Ryan Braun grew up in Southern California. He went to College at the University of Miami (Fla.). But he has found a home in Milwaukee. Far from the sunshine and beaches, Braun has fit in with the upper Midwest, taking a special joy in doing what he can to make
Ryan Braun grew up in Southern California. He went to College at the University of Miami (Fla.). But he has found a home in Milwaukee. Far from the sunshine and beaches, Braun has fit in with the upper Midwest, taking a special joy in doing what he can to make the Brewers a factor in the National League Central.
He was part of the team that ended the Brewers' 26-year postseason drought in 2008. He hopes that before his days in Milwaukee come to an end, he can be part of the team that brings the Brewers their first World Series championship in the history of a franchise that was created out of expansion in 1969.
Braun discussed his Brewers ties in this week's Q&A:
MLB.com: With the Brewers battling for the division title, has that been rejuvenation for you and the fans?
Braun: Absolutely. I think we're far ahead of where we thought we would be as an organization. Talking to the front office and talking to our ownership group, we didn't think we would be this good this soon. So for all of us, it's exciting. I think it's certainly rejuvenating. It bodes well, obviously, for what we want to create. For any player, all you want's an opportunity to compete, right? You want to get to this point in the season, and ultimately, hopefully, a month from now and still be in a position where if you play well you can ultimately make it to the postseason.
MLB.com: The guys you came up with aren't here anymore. Do you ever think about the fact that you're still here?
Braun: I'm reminded of it pretty often. The turnover's pretty remarkable. In Spring Training, when Scooter Gennett left us to go to the Reds, the second-longest tenured position player was Domingo Santana, who came up with us in late August 2015. There's just constant reminders of how often there is turnover, how quickly that turnover can happen. It's pretty crazy to look around and realize how many new faces there are here.
MLB.com: Do you think maybe you can be one of those rare guys that can spend a whole career with one team?
Braun: I try not to think about it too much. I feel very fortunate to have spent the first 11 years of my career playing for a great organization in an incredible city with very supportive fan base, great ballpark. We're in an ideal position when it comes to travel. So there's a lot of things that I feel so fortunate to have been able to spend my first 11 years of my career in Milwaukee. Last year obviously, I was close to getting traded. When that happens, you take a second to reflect on everything. When it didn't happen, obviously, it makes me that much more appreciative of however much time I do end up spending here.
MLB.com: Sometimes when a guy gets mentioned in trade rumors that don't come true, they become bitter, feeling they aren't really wanted. You seem to be happy that nothing happened with you a year ago.
Braun: I'm in a fortunate position where I control my own destiny and there's only probably one, maybe two teams I would consider going to under any circumstances. Obviously, I do love it here. Both of my children were born in Milwaukee. I think that [general manager] David Stearns and [vice president and assistant general manager] Matt Arnold are doing a phenomenal job with the organization. There's a lot of really good young talent, and obviously, I've been through some really good times with this organization and some other times when we haven't been as good as a team. It would be more rewarding and fulfilling to ultimately be a part of our next good team for me than it would to go somewhere else and join a team that's already really good, because that process of becoming a good team is something that I really enjoy. Everybody here takes a lot of pride in helping us get back to a place where we're perennially competitive.
MLB.com: And there's always that idea of being on the Brewers' first World Series champion team.
Braun: I've been part of our last two playoff teams. Just the level of excitement and enthusiasm from our fanbase was so remarkable. To hear stories from people who had obviously been diehard fans for many years that hadn't seen a team get to the postseason gives you a better understanding of just how important and significant the Brewers' success is to the people who live in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin. Ultimately, being a part of the team that does eventually win a World Series for the Brewers would be a dream come true not only for me, but for everybody in this clubhouse.
MLB.com: You're a Southern Californian, Milwaukee's a little bit different life, but you've enjoyed it?
Braun: I've loved every minute of it. I think the people there are so special, the fanbase is incredible, and the weather there in the summer is phenomenal. Really for my 10, 11 years, we've been pretty consistently competitive, which makes the season that much more enjoyable, I guess, for any player, especially players as you get towards the back end of your career, you want to be on a team that has a chance to win. We're in that position now, and because we have so many young guys and so many prospects coming, I think we'll continue to be in this position moving forward. I'm just thankful for the opportunity to have been here for this long. I've enjoyed every minute of it and will continue to enjoy it for as long as I'm a Brewer.
MLB.com: When you look and you see guys like Troy Tulowitzki who came in about the same time as you, and was "the face of the franchise," only to be traded, does that give a sign that nobody is set, I assume?
Braun: It feels more rare now than ever before to have an athlete spend their entire career in one city. I think you just constantly see turnover, you see change. The game, obviously, has gotten so young but I think that leads to quicker turnover and quicker change. For that reason, obviously, I don't ever take my time here for granted, because you never know what will happen.
MLB.com: Has the new management team been an easy transition for the franchise?
Braun: Doug Melvin and Gord Ash and those guys did a phenomenal job laying the foundation, and I think they made a couple really good trades before the transition to David Stearns and Matt Arnold. Those guys have been great. I think they really have a vision for where we need to be, for what we need to do to get to a place where we're consistently competitive. If you look at all of the young players we have up here now, Orlando Arcia, Santana, Keon Broxton and then obviously a lot of guys we have coming up behind them, both position players and pitchers, I think we're set up well for the near-term and the long-term.
MLB.com: Not that you don't want to win this year, but do you feel just the experience for these young guys to feel what they're feeling now creates something to build off of regardless of what happens the rest of this year?
Braun: Absolutely. I mean, I think the goal is to finish it this year. I don't think there's anything to duplicate the experience, the pressure, the stress, the anxiety that everybody feels when you play meaningful games this time of year. I think there's nothing you can go through as a collegiate athlete or in the Minor Leagues to prepare you for this. I think that having gone through this experience right now is something that's going to tremendously benefit all of our young guys, hopefully for the rest of this year and certainly moving forward in their careers.
MLB.com: Who thought you guys would be the team making the moves to bring in the Neil Walkers of the world instead of getting rid of veterans down the stretch?
Braun: Nobody thought we would be in this position. We added players like Walker. Anthony Swarzak has been phenomenal for us. It's exciting.
Tracy Ringolsby is a national columnist for MLB.com.