MILWAUKEE — The Ryan Braun mea culpa tour made one of its biggest stops Sunday at the Milwaukee Brewers’ On Deck fan festival at the Wisconsin Center and the outfielder was again apologizing for using performance enhancing drugs.
“I don’t know if I can ever apologize enough for what’s occurred,’’ Braun said during a press conference before he made a public appearance at the event. “I will continue to move forward and, of course, I’m deeply apologetic and wish I could go back and do things differently, but I can’t.’’
Braun was suspended 65 games July 22 for being tied to Biogenisis — a Florida clinic accused of distributing performance enhancing drugs. The right fielder denied using PEDs after failing a drug test during the 2011 playoffs. He was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball, but had his suspension overturned by an arbitrator. Braun later admitted to using PEDs and spent the offseason trying to rebuild his reputation with the Brewers’ fan base.
“I’ve always taken tremendous pride in being a role model,” Braun said. “I’ve made a huge mistake and I paid a great price for that mistake. ... I’ve basically let (Brewers fans) know that I made a mistake. I regret it and I wish I could change it.
“I recognize I don’t have the opportunity to do that so all I can do is focus on the present and focus on the future.”
For the most part, Braun’s offseason actions have been received well by fans. Lisa Rady of Milwaukee felt betrayed and disappointed when Braun was suspended and admitted using PEDs.
Rady, 39, said Braun’s actions last season took away from great seasons by shortstop Jean Segura and center fielder Carlos Gomez and he wasn’t a very good role model. But she said Braun’s offseason work is a good step in the process of mending fences.
“I think what he is doing is a good thing,” Rady said. “Coming (to On Deck) was a positive thing.”
Braun, who made phone calls to fans, season-ticket holders and Miller Park suite holders, said his interactions with fans have been extremely positive. However, Braun did have one especially challenging phone conversation with a fan, details of which he didn’t divulge.
“I made a mistake so I don’t expect everybody to be supportive or everybody to be understanding or understand where I was coming from,” Braun said. “Certainly, I didn’t anticipate the amount of support I have received.”
That support was on display Sunday.
“He made a mistake and did his time,” Lee Kleszczynski, 43, of Greenfield said. “He’s such a quality baseball player. I want to see him playing for us and not beating us.”
Kleszczynski, who went to On Deck with his two sons, said he’s a forgiving man, but added that if Braun uses PEDs again he’s probably done in baseball.
Kleszczynski lamented his children don’t have players who are role models like he and his father did.
“My feeling is that you’re supposed to grow up having great memories of your favorite ballplayers,” Kleszczynski said. “Everything is tainted from their childhood. Now, there is a cloud of uncertainty.”
Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said the healing process between his star slugger and the fan base will take time, but it’s important for Braun to have a good relationship with the community.
“I think it’s very important and it’s important to him,” Roenicke said. “He knows how much time and effort he has put into building a relationship with the fans in this community. He wants to get it back to that.
“I don’t think it will happen overnight, but I hope this is a step and while we go on they accept him as they used to.”