Brock Holt thought entering free agency would be a fun experience.
He quickly found out that the process is “stressful” and by his own admission he actually didn’t handle it “that well.”
As spring training camps opened up across Major League Baseball, Holt was at home, waiting to sign with a team.
On Wednesday, he was officially announced as the newest member of the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
“My wife, over the last couple of weeks was like, ‘Hey, you need to get a job and get out of here,” Holt joked while meeting with media members following his first team practice in Arizona. “I think she is finally excited that I am out of the house and not stressing about it.
“But, it’s just one of those things that’s part of it. That’s the first time that I’ve been through (free agency). I feel like everything happens for a reason. It took a while but I’m happy to be here now.”
As conversations between the Brewers and Holt picked up, Holt reached out to a good friend for advice. That friend just so happened to be an expert on Milwaukee and the inner-workings of the organization because he was the team’s third baseman from 2017 until the past off-season.
The Mayor of Ding Dong City, Travis Shaw.
“(Holt) actually reached out to me about a week or two ago saying that the Brewers had some interest and that they were starting to talk,” Shaw told The Wisconsin Sports Zone. “He was just asking about how the organization was and I gave him nothing but positive things.
“Brock is one of my favorite teammates that I’ve ever played with. He keeps it loose in the clubhouse. Obviously he is a great player, he can play all over the diamond, but just his presence in the clubhouse and in the dugout, he keeps things loose and he keeps things fun.”
Shaw and Holt were teammates for the Boston Red Sox in 2015 and 2016.
“You always want to feel wanted, no matter what you do,” Holt said of his decision to sign with Milwaukee over a few other interested teams. “I felt like the Brewers wanted me to be here and that was a deciding factor for me to get a deal done and I couldn’t be more excited to be here now.”
Milwaukee’s general manager, David Stearns, said that Holt is someone the team has had on their radar for quite some time. Even dating back to when the Brewers initially traded for Shaw from the Red Sox, they thought then that Holt would have also been a good fit.
“To bring him in as part of this group, I think it’s really beneficial agreement for both sides,” Stearns said after the signing was officially announced.
“Brock has a lot of things that we like in a player. First and foremost he plays all over the field, and we really like those types of guys. We don’t feel like you can have too many of those types of guys. It gives (Manager Craig Counsell) tremendous flexibility, allows him to mix and match in a variety of different ways over the course of the season, depending on who is healthy, who’s performing and who we are playing.”
Counsell is a fan of Holt’s ability to play all four infield positions, and outfield if needed, and feels that he is a good insurance policy for the inevitable ebbs and flows of a 162-game season.
“One of the things we thought about, and kind of how our roster looked position player wise was probably the guy we were least protected on is that we are depending on Keston (Hiura) a lot. This protects Keston and protects us. Just in case, really.
“Now, Keston is going to be out there. This doesn’t take away from Keston’s playing time at all, but it does ‘in case.’ And, the thing we believe is that the ‘in case’ usually comes up.”
Away from baseball, Holt will quickly become a fan favorite in Milwaukee, as Shaw remembers first hand him impact on the community and those around him.
“Step off-the-field,” Shaw said. “All of the stuff that he did with The Jimmy Fund in Boston, in the hospital working with all of the kids throughout the community in Boston. He is just a class act all the way around and the Brewers definitely got a good one with him.”
The Jimmy Fund is an organization in Boston that raises money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Holt was a five-year captain for The Jimmy Fund, He and his wife, Lakyn, would attend charity fund-raisers and events to help increase awareness and money for their efforts in treatment.
Although Shaw and Holt both played a lot of third base in Boston, Shaw, like Stearns and Counsell, was complimentary of Holt’s ability to play all over infield.
“He’s like the ultimate Swiss Army Knife,” Shaw said. “He can play whatever and he plays all of those positions well, too. Defensively he is pretty good at whatever position he plays.
“He’s a good pickup for them.”
Shaw added that he was “kind of bummed” that Holt didn’t come to Milwaukee just one season sooner, so the two could have played together while he was still on the team.
“After weighing my options, and looking at the roster that the Brewers have, I just felt like this was the place that I would be happiest,” Holt added. “That’s important to me. The money is great and everything, but at the end of the day, I want to be happy where I am at. I want to be able to build relationships and have fun with my teammates.
“Just looking at this roster, I thought I would be able to do that here.”
Lorenzo Cain is one of those teammates, and he was the first person Holt saw upon arriving early to the team facility on Wednesday. The two had breakfast together.
“I just said ‘what’s up, Brock?’ just saying hi and we sat down and had breakfast and ate and talked,” Cain recalled. “He told me he is from Texas. I let him know I was a big (Dallas) Cowboys fan. Just a little conversation. We’re just getting to know each other. Just kind of start from there and build off of that.”
Holt said that Cain was outgoing and very welcoming.
“I always enjoyed watching him play,” Hold added. “The way he is always smiling and always having a good time. I think we’re going to have a good time together this year.
A day following the official announcement of Holt’s signing, manager Craig Counsell commented on what it means to him and the team to receive a positive recommendation from a former player.
“It means a lot, it does. Travis (Shaw) had a tough season last year. It’s challenging, it can color how you think for sure and I’m glad Travis remembers everything well here because he, withstanding a tough season, I thought he handled himself really well. He was a big part of the foundation and getting us to where we were at in 2018.
“It’s important for sure. Especially when you’re having to fill a team up in a season like this with free agency and you’re competing against other teams for a guys services. Obviously the dollar figure is probably number one, but when the dollar figure is really close for guys and they have to make a decision, that’s important.”