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Braun debuts, makes father and son's day

Brewers outfielder has bat slip out of hands, allows Army vet to keep it after 'incredible effort'
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

PHOENIX -- Ryan Braun finished the day with a strikeout and a walk. Jim Gallagher had two skinned knees and a keepsake.

Braun, the Brewers' left fielder, played his first Cactus League game Friday and provided only one highlight courtesy of Gallagher, an Army veteran from nearby Goodyear, Ariz., who attended the game with his son. Wearing a Carl Yastrzemski Red Sox jersey -- No. 8, just like Braun -- Gallagher half-tumbled, half-dove over the railing along the third-base line to retrieve Braun's bat after it slipped away and sailed through the air in the fourth inning. Gallagher quickly turned the bat over to Brewers third-base coach Ed Sedar, but Braun waved and signaled Sedar to give it back.

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PHOENIX -- Ryan Braun finished the day with a strikeout and a walk. Jim Gallagher had two skinned knees and a keepsake.

Braun, the Brewers' left fielder, played his first Cactus League game Friday and provided only one highlight courtesy of Gallagher, an Army veteran from nearby Goodyear, Ariz., who attended the game with his son. Wearing a Carl Yastrzemski Red Sox jersey -- No. 8, just like Braun -- Gallagher half-tumbled, half-dove over the railing along the third-base line to retrieve Braun's bat after it slipped away and sailed through the air in the fourth inning. Gallagher quickly turned the bat over to Brewers third-base coach Ed Sedar, but Braun waved and signaled Sedar to give it back.

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"That was an incredible effort," Braun said. "If ever somebody deserved a bat that almost went into the stands ... he earned that bat."

Within minutes, another fan offered to buy the bat, but Gallagher declined before the man could mention a price. He gave it to his son, Joe, a straight-A student at Phoenix North High School and a White Sox fan.

It was a rare occurrence. Braun's bats are slathered in pine tar, and he remembers only one or two other instances of one slipping from his hands and helicoptering into the stands.

"I saw the bat coming at us and I thought, 'I'm going to reach for it and try to grab it,'" Gallagher said. "It was too far out, so I kind of dove. I acted like I was falling over the side. It was intentional, yeah. Look, my footprints are way out there."

He added with a laugh: "My son was kind of embarrassed."

They decided the bat will hang on Joe's bedroom wall.

"Tell him thank you," Jim Gallagher said. "Tell him we are now going to follow the Milwaukee Brewers."

Asked about his schedule moving forward, Braun joked, "I'm good" following his two plate appearances Friday. In reality, he will take 20-30 more at-bats before the Brewers' April 3 season opener against the Rockies at Miller Park.

He expects to start again on Saturday against the Padres.

"It's a feel thing," Braun said. "See where I'm at, how I'm feeling. Listen to the body, see how I'm seeing the ball, what the approach feels like. Try to get different balls defensively that I feel like I need to get. Hopefully make a couple of throws in the outfield. Do some [running] first to third, hopefully score from first on a double. All of those things you want to get out of the way.

"Depending on how fast all of those things happen and how good I feel, we'll figure it out as we go."

"The goal every day is just to come out healthy. As long as you come out healthy and continue to get some reps defensively, see some pitches, it's all a process. ... We're three weeks away, so there's still plenty of time."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Milwaukee Brewers, Ryan Braun