GSB News and Notes: Brewers’ Pitcher Brent Suter Launches Strikeout Waste; Winnipeg Jets Go Green

In today’s TGIF GSB News & Notes:

  • Eco-athlete and Milwaukee Brewers’ pitcher Brent Suter launches Strikeout Waste to encourage major league ballplayers and their fans to switch to resusable water bottles

  • The NHL’s Winnipeg Jets hosted their second annual Go Green Night, with a climate change nonprofit showing fans — via tabling on the arena’s concourses — how they can engage on the issue.

 

BRENT SUTER LOOKS TO STRIKEOUT WASTE BY RIDDING BREWERS OF ONE-TIME USE PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES

Twenty-nine year-old Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brent Suter has more free time than usual this spring training as he is rehabbing from Tommy John arm surgery. And the eco-athlete is taking advantage of it, last month launching Strikeout Waste — an initiative designed to drastically reduce usage of plastic, one-time-use water bottles by Brewers players and staff — with his cousin Lauren Burke.

 

Suter Instagram

Brent Suter announced the launch of #StrikeOutWaste on Instagram in February

 

The Harvard grad is two thirds of the way through the year-long rehab process. If there are no major setbacks — Suter says he feels great and should be throwing off a pitcher’s mound soon — Brewers’ fans can expect to see the lefty back on a major league mound sometime in July, as the pennant race starts to heat up. 

In the meantime, Suter and Burke are working to move Strikeout Waste from the drawing board to the dugout. The goal is to show fans that, if their favorite players and teams can reduce plastic waste, so can they.

“Think about a baseball TV broadcast immediately after the game’s final out,” offered Suter. “There’s always a shot of the players heading from the dugout to the clubhouse, with empty plastic water bottles strewn all over the place. This is not a good look, to say the least. So we aim to change the look along with player and fan behavior with Strikeout Waste.”

The idea for Strikeout Waste began to percolate between the cousins two and a half years ago but Suter’s main focus was on making the Brewers and, once he did, sticking with the big club. With more free time since his injury and subsequent surgery last summer, Suter started to take eco-action.

“We thought going with reusable water bottles would work on several levels,” Suter recalled. “It’s something everybody can do to save a lot of plastic waste. Fans can easily relate to it. And it shouldn’t be that hard to change players’ and fans’ behaviors, ideally taking most people just a few days to get used to using a reusable water bottle and have it become like an appendage.” 

Suter and Burke engaged Chicago-based LW Branding to help them flesh out the concept during the offseason. Then, at the start of spring training, they created a partnership with Suter’s favorite water bottle brand and had reusable bottles shipped to the spring facility. 

“We ended up choosing a bottle from Zulu Athletic,” reported Suter. “It’s made out of high-quality glass that is also hard to break, with a pop-off lid perfect for frequent use in the dugout, clubhouse and everywhere else.”

The duo is starting small — Suter distributed about 100 total bottles from several test vendors during the early part of spring training to eager Brewers players and staff and he expects his first order of 100 Zulu Athletic bottles to arrive in the next week so the rest of the organization has them — but they have big plans.

 

Suter Murph H2O Bottles

Milwaukee Brewers bench coach Pat Murphy holds a water bottle, surrounded by Brent Suter (2nd from left) and other members of the ball club (Photo credit: Brent Suter, Milwaukee Brewers)

 

“Since I will still be rehabbing here in Arizona once spring training ends next week, I am going to try spreading the campaign to the Arizona Diamondbacks through shortstop Nick Ahmed, who is already into it!” Suter said. “Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett is another guy who I am confident will advocate for it.”

Suter’s and Burke’s plans go beyond baseball — they can envision a Slam Dunk Waste for the NBA, a Sack Waste for the NFL. You get the idea.

Brent Suter gets the last word: “We need to show fans that their favorite athletes care about about plastic waste, climate change and the environment more broadly. Some portion of those fans will take positive environmental action. Of that I have no doubt.”

 

WINNIPEG JETS INVITE CLIMATE CHANGE-FIGHTING NONPROFIT TO CONNECT WITH FANS AT GO GREEN NIGHT

“Green Games” are rapidly becoming commonplace among a wide swath of North American pro and college teams, a sure sign that Green-Sports 2.0 — i.e. fan engagement — is here.

So I wasn’t all that excited when the news that the Winnipeg Jets hosted their second annual Go Green Night at Bell MTS Place last Thursday came across my transom. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad the Jets are having Go Green Night — it’s just that it didn’t seem that newsy anymore.

 

MTS Place

MTS Place, home of the Winnipeg Jets, hosted its second Go Green Night last week (Photo credit: Winnipeg Jets)

 

I was wrong.

That is because the Jets invited Climate Change Connection (CCC), a program of the Manitoba Eco Network, to interact with fans in the arena’s concourses during the Green Game. CCC’s mission is to make Manitobans aware of the facts surrounding climate change and to inspire them to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to build climate resilient communities. The organization promoted ways for Jets fans to act on climate, and provided easy-to-digest information on how to go about it. 

 

Winnipeg Jets Go Green Game

 

Of course, you may ask, “Lew, the Jets Green Game partnership with CCC doesn’t sound unique. Why are you so excited about it?”

