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Braun calling fans to apologize for PED use

MILWAUKEE -- When Pat Guenther was told Ryan Braun was on the phone, he thought it was a prank. But then he took the phone and heard the voice on the other end.

"Right then and there, I knew it was his voice, based on interviews I've seen on TV," Guenther, owner of a popular sports bar near Miller Park, told Milwaukee's CBS 58. "I knew damn well it was his voice. … I said, 'What can I do for you?' He said, 'I messed up; in a nutshell, I messed up. I just want to reach out and say I'm sorry.'"

The Brewers outfielder, serving a 65-game suspension for his involvement with Biogenesis and performance-enhancing drugs, began phoning Brewers fans on Thursday and asked the team for additional names and numbers on Friday, indicating he's planning to phone more fans to say he's sorry.

Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger confirmed that Braun indeed requested contact information for season seat-holders and other fans, and has been calling some of them to apologize for using PEDs, which led to his season-ending suspension from Major League Baseball on July 21.

Schlesinger insisted that making the phone calls was Braun's idea.

"He wanted to apologize and hear what they had to say," Schlesinger said. "He didn't want any publicity; he just wanted some names and numbers. We did not filter the names we gave him, and we said, 'Ryan, we don't know what reaction you'll get. Some fans might be excited, some might be critical, and a lot of fans probably won't believe it's you.'

"He said, 'No, I don't want any filter. I don't want staged calls. I just want to call people.'"

It did not take long for word to spread that Braun was calling fans.

Guenther owns Kelly's Bleachers, a popular pregame and postgame stop for Brewers fans. He has been a season seat-holder for more than 20 years.

"Who hasn't made a mistake?" Guenther told the TV station. "People move forward. I think that's what Ryan is trying to do. He's moving forward. He has no other option. Be better, help his ballclub win games and win the hearts of Brewers fans like he has for many, many years."

Another fan, Wes Aldridge, told 620 WTMJ-AM that he received a call, too.

"I asked him point-blank, I said, 'Why a guy like you, that has all the talent in the world, why would you do something like this?'" Aldridge said. "And he said it was a mistake a friend of his had talked him into, and that he was really sorry for his actions."

Braun and Aldridge talked for about five minutes. Aldridge told the station he was not won over.

"I thought it took a lot on his part to call, because that's got to be a very hard thing to do," he said. "Did I necessarily believe him? No."

Schlesinger said Braun made 10-12 calls on Thursday and then asked for more names, so the Brewers supplied them.

"With 2.5 million fans, he won't be able to call every one of them," Schlesinger said. "But as long as he is comfortable making the calls and asking us for more names and phone numbers, we'll keep sending them."

Some of Braun's teammates, at Wrigley Field in Chicago to open a three-game set against the Cubs on Friday afternoon, said they thought it was a good gesture on Braun's part.

"I think it's great," said Jonathan Lucroy. "I think [calling fans individually] would help out a lot. People from Milwaukee are pretty forgiving, for the most part, so I think that's definitely a big step."

Aramis Ramirez said that the personalization of individual phone calls to fans means more than a general statement.

"I think that's the right thing to do," said Ramirez. "He knew he made a mistake, and that's what you're supposed to do when you make a mistake -- apologize to the people that you feel are important to you. ... When you call people directly, they respect that more than a [general] statement."

Meanwhile, Milwaukee's SURG Restaurant Group announced this week that it was ending its relationship with Braun immediately and closing a downtown restaurant bearing Braun's name at the end of this year.

SURG said 8-Twelve MVP Bar & Grill in Brookfield, Wis. -- the "8" representing Braun's uniform number and the "Twelve" for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers -- would remain open but would be renamed. The group plans to open a similar restaurant this year in Glendale, Wis.

Braun has been similarly dropped from endorsement deals by Kwik Trip (a Midwest convenience-store chain), Nike and others.

"He recognizes he has a lot of work to do to win people back," Schlesinger said. "There is a lot of skepticism, but all of [the fans who reported getting calls from Braun] said this is a good step, this is a cool thing that he is doing, but I don't think Ryan thinks just because he makes phone calls, everybody is going to be on board. But in the series of things he wants to do and needs to do, this is one of these next steps."

At some point, Braun will return to the public eye. The Brewers have begun the process of informing players and coaches of the details of their January "On Deck" fan event, and Schlesinger could not say yet whether Braun would attend.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Associate reporter Manny Randhawa contributed.

Milwaukee Brewers, Ryan Braun