MILWAUKEE — Alex Hall is a 22-year-old catcher from Australia who was playing cards on Thursday afternoon in Appleton, Wis., at the home of the Brewers’ High-A affiliate. He is the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ third-string catcher — or least he was the third-string catcher, until the Brewers’ vice president of Minor League operations, Tom Flanagan, tapped Hall on the shoulder.
“I thought, ‘Oh, this can’t be good,’” Hall said.
He was summoned to the office of manager Joe Ayrault, who informed Hall that he was going from A-ball to the big leagues.
“I actually thought it was a prank,” he said.
No joke — the Brewers were in a pinch and needed a catcher. About 100 miles south at American Family Field, they were already well into batting practice when Omar Narváez reported feeling under the weather. He took a rapid test for COVID-19, then a confirmatory test.
The Brewers had two other catchers on the 40-man roster in Alex Jackson and Mario Feliciano, but they were in Durham, N.C., with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. Double-A Biloxi catcher Jakson Reetz was in Pensacola, Fla. The first pitch of the Padres-Brewers game was two hours away.
So, the call went to Hall.
“This was the only player we could get here for the game, essentially,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
Hall woke family in Australia with early-morning phone calls during the drive to Milwaukee to inform them of his surprise callup. His dad was first, and reacted with the same gobsmacked silence, unsure whether his son was telling the truth. But it was real; Alex arrived in time for the game and wore No. 9.
Hall didn’t get to play in the Brewers’ 5-4 win over the Padres, but he did get to celebrate a walk-off win in the big leagues. And an old acquaintance, Peter Strzelecki, an undrafted free agent whose first professional appearance in Rookie ball back in 2018 was with Hall as the catcher, happened to make his Major League debut and pick up the win.
“I don’t even know if he remembers,” Strzelecki said. “It’s crazy. I’m happy for him.”