I am excited because True North Sports & Entertainment, the owner of the Jets and MTS Place felt comfortable having an organization called Climate Change Connection interact with its fans in a very public way.

Since the Green-Sports movement’s beginnings around 15 years ago, teams and leagues have done a terrific job greening the games, from improving energy efficiency to on-site renewables, to much, much more. But they didn’t communicate about their greening initiatives much to their fans during this Green-Sports 1.0 era. Climate change? It was mentioned rarely.

We are in the early days of the movement’s fan engagement-focused 2.0 iteration. This era is unfolding in the same time period as the release of a devastating report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It asserted that humanity has 12-15 years to decarbonize significantly if it is to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change. With that as backdrop, it says here that the sports world can no longer afford to play it coy when it comes to talking about climate change.

This does not mean fans should be bludgeoned by climate change. After all, they’re at the arena or stadium to enjoy a game.

But there’s a great deal of space between bludgeoning and saying nothing.

Climate change-themed public service announcements on the scoreboard here and there wouldn’t hurt.

Nor would having a group called Climate Change Connection interact with hockey fans at an arena concourse.

 


 

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Bipartisan Carbon Pricing Bill To Be Introduced in Congress; Eco-Athletes Offer Support

Happy New Year, GreenSportsBlog readers!

Despite the largely dysfunctional, hyper-partisan political environment we live in these days, a small ray of hope came through the halls of Congress in November and December. That’s when, in the lame duck session, a substantive carbon pricing bill was introduced in both houses, with bipartisan support. It is projected to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent over 10 years.

Of course, passing the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act in the Republican-controlled Senate and getting it signed by the President will be a tough slog.

That said, GSB begins 2019 with a degree of cautious optimism thanks to EICDA’s introduction — and to the support from various precincts of the sports world.

 

 

The ongoing government shutdown and the likely return of the Speaker’s gavel to Democrat Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives will garner the lion’s share of the attention when the 116th Congress opens for business tomorrow. At the same time, albeit under the radar, there is a legitimate attempt at substantive, bipartisan legislation.

For real.

A group of House Democrats and Republicans are expected to reintroduce the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA) early in this session. It was originally introduced — with bipartisan co-sponsors — in both the House and Senate during the November-December lame duck session.

This is a really big deal as the EICDA represents the first bipartisan carbon pricing bill introduced in more than a decade.

The bill proposes an economy-wide fee on carbon-based, greenhouse gas emission-producing energy (i.e. coal, natural gas and oil). It is the rare piece of legislation that has components both conservatives and liberals should love.

Revenue raised would not go to the Treasury — thus it is not a tax and does not add to the size of government. Instead, 100 percent of the revenue, less a small administrative fee, would be returned to all American households in the form of a monthly dividend check for them to spend as they choose. This is straight out of the conservative/libertarian/Republican playbook.

More than 60 percent of all families — those on the lower and middle end of the income scale — would collect more in dividends than they would pay in higher prices, because they, in the main, use less carbon than their wealthier counterparts. This should have great appeal for liberals/Democrats.

An independent economic analysis of EICDA from Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) also showed that:

  • Carbon emissions will decrease by 40 percent over 10 years because energy companies, leading industries, and American consumers will move toward cleaner, cheaper options.
  • 2.1 million clean(er) energy jobs will be created over 10 years
  • 130,000 lives will be saved over 20 years because of better air quality.

 

ATHLETES BEGIN TO SUPPORT EICDA

At this point, you may well be wondering, what the devil does any of this have to do with Green-Sports?

Of course the sports world, like every other aspect of society, will benefit greatly over time from the slowing of climate change that should result from the aforementioned massive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Several U.S. Winter Olympic athletes have endorsed EICDA, among them 2018 cross country skiing gold medalist Jessie Diggins, biathlete Lowell Bailey and cross country skier Sadie Bjornsen.

 

 

Sadie Bjornsen

Olympic cross country skier Sadie Bjornsen supports the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act that is expected to be reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives early in the new session that starts tomorrow (Photo credit: Getty Images)

 

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher and eco-athlete Brent Suter also is on board with EICDA.

“At this point in time, a carbon pricing program and higher incentives for clean energy are absolutely imperative towards the goal of stabilizing our climate and ensuring a healthy and viable future for our planet,” remarked Suter. “The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act would not only help achieve these goals, but would give the funds raised back to the people, save countless lives, and create millions of jobs! A Green Revolution needs to happen fast, and this law, if passed, would play a vital role in helping solve the most important problem of our lives.”

 

Brent Suter 5

Brent Suter of the Milwaukee Brewers (Photo credit: Milwaukee Brewers)

 

POLITICS OF EICDA: PLAYING THE LONG GAME

Even though the Republicans lost 40 House seats in the November mid-term elections — and with it, their majority — the two GOP lead co-sponsors of EICDA, Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1) and Francis Rooney (FL-19) were reelected. They presumably will join with a number of their Democratic colleagues, including original co-sponsors Ted Deutch (FL-22), John Delaney (MD-6) and Charlie Crist (FL-13), to reintroduce the bill sooner rather than later.

