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Brewers’ Braun hoping to win over fans in WBC
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. (AP) - Ryan Braun understands why many people are skeptical of him, given the way his name has twice been linked to performance-enhancing drugs.
He refuses to let it bother him.
On a sun-splashed field in Arizona, the Brewers slugger said that getting back to spring training has helped him deal with the swirling controversy, and that playing for the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic could help to convince some fans to give him a clean slate.
“Obviously, there’s been a lot of things I’ve dealt with over the last year and a half,” he said, “but I’m just trying to focus on the things I can control.”
After his MVP season in 2011, Braun tested positive for steroids during the playoffs. But he fought the case and eventually had his 50-game suspension overturned by an arbiter who discovered chain-of-custody issues in the handling of Braun’s test sample.
“You know, I think the longer you deal with something, the easier it becomes to deal with, if that makes sense,” he said. “Regardless of what the circumstances are, I’ve kind of lived this for the last year and a half, so I’m able to focus when I get on the baseball field, whether it’s personal issues or family issues or a situation like this. I just come to play.”
He’s certainly done that.
Last season, Braun led the league in homers with 41, was second in RBIs with 112 and finished third in batting with a .319 average, and nearly won his second straight MVP. He finished second to San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey in the voting.
Braun appears to be locked in this spring, too.
After going 2 for 8 with a homer in four games for the Brewers, he left camp to catch up with the U.S. team at the WBC. In the first of two exhibition games Tuesday, he went 3 for 4 and scored a pair of runs in a 4-4 tie with the Chicago White Sox.
The Americans open Pool D play Friday night against Mexico in Phoenix.
On Tuesday, any angst felt by fans over Braun’s connection to steroid use seemed to have washed away in the Arizona desert. Dozens of fans lined up along the fence line with balls, hats and jerseys that they hoped he would autograph _ and Braun dutifully signed many of them.
By John R. Bolton
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