Braun: 'All I can do is move on' from suspension
Brewers outfielder speaks publicly for first time since 65-game PED penalty was levied
MILWAUKEE -- Speaking publicly for the first time since he was suspended in July, Ryan Braun on Wednesday lamented the "huge mistake" that led to his 65-game ban, and said he'd made amends with the sample collector whose character he impugned 19 months ago.
Braun did not provide any additional details about his specific violations of Major League Baseball's drug policy, which led to his suspension, but his mere appearance in Milwaukee, bundled up for a food drive outside Miller Park on the day before Thanksgiving, represented the latest step in what Braun himself says will be a long, difficult bid to repair his reputation.
"I wish I had the ability to go back and change things and do things a lot differently," he said. "Unfortunately, I can't do that. All I can do is move on, try to do everything in my power to earn people's trust and respect and support. I don't anticipate winning back everybody's support, but I certainly intend to do everything in my power to do that.
"I won't stop trying."
Before he faced a bank of microphones on Wednesday, most of Braun's efforts had been of a smaller scale. In August, he apologized over the phone to Brewers coaches and teammates and sent letters to a variety of baseball officials, including Commissioner Bud Selig. In September, Braun personally called some Brewers season-ticket holders to apologize, and visited the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, one of the nonprofits with which he had worked extensively.
On Tuesday, Braun and fiancée Larisa Fraser had dinner at the home of Dino Laurenzi Jr., the sample collector whom Braun criticized in a February 2012 press conference after Braun had successfully appealed a 50-game performance-enhancing drug suspension.
"We had some really good conversations," said Braun, who said he made no payments to Laurenzi. "We've made amends, and I think we're both excited to be able to move forward and put this behind us. …
"I'm not going to get into too many details other than to say it was an incredible experience. It was extremely kind and gracious of them. They're really special people and I appreciate them giving me the opportunity to go to their house and have a conversation in person. I wish that I could change it. I wish that I hadn't said anything about him. I wish I knew more at the time I said what I said. But he was really a special person and his family was a special group of people."
Asked what prompted him to go after Laurenzi in the first place, Braun said, "I'm not really going to get into too many specifics. I wish that I hadn't done the press conference. It was a big mistake. I deeply regret having done it, and a lot of the things that I said that day.
"But again, all I can do is move forward, and in an effort to do that, I'm not going to get into too many specifics. I really don't think that it does anything too positive or productive for me, for the team, for the game of baseball or anybody else. And in an effort to move forward, I'm not going to discuss that subject."
In that February 2012 press conference, Braun referred to MLB's drug-testing protocol as "fatally flawed," a charge from which he backed away Wednesday.
"Like I said, I greatly regret having done that press conference at all," Braun said. "My opinion on a lot of those things has definitely changed."
Braun referred repeatedly to the lengthy written statement he released in August, in which he admitted taking a "cream and a lozenge" to recover from injury during the 2011 season, triggering the positive test that October that led to the suspension and then his winning appeal on the grounds that Laurenzi improperly handled Braun's urine sample.
A key question that was not answered in Braun's written statement -- "What exactly did you take, and did you knowingly take it?" -- remained unanswered Wednesday. Braun also would not specify the injury that prompted his PED use, arguing that would be tantamount to "going backward."
He also would not comment on whether that suspension or the one this year should invalidate his 2011 National League Most Valuable Player Award or disqualify him from future Hall of Fame consideration. He declined to share his thoughts on his chances to make another All-Star team or his reaction to the unprecedented storm of criticism from fellow Major Leaguers -- not to mention Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a former business partner and friend.
"I actually haven't really read, paid attention or watched anything," Braun said. "But I understand people being disappointed, people being upset and people reacting emotionally. I don't fault anybody for being upset. I don't know specifically what many people said, but I don't fault anybody for being upset or disappointed."
He added: "I don't think about those things, I really don't. I'm getting married here soon. My focus is on that and doing everything that I can to come back next year to be the best player I can be."
Will he will be the same player without performance-enhancing drugs?
"I think I will be better," he said. "I should be better."
Would he consider restructuring the nine-figure contract extension he signed in 2011, when Braun was the focus of the club's marketing efforts?
"The Brewers have been incredibly supportive, the entire organization," Braun said. "My teammates, everyone has been incredibly supportive. I can't thank [principal owner] Mark Attanasio enough for his support. I fully intend to do everything in my power to be the best player and person that I can be moving forward."
Braun said he remains unsure about how Brewers fans will receive him on Opening Day, but he found a friendly audience on Wednesday morning while greeting those who braved the cold to donate nonperishable food items to the Hunger Task Force.
Braun and Fraser are to be married on Dec. 7. Brewers pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training on Feb. 15, with position players to follow on Feb. 21.
"Obviously, the whole thing is a huge regret," Braun said. "It was a huge mistake. I wish that I hadn't done it. I wish I could go back and do a lot of things different. I don't think I could specifically pinpoint one thing that I regret more than anything else, I regret all of it. I wish I could go back and change it, but I can't do that."