 

Brian Fitzpatrick

Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), one of the Republican co-sponsors of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act in the House (Photo credit: United States House of Representatives)

 

Now that the Democrats control the chamber, passage of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is much more likely than if the Republicans were still in the majority — but it is not a given. That’s because the progressive/left wing of the Democratic caucus in the House may oppose EICDA’s dividend component, preferring a carbon pricing bill that would fund renewable energy projects, cleantech job retraining, etc.

Still, passage in the House will be a tea time luncheon compared to the Republican-controlled Senate. The GOP now enjoys a 53-47 majority, up from 51-49 in the last Congress. Jeff Flake of Arizona was the Republican EICDA Senate co-sponsor (Chris Coons of Delaware was his Democratic opposite number), but he retired at the end of December. So someone else from the GOP needs to step up to get the bill reintroduced in the Senate. That is expected to take several months at least.

And, remember, we’re just talking about reintroducing EICDA in the Senate. The odds of actually passing the bill in the upper chamber and then getting a signature from President Trump are longer than the New York Knicks winning the NBA Championship in June. In case you don’t follow the NBA, the Knicks are currently tied for the second worst record in the league.

Yet, while it is early days, momentum is building. Supporters of EICDA are like experienced (ancient?) Knicks fans like me who are old enough have waited 45 years (and counting) for a championship: they’re playing the long game.

 

GSB’s Take: It says here that the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act — or another carbon pricing bill that evolves from it — will:

  1. Pass the House, with mainstream Democrats, progressives and a few Republicans coming together to push it across the finish line.
  2. Find a Republican co-sponsor by June. Who will it be? My guess is Utah’s Mitt Romney.

When EICDA will pass both houses of Congress and get signed by a President? That will happen well before the Knicks win the NBA Championship.

I know what you’re thinking: “Lew, that’s not going out on a limb — Knicks fans may have to wait another 45 years for a title and the planet doesn’t have that kind of time.” Fair enough. I will go big and say that a President will sign carbon pricing legislation within the next three years. 

To be clear, I’m not saying that THIS President will sign carbon pricing legislation — But A U.S. President will, and within three years time. The support of athletes like Jessie Diggins, Brent Suter and, I expect, many more, will help.

 


 

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The Best and Worst of Green-Sports, 2018

Eco-athletes became more of a thing in 2018 — and that’s a very good thing.

This statement is not data-based. I haven’t seen data on the number of athletes who engage on environmental issues.

Yet anecdotally, I can say that I spoke to more eco-athletes in 2018 than in any other year since starting GreenSportsBlog in 2013.

Given the dire climate news coming out of recent UN and U.S. government reports, the world needs this year’s eco-athlete “thing” to become a wave in 2019. But that is for another day.

Today, we bring you an eco-athlete-infused BEST AND WORST OF GREEN-SPORTS, 2018.

 

BEST GREEN-SPORTS STORY OF 2018

Leilani Münter, The “Vegan, Hippy Chick with a Race Car”

There are three great reasons why Leilani Münter, the “vegan, hippy chick with a race car,” is GreenSportsBlog’s Best Green-Sports Story of 2018. Münter…

  1. Signed A Well-Fed World and TryVeg.com to sponsor her ARCA series car for an eight race campaign
  2. Earned two top ten finishes
  3. Sampled vegan Impossible Burgers to 30,000 racing fans (they loved ’em!)

 

Leilani Munter Scott LePage

Leilani Münter, GreenSportsBlog’s “Best Green-Sports Story of 2018” (Photo credit: Scott LePage)

 

Thing is, no one would have blamed Münter if she had decided to give up her career as a driver in NASCAR’s ARCA Presented by Menard developmental series before this year.

Her strong commitment to only work with brands that align with her lifestyle and the issues that animate her — most notably veganism, animal rights and the climate change fight — has limited her ability to secure the sponsors and thus the funding necessary to enter races. In some years, Münter has competed in only one race; in others none at all.

But Münter did not quit, although she came close several times. The Minnesota native kept selling the idea that auto racing fans would react positively to vegan messaging — and food. “Some of the vegan brands I called on said ‘the NASCAR fan is not the right audience for us.’ I said ‘you don’t need to talk to vegans; they’re already converted. You need to talk to people who are not already in your world.’ Auto racing fans fit that definition.”

Her logic and persistence — she pitched sponsorship of a vegan-branded car for six years — paid off in 2018 when two non-profit organizations, A Well-Fed World and TryVeg.com, signed on as her lead sponsors to carry the Vegan Strong message. The deal allowed Münter to run an eight race campaign, which included an eighth place finish at the ARCA race during Daytona 500 week and a ninth place result at Michigan International Speedway.

More importantly, Münter and Vegan Strong teamed up at five of her eight races to fund the sampling of vegan Impossible Burgers in the Fan Zones to 30,000 fans. The fans ate ’em up, literally and figuratively.

“Many fans were skeptical at first and didn’t want to try the Impossible Burgers,” recalled Münter. “But once they did, they loved the taste and texture! And when you tell them it’s better for their health and for the planet, they got more excited.”

