For the first time since a 65-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs put Ryan Braun's career on hold and his reputation in shambles, the Milwaukee Brewers slugger set foot in Miller Park on Wednesday.
Manager Ron Roenicke confirmed Braun's visit with reporters before the Brewers' 7-0 win over the Chicago Cubs later in the evening, stating that Braun simply missed being around his teammates and that there was no ulterior motive behind the visit.
"He just came in to visit," Roenicke said, per of the Journal Sentinel. "He told me a while ago when we talked that he wanted to come in. He didn't want it to be a distraction. I told him it wouldn't be. So, he came in and I'm really glad he did."
Braun had not set foot in Miller Park since Major League Baseball announced on July 22 that the 29-year-old slugger had reached a "plea" deal of sorts for his role with the Biogenesis scandal and would sit out the remainder of the season. Before the announcement was made public, Braun held a private meeting to break the news to his team firsthand.
This time, the tone was much more jovial.
"He looked good," Roenicke said. "I think all the guys were really happy to see him. He was just in to say hi. He misses the game and he misses the guys, so he wanted to come in and say hi."
This marks the second time this month that Braun has slowly begun the re-integrate himself back into Brewers culture. The disgraced slugger called season-ticket holders earlier this month to personally apologize for his actions. Though he failed a drug test in 2011 for unusually high levels of testosterone, Braun vehemently denied any doping charges and even won an appeal of his initial 50-game suspension last year.
Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger told Milwaukee's WTMJ 620 that Braun was reaching out to make sure his mistakes didn't sour fans on the organization as a whole.
"He said, 'I'd like to call fans, but with an emphasis on ticket buyers, mini plan holders, reach out, apologize, listen,'" Schlesinger said. "We said, 'Great!' It was all his initiative. He didn't want publicity about it."
Will fans ever forgive Ryan Braun for his PED use?
The 2011 National League MVP will be eligible to return in spring training next year. While he will not be paid during his suspension, Milwaukee is still on the hook with Braun at least through 2020, with base salaries between $10 and $19 million in that period.
He finished the 2013 season batting .298 with eight home runs and 38 RBI in 61 games. This was the first time since his rookie season that he did not drive in 100 runs and just the second time in his career below the 30-home run plateau.
The Brewers, who were all but out of the playoff race before Braun's suspension, are 68-83 after Wednesday's win.
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