- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

MILWAUKEE (AP) - A replica of his old County Stadium office looked so authentic to Bud Selig that it left the Milwaukee Brewers founder at a loss for words.

That might be the best sign yet that the Brewers did a pretty good job with its latest homage to the former team owner and newly retired baseball commissioner.

The “Selig Experience” attraction opens this week at Miller Park. It’s billed as a state-of-the art tribute to the franchise’s history and symbol of baseball’s rock-solid future in Milwaukee.

“Everything is really, really extraordinary. I can’t emphasize that,” said Selig, who got an early glimpse at the exhibit. “I am rarely speechless in my life. I was speechless.”

Officially, Selig’s title is now “commissioner emeritus” after a tenure of 22 1/2 years as baseball’s leader ended in January.

His place in Milwaukee sports history was cemented long before becoming commissioner.

“I can tell you that without Commissioner Selig, we don’t have baseball in Milwaukee,” chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger said, “and you can’t say that about too many other things.”

The Braves franchise left Milwaukee for Atlanta after the 1965 season following dwindling fan support. Wisconsin was left without a major league team until 1970, when Selig - who helped run his family’s auto dealership - spearheaded a group that acquired the expansion Seattle Pilots in bankruptcy court and moved them to the Midwest.

The Brewers were born.

No wonder Selig already has a statue in front of Miller Park, the retractable roof facility that replaced County Stadium in 2001. The Brewers regularly draw nearly 3 million fans a year, substantial for one of the majors’ “small market” teams. More than 1.5 million people live in the Milwaukee metropolitan area.

On a warm summer afternoon, it might seem like they’re all tailgating in the parking lots around the stadium.

Selig’s family ran the Brewers until 2005, when current owner Mark Attanasio bought the team.

Selig never left Milwaukee entirely while commissioner, dividing his time between New York and his hometown. The lifelong baseball fan sees a bright future for baseball in Wisconsin.

“The fact that the Brewers, in this size market, draw is a great testimonial to Milwaukee fans - Milwaukee and Wisconsin,” Selig told The Associated Press recently. “And that’s all featured in this Selig Experience, too. It couldn’t be brighter, no question about it.”

Selig marvels about the recreation of his office at County Stadium, complete with his old chair, a cluttered desk and the reliable rotary phone.

“When you walk in and see my office, it’s scary … because it looks exactly like it,” Selig said. He was consulted about a year ago about the concept for the project, but otherwise had little input into specific presentation plans.

That includes a multimedia show featuring a virtual Selig, a hologram-like technology that the team says is found in only a handful of exhibits around the world.

“It’s not something you normally associate with the commissioner who is probably, by his own admission, not the most technologically savvy individual,” Schlesinger said.

“I sort of like the bridging of his world with the modern world with a story that is timeless, connecting something I think kids would appreciate and find fascinating.”

Selig still has close ties to the team, which is trying to rebound from a tough 7-18 start. They’re 9-11 since manager Craig Counsell took over on May 4 for the fired Ron Roenicke.

As always, Selig watches a lot of baseball, including his hometown Brewers.

Outwardly rooting for them is another story.

“Well, I still don’t admit that,” Selig said when asked if he can safely cheer on the Brewers in retirement, “but you can assume that, how’s that?”

Once a commissioner, always a commissioner.

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