Braun wants to be a Brewer for life
Slugger discusses contract, Most Valuable Player Award and more
Ryan Braun is batting .312 with a league-leading 20 home runs, plus 52 RBIs and a .596 slugging percentage, yet he dispels any notion that he might be the best right-handed hitter in the National League, with Cincinnati's Joey Votto the best lefty.
"I think that it's really difficult to say that one player is better than everyone else in the league," Braun said. "[But] it's an honor to be even included in that conversation.
"I think something like that is earned over time, and over the past five or six years, I have been pretty consistent. I don't think I am at the point yet where I deserve that distinction. Maybe one day I would, but not yet."
The Baseball Writers' Association of America would seem to disagree, as its members voted to give Braun the 2011 NL MVP Award.
Braun said that although the award is an honor, it hasn't changed his modus operandi when it comes to baseball.
"I always look forward, continue to move forward. I never get too excited about the success that I've had in the past. This is a very humbling game, so the goal is to always continue to have success, and I guess all my goals at this point have become team-oriented," Braun, ever the team player, said. "It was so much fun to go to the playoffs last year. [The Brewers were] two games short of the World Series, and the goal is to get back to that point as a team."
And for Braun, this year being a team player means compensating for the absence of powerhouse Prince Fielder, who was signed as a free agent by the Tigers in the offseason.
"I think the biggest challenge is consistency and longevity, and I [place] a lot of value [on] trying to be as consistent as possible, as productive as possible and to help my team win regardless of who's on my team, who's hitting behind me or what the circumstances are," Braun said. "It certainly becomes more challenging when you lose a player as good as Prince is, but for me, personally, I still have a job to do, and I try to do it the best that I can.
"You can't replace a player like Prince with a single other player, so I think everybody collectively kind of tries to pick up the pace for what we've lost. But the biggest thing about Prince is the energy he played with every day. He brought so much energy to our team, and I think it is just as challenging to try to replace that as it is the production."
Braun attended the University of Miami in case baseball didn't work out, but he won't have to worry about that possibility now. Nevertheless, he stresses the importance of school.
"You never know if sports are going to work out or not," he said. "My parents always instilled upon me the importance of an education and taking my education seriously. And even if sports does work out for you, you still have life after baseball or whatever sport it is that you play, so it's really important to take your education seriously."
And even though Braun made it in sports, he still uses what he learned from his major in Business Management and minor in Sports Management on a daily basis.
"As much as anything else, it's nice to have an idea of what I am getting myself into as a baseball player," he said. "You have a lot of opportunities, marketing deals, endorsement deals, financial opportunities -- it's nice to be able to read through a contract and have an idea of what it actually says."
Speaking of contracts, last April, Braun signed with Milwaukee through the 2020 season, an extension of the seven-year deal he and the Brewers inked back in 2008. The deal will net Braun a grand total of $145.5 million and a chance to spend his entire career in a Brewers uniform.
That's something he would be happy to do.
"I was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers. They helped to develop me as a baseball player and as a person. I've certainly enjoyed my time in Milwaukee and have been very fortunate to be on two teams that played in the postseason," he said without an ounce of hesitation. "I truly believe in the organization and the depth, the future, of our organization."
And with Braun set to be the team's cornerstone, so do Brewers fans.
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.