex in Arizona in late February.
Lucroy said it took him about a month to get past the sting of a late-season collapse that had Milwaukee fall from first place in the NL Central to shut out of the wild-card race.
"I'm over it," Lucroy said. "What's in the past is in the past."
The Brewers traded pitcher Marco Estrada to the Blue Jays for Adam Lind in November to fill needs for a first baseman and a left-handed bat in the middle of the order. But it's been a quiet offseason so far for Milwaukee for the most part.
The team is hoping outfielder Ryan Braun can bounce back from a subpar 2014 season, when he dealt with a lingering nerve injury near his right thumb that affected his swing. Braun had a medical procedure after the season in hopes of fixing the problem.
"I'm very optimistic about it," Lucroy said about the prospects for the upcoming year. He pointed to the Kansas City Royals' run last year to the World Series as an example of how team's fortunes can improve without making wholesale changes to a roster.
NOTES: The Brewers and Lucroy's backup, Martin Maldonado, agreed to a two-year deal worth $1.95 million, avoiding arbitration. Maldonado hit .234 with four homers and 16 RBIs last season. He threw out five of 13 base-runners attempting to steal. He gets a $50,000 signing bonus and salaries of $800,000 this year and $1.1 million in 2016. ... OF Gerardo Parra is the team's only remaining player in arbitration.
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