MILWAUKEE – While Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun doesn’t think he can ever stop apologizing, he’s also ready for a new chapter in his baseball career.
It’s been a unique offseason for Braun, the 2011 NL MVP trying to make amends with fans and teammates following his 65-game suspension last year for violating Major League Baseball’s anti-drug agreement.
“I don’t ever know if I could apologize enough for what’s occurred, you know? I just continue to move forward and obviously I’ll be apologetic,” Braun said Sunday morning before an appearance at Brewers On Deck, the team’s annual offseason fan event.
Save for one heckler, Braun received a relatively warm welcome. At one point, he got a standing ovation when introduced on stage for a “Hollywood Squares” type game show.
“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,” Braun told reporters.
The event at a downtown Milwaukee convention center was Braun’s first major public appearance since his admission last year that he took performance-enhancing drugs and accepted his suspension in late July, abandoning claims he was innocent.
Since then, Braun has kept in touch with management and teammates. He’s made at least one low-key appearance for a charity, and spoke to the media the day before Thanksgiving at a food drive at Miller Park.
“I’ve been hanging out with him. It’s all good. I think he’s just ready to move on like we all are,” catcher Jonathan Lucroy said.
Braun said he thinks he’s called every suite holder and many season-ticket holders, and he said he had one “really challenging conversation.”
It matters what people think, he said.
“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,” he said. “I deeply regret it. I wish I could change it.”
Despite all that’s happened, there were still a fair number of fans wearing No. 8 Braun jerseys.
When asked his first question on the mock game show, a heckler from the audience yelled “You know he’s lying.”
Braun ignored the jab but played it off his next time up.
“As a fan so graciously pointed out, I’ve gotten in trouble in the past for not being completely forthcoming,” Braun said.
Manager Ron Roenicke said it was important for Braun to build his relationship with fans the community, though getting back to the level of interaction and acceptance from before the suspension won’t “happen overnight.”
“He’s served the penalty Major League Baseball has come up with, and hopefully that’s beyond what we need to address now,” Roenicke said.
Suspension aside, a thumb injury also limited Braun — part of a litany of injuries that hit the Brewers. Braun hit .298 with nine homers and 38 RBIs in 61 games, by far the worst production of his career.
That was in left field. This year, he’s moving to right. The Brewers are realigning their outfield following the trade of Norichika Aoki to Kansas City and the emergence down the stretch of rookie Khris Davis in left.
Braun isn’t worried about a drop-off in production.
“No, I think I’ll be better than I’ve ever been. Very confident in that,” he said.