MILWAUKEE – The snow was falling and temperatures were dropping, but outside of Miller Park, Brewers fever was rising Thursday night.
News that Ryan Braun would not be suspended 50 games for violating baseball’s banned substance policy spread quickly around Milwaukee earlier in the day and especially outside the stadium, where fans were lined up awaiting the chance to buy single-game tickets when they go on sale Saturday morning during the team’s annual “Arctic Tailgate” event.
Huddled around a makeshift campfire, Madison resident Greg Schmidt was “ecstatic” over the news. He had doubts about he validity of the tests in the first place, but considering no player had ever avoided suspension under baseball’s testing policy, he had been bracing himself to start the season without the reigning National League Most Valuable Player.
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“The fact that nobody else ever beat it definitely puts a doubt in your mind, but I wasn’t going to doubt the guy,” Schmidt said. “I kept an open mind, a hopeful mind might be the better way to say it.”
Also trying to keep warm was Lance Farber of Milwaukee. He expects Braun to get a rousing ovation when the Brewers open the season April 6 at Miller Park. On the road, however, it might be a different story.
Farber wasn’t confident that Braun would escape suspension but is happy that he’ll be in uniform when the season opens and, like many, wonders how the results of a confidential testing process were leaked into the public.
“Somebody screwed up,” Farber said.
Downtown, fans at local watering holes were toasting arbitrator Shyam Das’ decision with pints of Milwaukee’s finest.
At the Old German Beer Hall on Old World 3rd Street, bartender Greg Brundage, was somewhat surprised Braun beat the rap, considering no player previously had done so.
But he thinks Braun’s name, regardless of the ruling, will now be mentioned when people discuss steriods testing in baseball.
“Given the fact that he is the only one to win an appeal, this will be brought up for many years to come,” Brundage says. “As a result, Braun’s name will forever be tied to steroid testing.”
Having Braun back in the lineup helps make up for the loss of Prince Fielder and puts the Brewers in perspective for another successful season and even the potential for another NL Central title.
“It puts them in position to take the Central again with another 90-plus win season,” Brundage says. “Without him, the middle of the batting order would have been badly exposed.”