 

Leilani at Tent

Leilani Münter takes a photo of skeptical racing fans trying Impossible Burgers at the Daytona International Speedway Fan Zone in February (Photo credit: Natalka Lindstrom)

 

I am excited to see what Münter will do for encore to spread her vegan, along with her animal rights and climate change-fighting messages. On the latter, she is a big advocate of electric vehicles — her personal car is a Tesla, powered by solar panels on the roof of her house.

Münter says to expect an announcement about her 2019 plans in early January.

 

PAST WINNERS

2017: The Athletes of Protect Our Winters (POW)

2016: The Rio “Climate Change” Olympics Opening Ceremony vignette

2015: Pac-12 Conference

2014: Forest Green Rovers

 

MORE ECO-ATHLETES WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE IN 2018

I’m happy to say that Leilani Münter is not a lone wolf eco-athlete. She is joined by a veritable All-Star squad of sailors, skiers and more who spoke out and/or took action on the environment this year.

Team director Mark Towill and skipper Charlie Enright led the Vestas 11th Hour Racing Crew to a fifth place finish in the ’round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race. Sustainability is a core element of the team’s DNA. They communicated their ethos of a cleaner, healthier environment to thousands of fans at race stops via an interactive Exploration Zone.

Jessie Diggins, who along with teammate Kikkan Randall, won the gold medal in the women’s team sprint freestyle race at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Diggins also found the time to engage on the climate change fight. She supports a revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend program (CF&D), similar to the bill that was recently introduced with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. Diggins told the New York Times, “Saving winter is something I believe in…and I feel like we’re actually really at risk of losing it.” 

 

Jessie Diggins NYDN

U.S. Olympic cross country gold medal winner and carbon pricing advocate Jessie Diggins (Photo credit: New York Daily News)

 

Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen talked climate change in a March interview in ESPN The Magazine: “One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything. I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.”

Sam Martin, punter for the Detroit Lions and an advocate for renewable energy, helped broker a deal that resulted in new solar installations at Ford Field and the club’s nearby Allen Park training facility. North Carolina-based Power Home Solar approached the team through a preexisting partnership with Martin and his Sam Martin Foundation,

Milwaukee Bucks point guard Malcolm Brogdon and four other NBA players announced the launch of Hoops₂Ojoining the fight for access to clean water in East Africa. Staying in the Beer Capital of the U.S., Brewers’ pitcher Brent Suter penned an OpEd urging action on climate in Fast Company. 

 

GREENEST NEW STADIUM OR ARENA OF 2018

Audi Field, D.C. United

It took D.C. United a quarter century to build its own, soccer-specific stadium. Audi Field sure looks like it was worth the wait as the 20,000 seat, $500 million stadium earned LEED Gold certification when it opened in July. Five months later, it added another honor by being named GSB’s Greenest New Stadium/Arena of 2018.

Audi Field drew our attention for a number of reasons, including:

  • The rooftop solar panel installation that provides roughly one million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to offset nearly one third of the stadium’s electricity usage
  • Nearby access to D.C. Metro system’s green line train
  • An advanced, energy-efficient building envelope/skin
  • A storage vessel that collects rain water underneath the building. When it rains, water drains under the pitch into the vessel where it is slowly released so it doesn’t go into the nearby Anacostia River.

 

Audi Field

A packed Audi Field during the national anthem on opening night (Photo credit: WTOP/Noah Frank)

 

Fiserv Forum, the new home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, deserves honorable mention. On track to receive LEED Silver certification, the downtown arena is the world’s first bird-friendly sports and entertainment venue, thanks in part to a collaboration with the American Bird Conservancy.

 

PAST WINNERS

2017: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United

2016: Golden1 Center, Sacramento Kings

2015: CHS Field, St. Paul (MN) Saints

2014: Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco 49ers

 

BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD OF 2018

TIE: Philadelphia Eagles, Super Bowl LII Champions and Atlanta United F.C., Major League Soccer’s 2018 Title Winners 

The Eagles checked the on-field box for their Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Field Court of 2018 award when they captured the franchise’s first Super Bowl in dramatic fashion, as backup QB Nick Foles outdueled Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, 41-33. Off the field, the Eagles became the first pro sports team to earn ISO 20121 certification for integrating sustainability practices into their management model. Among other things, the team:

  • Deployed edgy, humorous billboards that encouraged support for GO GREEN, the Eagles’ long-running fan-facing environmental program on Lincoln Financial Field’s concourses, ramps, and yes, even the restrooms.
  • Installed an interactive LED screen at the NovaCare Complex, the team’s practice facility down the street from “The Linc”. “It shows our employees how much energy our solar panels and wind turbines are producing every day, how much we recycle, and more,” said Norman Vossschulte, the Eagles director of fan experience.

And, just before we went to press, the Eagles announced that Lincoln Financial Field earned an upgrade from the US Green Building Council to LEED Gold status — it had qualified for LEED Silver in 2013.

 

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles

Sustainability-themed signage on display at Lincoln Financial Field (Photo credits: Philadelphia Eagles)

 

 

Atlanta United secured its spot on GSB’s Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Field podium by winning the MLS Cup trophy in only its second season of play. The “Five Stripes” knocked off the Portland Timbers 2-0 on Saturday night.

