- Associated Press - Saturday, February 25, 2012

PHOENIX (AP) - His 50-game suspension and months of anxiety lifted from his shoulders, Ryan Braun carried only an equipment bag containing his bat and glove.

No speeches or suspicions on this day.

Braun took batting practice, shagged fly balls in the outfield and ran the bases like a little kid, relishing every second in the sun.

Back on the field. Back where he belonged.

“It was a lot of fun,” Milwaukee’s outfielder said Saturday following the Brewers’ first full-squad workout this spring. “I had a lot of fun today, just being around my teammates and being on the baseball field and getting to play baseball was nice. It was a lot of fun.”

One day after he vehemently defended his innocence and integrity in the aftermath of his suspension for a positive drug test being overturned by an arbitrator, Braun was finally able to put the turmoil behind him.

It was business as usual. It was baseball _ at last.

Following a morning meeting during which manager Ron Roenicke laid out his expectations for the defending NL Central champions, Braun headed out of the clubhouse and was greeted on the sidewalk by a large contingent of Milwaukee fans, who cheered and applauded.

“Atta boy, MVP,” yelled one.

“Keep your head up,” said another.

Braun smiled and said thanks as he passed inside metal barricades keeping the fans at a safe distance and walked toward a field adjacent to Maryvale Ballpark to get ready for the 2012 season, one he and the Brewers weren’t sure would begin with him in the lineup.

Following the two-hour workout, Braun was mobbed for autographs. With two security guards asking the crowd to give him room, he spent 20 minutes talking with fans and signing as many bats, balls and photos as he could before jogging back inside to more applause.

When he got his locker, a member of Milwaukee’s media relations staff informed reporters the 28-year-old would answer a few “questions only about baseball.”

Braun said he was touched by the reception.

“It felt incredible and I truly appreciate everybody’s support, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why I’ve been able to make it through this challenging situation,” he said. “That truly meant a lot to me. It was really cool.”

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