Braun: ‘There’s no blueprint’ for months ahead
On Sunday, Ryan Braun made his most public appearance since serving a 65-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. He took part in the Brewers’ annual fanfest in downtown Milwaukee, and here’s what he had to say before hitting the convention floor:
“I’m excited to be back. It’s always nice to be back. I think since my extended off-season began I’ve been back a few times, and everybody’s been extremely supportive. It’s great to be back. The weather’s a little bit colder than what I’m typically used to this time of the year, but aside from that it’s good to be back. Nice to see everybody and it’ll be nice to interact with the fans.
Has he had much interaction with fans?
“I’ve actually had a lot of interaction with the fans and everybody’s been great,” Braun said. “Everybody’s been incredibly supportive. I know last time I was here with you guys in November you asked about what I expected or anticipated. I don’t really expect or anticipate anything, so we’ll see how it goes.”
How will he handle reception elsewhere?
“I really don’t think about stuff like that very much,” he said. “I try not to focus on the things that are out of my control. With that being said I’ve already experienced this already in the past a couple times. Dealt with it in 2012, dealt with it for the majority of 2013, so I think I have an idea of what I’m getting myself into. As a competitor, in a really odd way I enjoy it. I think it’s fun. I think the more hostile an environment is the more enjoyable it is. I just enjoy that pressure. In a really unique way, I actually enjoy and look forward to it.”
On whether it matters what people think of him: “Absolutely. It really matters to me. I’ve always taken tremendous pride in being a role model. I made a huge mistake. I’ve paid a great price for that mistake. The opportunities I’ve had to reach out to season ticketholders, reach out to suiteholders and interact with people, I let them know that basically I made a mistake. I deeply regret it. I wish I could change it. I recognize I don’t have an opportunity to do that, so all I can do is focus on the present, focus on the future, look forward to this year and go out there and do the things that I’ve done in the past. Hopefully be one of the best players in the game and show them that I learned from my mistake, that I’ve learned from it and that hopefully have become a better person because of it.”
On calling season seatholders during his suspension: “It was great. I think it was a really unique experience. There were a lot of people who really didn’t believe it was me initially. Actually I think everybody was really supportive, which was cool. It was something I had no idea what to expect or anticipate, but I enjoyed it. It was fun.”
Braun said he had only one challenging conversation with a fan, who expressed anger about the suspension.
“It wasn’t surprising in any way,” Braun said. “I made a mistake, I made a big mistake. I don’t expect everybody to be supportive or everybody to be understanding or everybody to understand where I was coming from. Certainly I didn’t anticipate the amount of support I received.”
On his offseason: “Yeah, it’s been unique. Overall, it’s been extremely enjoyable. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed life more, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a better place. From that perspective it’s been beautiful. The wedding was amazing. I’m excited and looking forward to the next year while trying to learn from everything I went through this year.”
Has he ever been more eager to start a season?
“[In] 2011,” Braun said. “I know we were really excited about [Zack] Greinke and [Shaun] Marcum and the fact we had a really good team. I think for me personally, this is probably the most excited I’ve been to start a year.”
On moving to right field: “They just asked if I would be open to it, and I said absolutely. I told them I’d play anywhere other than third base because third base and I didn’t go very well together. I don’t expect it to be easy. In left field you get used to the ball coming off the bat a certain way and a certain direction. In Arizona I’ll have plenty of time to get my work in. It’s something I look forward to, but I expect it to be challenging.
“I’ve taken plenty of fly balls in right field actually. It’s a lot easier typically in right field than in left. Left field you are typically dealing with the shadows a little bit more, you deal with the sun coming down through the panels. For me personally, I think right field, especially at Miller Park, will present less challenges than left field does.”
Is today another step in building back trust with teammates?
“I don’t think of it that way,” Braun said, “but I’m sure it will be to some extent. For sure.”
Does he think there are more apologies ahead?
“I don’t ever know if I could apologize enough for what’s occurred, you know?” Braun said. “I just continue to move forward and obviously I’ll be apologetic. I wish I could go back and do things differently, but I can’t. All I can do is move forward and make the best of the opportunities presented to me.”
On the Alex Rodriguez situation: “I haven’t really paid close attention to his situation, so I don’t think it’s right for me to comment on it.”
On this year’s Brewers team: “I think the [Matt] Garza thing is extremely exciting. I’m excited about it. Hopefully it’s something that ends up working out for us [because] I think he could be a difference-maker. Facing him over the last few years, I think he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. One of the toughest at-bats. Great stuff. Very competitive — a fiery competitor, which is something I think could benefit the whole pitching staff and our whole team. Nori [Aoki] getting traded, I think year and year out there’s so much change, so much turnover in the roster. Khris Davis, I think, is going to be a really good player. The organization really believes in him and hopefully it will be a seamless transition there. Mark Reynolds is a guy I’ve known for a long time. We played together in the Fall League, and I’ve known him, actually, since college. So I’m excited to have him on the team and I think he’s going to be big for us, especially in our ballpark.”
Is he worried about production falling off without having an “extra edge?”
“No,” Braun said. “I think I’ll be better than I’ve ever been. Very confident in that.”
Asked whether he was willing to give more details of his timeline of PED use, Braun said, “No. Again, I appreciate there is still interest in this stuff, but I addressed everything in November when I was here for the charity event, and I think I addressed it pretty specifically in the statement that we gave [in August]. I think that addressed it pretty specifically as far as exactly what it was and when it occurred.”
What does he view as the biggest challenge ahead?
“I think the whole experience has been challenging,” Braun said. “I don’t think there’s any specific part of it that’s more challenging than another part. There’s no blueprint. There’s no specific, ‘This is how you deal with a situation like this.’ Not a lot of people have been through something like this. So, certainly, [this is] a unique and challenging set of circumstances, but I’ve never been afraid of a challenge. So I’m looking forward to everything the future holds.”
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