The team’s green cred is also championship caliber. After all, they play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the world’s first LEED Platinum pro sports stadium, sharing it with the NFL’s Falcons. Stadium management uses its massive, wrap-around scoreboard to share the green story with fans, 73,019 of whom showed for MLS Cup, the largest crowd in league history.

 

M-B Stadium

Green messaging greets fans of Atlanta United, the newly-minted MLS Cup champion, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

PAST WINNERS

2017: Golden State Warriors

2016: Cleveland Indians

2015: New England Patriots

2014: Ohio State University

 

GREEN-SPORTS GREENWASH OF 2018

Eco-Sailor Sir Ben Ainslie Signs Title Sponsor Deal with Fracking and Chemical Company Ineos

Sir Ben Ainslie is the most decorated sailor in Olympics history. As skipper of Land Rover BAR, the British entrant in the 2017 America’s Cup, he also won deserved plaudits for making environmental sustainability, in particular ocean health, a core value of his team.

One thing Sir Ben did not win was the 2017 America’s Cup, despite spending in the neighborhood $135 million over the four-year cycle. By some estimates, it will cost as much as $175 million to mount a legitimate campaign for the 2021 Cup.

So when British fracking^ and chemical company, Ineos, and its founder Jim Ratcliffe, offered Ainslie $153 million to fund the lion’s share of his 2021 Cup quest, Sir Ben had a choice: Take the money and risk being labeled a greenwasher, or keep his good name and his well-earned global reputation as an eco-athlete among fans, competitors, sponsors and more.

He chose Ratcliffe’s fracking money.

 

Ainslie Ratcliffe

Jim Ratcliffe (l), CEO of Ineos, with Sir Ben Ainslie (Photo credit: Toby Melville/Reuters)

 

Not surprisingly, GreenSportsBlog chose Sir Ben for Green-Sports Greenwash of 2018.  

And it wasn’t close for second place.

 

PAST “WINNERS”

2017: Super Bowl LI, Houston*

2016: Super Bowl L, Santa Clara, Super Green But (Virtually) No One (Outside of the Green-Sports Ecosystem) Knew About It*

2015: College Athletics Departments That Talk a Good Green Game But Took Koch Brothers Sponsorship Dollars

2014: Sochi Winter Olympics

 

Fracking (also known by its more technical name, hydraulic fracturing) is a process by which large amounts of water and sand, combined with often hazardous chemicals, are injected, at high rates of pressure, into rock formations to fracture surrounding material for the purpose of extracting oil and gas. Its negative environmental and health impacts are legion, many of which would’ve concerned pre-Ineos Sir Ben. These include contamination of groundwater, large volume water use in water-challenged regions, methane pollution which exacerbates climate change, exposure to toxic chemicals, and fracking-induced earthquakes.
* 2017 and 2016 designation was titled “GREEN-SPORTS MISSED OPPORTUNITY OF THE YEAR”

 

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Brent Suter, Milwaukee Brewers Pitcher and Climate Change Fighter

Milwaukee Brewers’ pitcher Brent Suter is not your typical major league pitcher.

He played his college ball at Harvard. His fastball, when he really airs it out, barely reaches 90 miles per hour in an era when 97-100 mph heaters are commonplace.

But what really sets the 29-year-old lefty apart from his peers is his interest in climate change and his willingness to speak up about it.

GreenSportsBlog, always on the lookout for eco-athletes, was pleased to read Suter’s OpEd on the urgency of climate action that appeared in a recent issue of Fast Company magazine. And we were even more pleased to be able to talk with Suter about his baseball career and his relatively newfound role as a climate change fighter.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Brent, thank you so much for talking with us today. I will get to your interest in the climate change fight in a bit. First, tell our readers how you got your start in baseball.

Brent Suter: My pleasure, Lew. We moved around a lot when I was a kid. Born in Chicago, moved to California when I was two, then to Atlanta when I was four and finally to Cincinnati when I was seven.

GSB: Were you a Cincinnati Reds fan growing up?

Brent: Oh yeah! When Ken Griffey, Jr. came to the Reds, that was THE BEST!

GSB: Was baseball your first love?

Brent: No doubt about it. I did play football and basketball as well — I was a role player in the latter. But baseball was always number one. I was primarily a pitcher but also played first base and centerfield.

 

Brent Suter 3

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brent Suter looks to apply the tag to a Kansas City Royals runner (Photo credit: Benny Sieu, USA Today Sports)

 

GSB: When you were in high school did you think to yourself, “Hey, I’m really good at this; I’m going to be a big leaguer,” or was it more like “Hopefully baseball can help get me into college”?

Brent: It was definitely more the latter. I wasn’t thinking big leagues when I was a kid or in high school. I did believe in myself, worked hard and enjoyed it. But my goal was to get into college.

GSB: Were you heavily recruited coming out of high school?

Brent: Not so much. Actually I had to sort of sell myself. I do remember going to a college showcase the fall of my senior year at which high school players try out for a bunch of recruiters. I threw harder than I ever did before. I had a video made and sent the tape, along with an email to the Harvard baseball coach. He loved it and sent an assistant down to Florida to see me pitch at another showcase. It went great.

