Photo by Howie Magner
He is still absent from the playing field, the Milwaukee Brewers clubhouse and, yes, the microphones.
His once-common image is now a rare sight among ad campaigns and the Miller Park concourse.
And his once-sacred jersey, as much a staple in Miller Park’s stands as beer in the fans’ hands, has become a canvas for creative dissension. The letters of his name are defaced to spell “FRAUD” and “B*A*N,” and finding an 8 with a slash through it isn’t such a hard 8 at all.
Yes, the Ryan Braun so many thought they knew and loved has become a scarce commodity in the land of the Brewers faithful. And yet, it still seems so hard to get away from him.
Word comes out that Braun wants to talk, and more stories come out about him not talking. A lawsuit against Braun surfaces, and more radio angst bubbles over the airwaves. And through it all, there’s more and more doubt about whether the saga will ever subside. He’s suspended from baseball, but still batting leadoff in the public discourse. So just where do you go to escape it?
Maybe back to the ballpark.
I took my father-in-law there Tuesday night, giving him the birthday gift of some really good seats. He could’ve spat into the Brewers’ on deck circle, were he far less a gentleman than he actually is. And Gary’s also the type whose joy comes from not only watching the game, but also seeing others enjoy it, particularly children.
So yes, he got a kick out of how the night went for the youngster in the seats next to us. Charlie ended up taking home three of the balls that batboys tossed into the stands, the perks of being a cute kid in a sea of so many adults. And when other kids came down the stairs in search of their prizes, Gary would try getting the batboys’ attention for them, too. The nearby veteran usher shared a sentiment with Gary: Neither grew tired of seeing a kid’s reaction after the receipt of a simple baseball.
But the night’s biggest highlight had nothing to do with who got a ball or what happened in the game. In fact, it played out before the game even started.
Bernie Brewer was on the field, splitting his time between the pregame ceremony guests and the railbird kids who clamored for his attention. Meanwhile, a young, thin, bespectacled child descended the aisle steps, but slowed as he neared the usher, unsure whether he should keep moving closer or retreat before hearing a reprimand. He eyed Bernie. He eyed the usher. The usher smiled and nodded. My father-in-law urged the newcomer forward.
Thus reassured, the kid slid past some empty seats and closer to Bernie, who’d now turned his back on the stands to interact with those on-field guests. Had the kid missed his chance? He moved the final few feet, squeezing between two bigger railbirds, and waited without a word.
Bernie turned around again. To our intrepid hero’s left, the taller child extended his hand, and Bernie gave it a good shake. Bernie gave his attention to the taller child on our hero’s right, and they exchanged a high five. Finally, our hero stuck up his own hand, and Bernie met it in mid-air.
The kid pirouetted back around and looked higher into the stands, surely seeking the eyes of his family. My father-in-law gave a thumbs-up as the kid raced back up the stairs. Unabashed smiles breached the faces of young and old alike.
Neither grin left room for any thoughts about Braun.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter, where I tweet as howiemag. Hear me chat with fellow MilMag staff on “No Revisions,” our new weekly radio show that airs noon Tuesdays on WMSE. And listen to me talk sports with Mitch Teich once a month on WUWM's "Lake Effect."