MILWAUKEE — If there were any questions as to how the fans at Miller Park would welcome back Ryan Braun, they were answered quickly on Monday.
Playing in his first regular-season game since his 65-game suspension, Braun received a standing ovation prior to his first at-bat from the 45,691 on hand. If anyone was booing it was hard to tell, as the cheers were so loud.
Braun swung and missed at two pitches and fouled off another before weakly flying out to left to end the bottom of the first inning in Milwaukee’s 2-0 victory over Atlanta.
"It was special," Braun said. "It was an emotional moment for me. I kind of allowed the adrenaline and the emotion of the moment to take over and had a pretty horrendous at-bat. Swung at some pitches that I typically don’t swing at. But something that I’m very thankful for and appreciative of."
While the positive response was largely expected — especially after Braun was cheered each time he came to the plate during the two exhibition games at Miller Park this past weekend — but a standing ovation could have come as a surprise to some.
The fans continued to applaud Braun each subsequent time he hit, as he went 1-for-4 with a run scored and a stolen base.
"I saw in Spring Training how the people who came down to watch us applauded for him," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "That’s what I expected. The people here are great. I’ve said all along, we’re a very forgiving people . . . and we should be."
Braun was making his first start since July 20 and his first appearance since July 21, as he accepted a 65-game suspension from Major League Baseball on July 22 for violations of the Basic Agreement and its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
"It’s special," third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "We all know what he went through last year, and that’s difficult for anybody. For the fans to do that, it was real special. It was nice to see."
Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig was on hand Monday to take in the game and was asked about the fans’ reaction to Braun’s return.
"Fans are fans," Selig said. "And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. He’s their hometown player, and it was a wonderful reaction, and I wish everybody well."
Braun admitted he was nervous prior to Monday’s opener, but he thought it was an anxiousness usually associated with Opening Day. He felt the mix of emotions was the reason why he chased a couple of pitches outside of the strike zone in his first at-bat against Braves starter Julio Teheran.
"I took probably the best batting practice of my life, so I knew that I had a lot of adrenaline going," Braun said. "This game is always about making adjustments, and my second, third and fourth at-bats I think I was able to control my emotions a little bit better and swing at pitches I should be swinging at."
With Opening Day behind him, Braun can move on to the next hurdle in his comeback, one that won’t be as seamless as Monday. That next step will come Friday when Braun plays his first road game, as the Brewers have two at home against the Braves before heading to Boston and Philadelphia.
"I’m not necessarily anticipating the welcome reception I got today in Boston or Philadelphia," Braun said. "But I’ve said over the years that any good player goes on the road and has fans cheer for you. Certainly it’ll be a little different reception than what I received here but I will say I don’t focus on those things. I focus on the things I can control to better prepare myself every day and help us win games."