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Selig says Milwaukee’s switch back to NL is a homecoming

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Bud Selig calls the Milwaukee Brewers' switch to the National League the "wave of the future" for major league baseball. Others are wondering what will it mean to the team.

On the field, the Brewers face a period of adjustment to playing without a designated hitter and having batters learn the pitchers of a whole new set of teams.In the stands, the Brewers expect excitement and attendance to rise as Milwaukee returns to its NL roots from the days when the Braves played here from 1953-65 before moving to Atlanta. Milwaukee won the World Series in 1957 and a pennant the next year.

"Those of us old enough remember the glory days of Aaron, Mathews and Logan, and Spahn and Burdette, we view this as coming home," Selig, the Brewers' owner and acting baseball commissioner, said at Thursday's news conference formally announcing the change.

He said the Brewers volunteered to make the league switch - the first by a major league team in more than a century - as part of a realignment needed to accommodate two expansion teams, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks. It gives the NL 16 teams and the AL 14.

The Brewers go from the AL Central to a six-team NL Central Division. Selig said he expects the next phase of realignment a year from now to mean similar changes for other teams.

"Major league realignment is the wave of the future," he said, citing the invigorating effect of last summer's interleague play.

He told of listening on the radio to the end of a Cubs-Brewers game he couldn't attend in person.

"It was so exciting at the end," he said. "I'm sitting all alone, and I can still remember, it's two outs, nobody on, Sammy Sosa hitting, a ball and two strikes, Doug Jones pitching.

"You can't hear (Brewers announcer Bob) Uecker because the noise and the crowd was so deafening . . . and he struck him out and the place went wild," Selig said. "And I knew then that interleague play was going to work."

In the new division, the Brewers join the Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.

"If payroll is any indication, we should be able to compete a little better," Brewers general manager Sal Bando said.

He said the on-field adjustment to the NL shouldn't be a problem, even though there will be no DH. That means pitchers will have to take their spot in the batting order, and players that have done DH duty will have to take the field.

"It still requires pitchers to throw strikes, hitters to get hits, and fielders to field the ball, and if you can do that, it doesn't matter which league you play in," Bando said.

"Unfortunately, we're going to have to teach our pitchers how to hit, and after what I saw this past year, they're going to require a lot of work," Bando added, a joking reference to last summer's inter-league play.

He said there should be no effect on the team's core players, including five - Dave Nilsson, Cal Eldred, Fernando Vina, Jose Valentin and Jeff Cirillo - signed to long-term contracts that will extend through the opening of the new Miller Park in the 2000 season.

"To me, we signed those players because they're good players, and it doesn't matter which league we're in," he said. "They're still the nucleus of our ballclub."

The loss of the DH could affect Nilsson, who has often served as DH, but last season saw duty at first base and in left field, especially after first baseman John Jaha was injured.

Jaha is expected to return next season, and that could shift Nilsson to left field, where Marc Newfield missed much of the season with a shoulder injury.