GSB: Were you always looking to go the Ivy League route?

Brent: Not really. I always wanted to go to a good school and play baseball there. Harvard was the only Ivy League school I was in serious contact with and it turned out to be a perfect fit!

GSB: What did you study at Harvard?

Brent: Environmental science and public policy…

GSB: …What a great combination!

Brent: Absolutely! I love math and science. Got to learn about renewables, the policy implications of decarbonization and much more.

GSB: What got you into the environment, renewables and climate change?

Brent: I always had affinity and an appreciation for nature and the outdoors. But the big thing for me on climate change was seeing Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” while I was in high school. Say what you will about Al Gore from the political point of view, his film was able to communicate the serious reality of climate change in a way that inspired many, including me. Before seeing that film, I really had no idea about climate change.

GSB: It inspired me too! In fact, I was trained by Vice President Gore and his Climate Reality Project in 2012 to give the slide show presentation that was at the heart of the movie to community groups in my area. Back to your time at Harvard, how hard was it to balance your academic load and baseball?

Brent: It was challenging at times. You have to be so efficient with your time. That said, Harvard has tremendous resources and I met such an interesting, high quality group of people. It was a whirlwind but an incredible one at that. I loved Harvard and the connections I made there will last a lifetime.

 

Brent Suter 6

Brent Suter on the mound for Harvard (Photo credit: The Harvard Crimson)

 

GSB: Did you have a sense from early on at Harvard that you were on track for the big leagues?

Brent: Not at all. It wasn’t until after my junior year that I started to think pro ball might be a possibility. I was lousy as a junior but I had a strong Cape Cod Summer League season after that. And I backed that up with a decent senior year. Still I wasn’t on scouts’ radars so I went to a showcase for New England regional scouts in Amherst…

GSB: …I didn’t know these showcases existed.

Brent: Oh they’re a big thing all over the country. Anyway, the day of my showcase, it was really cold out and only two scouts showed up. And I was very sick. But somehow, I threw the best I ever had!

GSB: Kind of like Michael Jordan scoring 38 points in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals when he was sick with the flu?

Brent: I wouldn’t go that far but I guess I got the attention of at least one of the two scouts because the Brewers picked me in the 31st round of the 2012 draft.

GSB: Amazing! Where did you go then?

Brent: To the Brewers’ team in the Arizona Rookie League, made up mostly of high school prospects. I thought to myself, “Sheesh, I’m one of the oldest guys here!” And then things started to fall into place for me in some unusual ways.

GSB: Please explain…

Brent: Two days after I showed up in Arizona, a pitcher on the Brewers’ club on the next level up punched a wall in frustration and injured himself. So I got sent up to the Helena (MT) Brewers in the High Level Rookie League. I struggled at first but then turned it around. The next month, the Brewers’ team in Single A ball — the next level up — needed a pitcher for their stretch run. I got the call and was able to close out the championship game. That led to an invitation to the Fall Instructional League — that was a big deal. It seemed like I was always the right guy in the right situation. And that continued until I made it up to the big club.

GSB: Aside from being in the right place at the right time, how did you make it and stick in the big leagues with a pedestrian fastball?

Brent: Great question. One of my first days in rookie ball I realized I had a natural cut on the professional baseball which has lower seams than college baseballs.

GSB: I had no idea that was the case…

Brent: …Now I use that cut to elevate the ball over swings and thus miss the barrel of hitters’ bats as much as possible.

GSB: …Even if the speed isn’t blowing them away.

Brent: That’s right.

GSB: And that cutter put you in the Brewers’ starting rotation…

Brent: Eventually I became the club’s fourth or fifth starter. My approach is to attack the strike zone and give the team a chance to win the game every time I take the ball. I felt like I was starting to find my stride this year when injury struck. I suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in my pitching arm in July.

 

Brent Suter 7j

Brent Suter (2nd from right) with Milwaukee Brewers teammates (from left) Junior Guerra, Manny Piña, and Freddy Peralta (Photo credit: Milwaukee Brewers)

 

GSB: Which led to Tommy John surgery — in which a healthy tendon extracted from an arm is used to replace an arm’s torn ligament — which means a year-long rehab. How’s that going?

Brent: Rehab is going great and my arm feels strong. I’m working out five to six days a week and rehab three times a week. My goal is to make it back by August or September of next year…

GSB: …Which would put you smack dab in the middle of the stretch run to the playoffs. And, from afar, it seems like the Brewers are a great team to want to come back to.

Brent: Oh yeah! We really are a team that plays for each other; it’s a great group of guys. And this season we were were so close to getting to the World Series, losing to the Dodgers in seven games in the National League Championship Series (NLCS). So we have some unfinished business for sure!

GSB: Good luck with that! Now we know you’re interested in the environment and climate change. How did that turn into you writing an OpEd in Fast Company?

Brent: Since I’ve been in pro ball, I’ve wanted to play with a higher purpose in mind. Given my interest in climate and the environment since seeing “An Inconvenient Truth” in high school, and given the recent onslaught of extreme weather, it seemed natural for me to move in that direction. About a year ago I got involved with the Urban Ecology Center, a great nonprofit in Milwaukee. They work to return abandoned waste lands back to their natural, pristine states. Then they bring kids who don’t have access to nature out to the newly restored lands. Urban Ecology Center does an awesome and important job. I also connected with ECO, the environmental collaboration office of the City of Milwaukee.

