Patrick Ochs

Don't be surprised to see new Brewers GM David Stearns in South Mississippi more often

PATRICK OCHS/SUN HERALDNew Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns was in Biloxi for Saturday's exhibition against the Double-A Shuckers.
PATRICK OCHS/SUN HERALDNew Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns was in Biloxi for Saturday's exhibition against the Double-A Shuckers. SUN HERALD

As part of his job, new Milwaukee general manager David Stearns is expected to visit the franchise's minor league ranks periodically to check in on the future Brewers.

Don't be surprised if he pops up in Biloxi quite a bit -- after all, he's about to become family.

It's not quite "six degrees of Kevin Bacon," but hang with me: In January, Stearns will say "I do" to Whitney Lee, the niece of longtime Picayune football coach Dodd Lee.

As such, Saturday's exhibition between the Brewers and Biloxi Shuckers at MGM Park carried a bit more weight for Stearns as he met a good portion of his future family.

Stearns said he met Lee when he was the Houston Astros' assistant general manager. Lee lives in Houston and the two were

set up on a blind date.

"The rest is history," he said Saturday, on the field at MGM Park while the Shuckers were taking batting practice.

Marrying into an Ole Miss family, Stearns visited Oxford last season for the Arkansas game.

It poured throughout the weekend and the Hogs eventually pulled out a 53-52 overtime stunner, but Stearns' new favorite campus -- happy wife, happy life, right? -- left a positive impression.

"It was a wet one but still a beautiful campus. We had a great time," he said. "It's a tailgate unlike anything I've ever seen. It was a good experience."

So now that Stearns will have 20-plus new family members on the Coast, does that mean there's added incentive to check in on the Shuckers?

"That's exactly right," he laughed. "It never hurts to have the added family to make a visit."

Brewers-Shuckers relationship

Stearns represents a big step into the new-age for the Brewers. As more "baseball lifers" seem to be phasing out of front offices, guys like Stearns are stepping in to fill the void. Stearns holds a political science degree from Harvard and likely would have been considered an outsider in baseball circles as recently as a decade ago.

But with the evolution of analytics in the sport, guys like Stearns have climbed the ranks to lead baseball into a "money ball" future that places emphasis on number crunching and taking advantage of perceived market inequalities.

With the Brewers going through what most would term a deep rebuild, the organization plucked Stearns, 30 at the time of his September hire, from a Houston club that is just coming out the other side of its own deep cleanse.

Stearns wasted no time overhauling the Brewers organization -- changes Biloxi has already benefited from.

In February, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tallied "nine trades, 16 players for Brewers ... and counting?" Arguably the biggest prospect acquired in Stearns' early deals is catcher Jacob Nottingham, who belted a homer against the Brewers in Saturday's exhibition and should be a mainstay in the middle of the Shuckers' lineup this season.

The Shuckers surged to the top of the Southern League in their inaugural season. By the sounds of things, Biloxi should have a full cupboard once again in 2016 to make another title run.

"The hope of any organization is we have quality prospects at every level. This was a really good Double-A team last year. One of the best prospect teams in all of baseball," Stearns said. "We're looking forward to having a really good group of players here (this year) as well. It's really important. It's a big jump for players.

"The High-A jump to Double-A, you're generally playing against a much higher caliber of talent. This is a really good test. It's a good league and a great facility."

The Shuckers had to wait 54 games before making its home debut in 2015. Biloxi will get right to it this year, hosting the Chattanooga Lookouts in the season opener at 6:40 p.m. Thursday.

Patrick Ochs, a Sun Herald sports reporter, can be reached at pochs@sunherald.com or followed on Twitter at PatrickOchs.

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