Braun’s competitiveness? It all comes from mom

May 9th, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- If then-Brewers scouting director Jack Zduriencik wondered about the genetic basis for ’s competitive streak, he found out the night the Brewers introduced their 2005 first-round Draft pick to the Miller Park faithful.

It was June 25 of that season, the night Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks each hit their first Major League home runs in a win over the Twins at Miller Park. Braun signed his first pro contract earlier in the day, then watched the game from a suite with his mother, Diane, his father, Joe, and club officials. Zduriencik happened to learn that Diane Braun, besides literally being a brewer -- she had a long career at Anheuser-Busch -- was a marathoner, and Zduriencik mentioned offhand that had he known, he would have reserved a spot in the Sausage Race.

“Not knowing anything about Milwaukee, I said, ‘The what?’” said Diane Braun, who has 12 marathons on her resume, including the prestigious Boston Marathon.

The racing sausages were well-established as a staple of a day at the ballpark in the Brew City by then, beginning with their appearance on the County Stadium scoreboard in the mid-1990s and the occasional “live” appearance beginning in June 1993. In 2000, the live mascots raced on the field every day, and in 2005 there were four of them -- bratwurst, Polish sausage, Italian sausage and hot dog (the chorizo didn’t debut until 2006).

Zduriencik explained it all.

“She grabs my arm,” he said, “and goes, ‘I want in!’”

So, the Brewers made it happen. They found shorts and socks and running shoes that fit, and Zduriencik accompanied Diane down to the tunnel in the left-field corner, where the sausages warm up for the race, which now takes place after the sixth inning.

Any number of other family members have run it over the years -- Braun’s wife, Larisa, is among them. Even some players have taken part, including Hideo Nomo and Geoff Jenkins.

Diane Braun got her shot as the bratwurst that night. Racing against the college-aged veterans of the race who participate daily, she finished fourth.

“She was pumped up about it,” Ryan Braun said. “It was the first time any of us had spent any amount in Milwaukee, and her running in the sausage race was one of the more memorable experiences of that day for me. If it was a longer distance, that’s her specialty.

“Had it been two laps around the warning track, I’m very confident she would have won the race.”

As it was, fans in the stands did not hold back in their criticism of the performance.

‘I brought up the rear so bad that the rest of them had finished and I was just rounding home plate,” Diane Braun said with a laugh. ‘My only goal was to stay upright.”

Up in the suite, her son watched with a smile. Mom played a significant role in his baseball development, Ryan Braun said, including one notable construction project when Ryan was about 14 years old and younger brother Steve was 12. It was Diane Braun who built them a full-sized batting cage in the backyard of their Southern California home, a popular place for neighborhood kids and future high school teammates.

And it was Diane Braun, according to Ryan, who kept the boys focused on school. Ryan Braun eventually turned down baseball scholarships to Stanford and Cal and instead went to the University of Miami on an academic scholarship.

“I grew up with the most incredibly loving and supportive parents I could ever imagine having,” Ryan Braun said. “My mom set the bar almost impossibly high for what it is to be an incredible parent, and I strive to be half the parent to my children that she was to me.”

Ryan and Larisa have two children of their own, with a third due May 24. But the memories of that first night at Miller Park remain clear.

“I remember feeling enormous pride,” Diane Braun said. “It’s amazing to see everything your child has worked for come to fruition.”