GSB: What do they do and what is your role with them?

Brent: They are a small city government agency that is working to make Milwaukee a green hub, environmentally and economically. Their initiatives include Milwaukee Shines, which provides financing solutions for residential and business customers to reduce the up front cost of solar, and Milwaukee Energy Efficient (Me²). We’re just starting our relationship. I’ve filmed a short video with them and we have had some brainstorming sessions about everything we can do next season. I also wrote the article that ran in Fast Company for ECO. ECO had a relationship with the magazine and the next thing I knew, the article went live.

 

Brent Suter teamed up with the City of Milwaukee’s ECO initiative for this 50 second video

 

GSB: Did your Brewers’ teammates know about your interest in climate before the Fast Company piece? And if so what do they think?

Brent: Oh they all know about it! I mean, some people give me the “side eye” look and some good-natured ribbing when I would bring in reusable water bottles and tupperware. The truth is they really respect my passion for the environment and climate change. A couple of guys have really bought into it. Ryan Braun is one…

GSB: …The former National League MVP.

Brent: Exactly. And our manager Craig Counsell has been involved with Urban Ecology Center!

GSB: Craig Counsell seems like a guy who really gets it in a number of ways. Now are there any guys in the Brewers’ locker room who are deniers or skeptics on climate change? And how do those conversations go, if you even have them?

Brent: Oh there are a few. I’ve gotten into debates on climate with some of the guys. I find them both entertaining and frustrating. On the latter, I just find it is hard to change any minds. It doesn’t get ugly but we just don’t move the needle with deniers. But I think, in the big picture, the pendulum is starting to swing in the direction of sanity and science. And I want to play a part in continuing to move the conversation in the right direction on climate.

GSB: That’s great as the Green-Sports world is desperate for eco-athletes. Of course I hope your career lasts for a long, long time. But as far as your post-baseball career is concerned, does the environment and/or climate change figure into your thinking?

Brent: No doubt about it — 100 percent! I’m interested in environmental consulting, the renewable energy business. It’s early days in terms of my networking; I’ve talked with an environmentally-focused hospital cleaning company. There will be more to come.

GSB: Fantastic! I wish you the best with that, along with your rehab, and getting to the World Series — where hopefully the Brewers will play the Yankees! And, please, keep spreading the Green-Sports word.

Brent: You don’t have to worry about that!

 


 

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GSB News and Notes, Milwaukee Edition: Brewers Pitcher Steps Up to Plate on Climate Change; Bucks Open First Bird-Friendly Arena

Milwaukee is best known for being America’s beer capital. But, as today’s GSB News & Notes demonstrates, Wisconsin’s largest city is also an up-and-coming Green-Sports hub.

Brewers’ pitcher Brent Suter recently showed himself to be an eco-athlete to be reckoned with. He wrote an OpEd in Fast Company, urging Americans to unify around finding solutions to climate change. And Fiserv Arena, the brand new home of the NBA’s Bucks, opened its doors as the world’s first bird-friendly arena.

 

BREWERS PITCHER BRENT SUTER: SPORTS UNITES US, CLIMATE CHANGE SHOULD DO THE SAME

Brent Suter is a busy man this offseason.

The 29 year-old lefty pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery^ in August that repaired a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his elbow. Since recovery from this procedure takes a full year, the hope is that Suter will be able to rejoin his teammates for their stretch run to the playoffs next summer.

And, during breaks from his rehab regimen, Suter penned a thoughtful OpEd that ran in Fast Company’s October 31st issue.

In “Fighting climate change should make Americans come together to find solutions,” Suter noted that, while his Brewers failed in their bid to reach the World Series*, “There’s a bigger test ahead for us. It requires that we come together, just like we do with sports, to address the very real threats from climate change.”

He first went local, pointing out how climate change is very relevant to Milwaukee, citing a recent study that showed drought, heatwaves, and extreme weather associated with climate change will drastically reduce crop yields of barley, a key ingredient in beer.

Suter then widened his lens beyond Milwaukee and beer: “Flooding is on the rise throughout our entire state due to torrential rains, threatening our neighborhoods and infrastructure…These threats are becoming more frequent and formidable for all of America… [Last] month, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that we’ve got only 12 years to avert total climate catastrophe. And each week, it seems, new scientific and economic reports highlight the growing threats to industries and regions from climate change. Amidst these dire reports, communities around the country continue to bear the brunt of climate change in the form of hurricanes, storm surges, wild fires, and flooding.”

 

Brent Suter (Photo credit: John Fischer/CSM/Shutterstock)

 

In no uncertain terms, Suter said the world needs to aggressively take on climate change…yesterday: “We can’t keep kicking the climate action can down the road. We need to come together to acknowledge climate change and work together to take real action…We know that the excessive use of fossil fuels is making the climate change at a faster and faster rate that harms our way of life and negatively impacts our health, our economy, and our security. Reducing our overall energy use, making everything more energy efficient, and transitioning to renewable energy, then, are necessary steps for us to take.”

The Brewers southpaw offered three top-line climate change solutions that go beyond renewable energy and electric vehicles:

  1. Improved urban resiliency: Invest in cities and towns so they’re “better prepared to respond to the health, economic, and security risks from floods, storms, and heat waves. They’re getting hit hard now and need our help.”
  2. Transition to sustainable agriculture: Equip farmers and ranchers “With the most sustainable practices, so they can continue to feed the world in ways that are less water, pesticide, and carbon intensive.”
  3. Wise stewardship of natural capital: “Our forests are the lungs that allow us to breathe by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, and indiscriminate deforestation is just making the planet hotter, drier, and less inhabitable. Protecting and restoring this asset, then, should be our number-one priority.”

 

GSB’s Take: I’ve often heard that the complexity of the climate change issue is main reason there are few athletes who speak out about it. With this OpEd, Brent Suter clearly knocked the complexity canard out of the ballpark. I have no idea what Suter’s post-career plans are, but perhaps he should consider transitioning from eco-athlete to eco-politician.

 

FISERV FORUM, NEW HOME OF THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS, IS WORLD’S FIRST BIRD-SAFE ARENA

Here’s something that hasn’t been said in, oh, 40 years or so: It is an exciting time to be a Milwaukee Bucks fan!

Most of that energy stems from the nightly, “Holy Cow, did you see THAT?!” highlight reel moments delivered by Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka the Greek Freak. If you don’t believe me, check this out:

 

 

And now that management has provided the Greek Freak with a young, athletic, hungry supporting cast that includes sharpshooter Khris Middleton and point guard and eco-athlete Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks fans are downright giddy about one of the NBA’s most exciting and surprising teams this season. I know, I know — it’s early, but still…

The most recent example of the Bucks’ emergence? Last night’s 134-111 rout of the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in Oakland. Milwaukee is 9-2 and in second place in the Eastern Conference.

 

Greek Freak

Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka the Greek Freak, takes a free throw (with Steph Curry in the background) on the way to scoring 24 points in last night’s Bucks 134-111 road win over the Warriors (Photo credit: KABC TV San Francisco)

 

To top that off, Bucks fans get to watch their squad in the brand new Fiserv Forum, which is on track to receive LEED Silver certification. And thanks to a forward-thinking collaboration between the Bucks and Bird City Wisconsin, it is also a good time to be a bird in downtown Milwaukee.

That is because Fiserv Forum will be the world’s first bird-friendly sports and entertainment venue.

The 17,500-seat arena was designed to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s new LEED Bird Collision Deterrence credit, which was created in partnership with American Bird Conservancy (ABC). To earn the credit, a building must address the primary reasons that birds collide with buildings: reflective and see-through glass and lighting that disorients birds during their nocturnal spring and fall migrations.

 

Fiserv Forum

Fiserv Forum, the new, bird-friendly home of the Milwaukee Bucks (Photo credit: Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

 

Bird-friendliness was built in to Fiserv’s Forum’s design in mid-2015, when Bird City Wisconsin — a program of the Milwaukee Audubon Society — first approached the Bucks.

“Bird City Wisconsin came to us three years ago to educate us on migration and best practices,” said Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin. “We were able to integrate many of their suggestions in the design phase of the project.”

Populous, the award-winning architectural firm that designed Fiserv Forum, was also on board, according to Senior Associate Heather Stewart: “When glass or other glass-like materials are employed in venue design, it’s vital to balance insulation and reflectivity to create an ideal environment both inside and out, for people and for local wildlife. We are proud to hear that other sports venues are looking toward Fiserv Forum as the new standard for bird-friendly design around the globe.”

Why does this matter? Because up to one billion birds die annually after colliding with glass in the United States. Scientists estimate that this likely accounts for five to ten percent of all birds in the U.S. and is a contributor to significant declines in bird populations across North America.

“The Milwaukee Bucks’ bold decision to build the world’s first bird-friendly arena speaks volumes about the ownerships’ character, concern for the environment, and desire to be a part of a green community,” said Bird City Wisconsin’s former director Bryan Lenz, who recently joined ABC as its Collisions Campaign Manager. “The Bucks stepped up for birds in a way that no sports franchise ever has.”

 

GSB’s Take: That the Bucks and Fiserv Arena stepped up on bird conservation casts in sharp relief the failure of the Minnesota Vikings to do the same. Bird conservation advocates and architects let team owner Zygi Wilf know, during the planning phase of what would become US Bank Stadium, that the building as designed would be hazardous for birds. Sadly, the team decided not to make the investment in bird collision deterrence. Not surprisingly, the stadium, which opened in 2016 and is located in a highly-trafficked portion of the Mississippi Flyway, has a significant collision problem. Click here for a link to a December, 2017 GreenSportsBlog story on the US Bank Stadium-bird collision issue.

 

 

 

^ Tommy John surgery is a procedure in which a healthy tendon extracted from an arm (or sometimes a leg) is used to replace an arm’s torn ligament. The healthy tendon is threaded through holes drilled into the bone above and below the elbow.
*  The Brewers reached the National League Championship Series where they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 


 

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