Ryan Braun says he tunes out ‘creative’ barbs from fans
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com April 11, 2012 9:48PM
Darwin Barney is safe at second on Starlin Castro's fly out in the sixth inning. Making the late tag is Alex Gonzalez. Chicago Cubs lose to the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 in Chicago. | Sun-Times~Richard A. Chapman
Updated: May 13, 2012 10:34AM
Ryan Braun said he didn’t notice that oversized picture of his head with the two big muscle-bound arms coming out of either side that a fan held in the stands Monday night. Or any of the other signs in the bleachers directed at him.
The Milwaukee Brewers left fielder said he didn’t notice the constant boos and chants of “cheater!’’ and “MVP! HGH! PEDs!’’ the first two nights of this week’s series his Brewers played at Wrigley Field — the first road games he experienced since his positive drug test and subsequent, successful appeal over the winter.
But he knows this: The blustery, harsh reception he got from Cub fans prepares him better for the hostile road environments he’ll face than any other place could have gone for a first road series.
“Without a doubt, it’s probably the most, or one of the most, challenging environments to play in regardless of any extracurricular circumstances,’’ he said. “It’s never an easy place to play as a visiting player. They’re always loud, they’re always into the game, supporting their team, and they’re pretty creative.’’
Braun, who sat out Wednesday’s game because of tightness on the left side of his chest, seemed to do well tuning out the extracurricular “creativity’’ Monday and Tuesday nights — going 3-for-8 with a double, RBI and walk in a pair of Brewers’ wins.
“My focus has nothing to do with fans’ reaction. It’s about playing the games,’’ said Braun, who expects to return to the lineup Thursday as the Brewers try to complete a first-ever four-game sweep of the Cubs.
“People ask about it, but I’ve never come to Chicago and had them cheer for me. I don’t think any good player’s ever gone to a rival [ballpark] and had them cheer for him. So it’s not really too much different than what I’ve experienced before.’’
The intent, persistence and volume certainly were different. “To be completely honest with you, I don’t really notice it. Sometimes on defense I do, but while I’m hitting I don’t really hear much.
“When I do hear it, it’s certainly motivating, but it’s not something I think about. It’s about our team, playing to win. It’s not about the fans’ reaction to me.’’
The spring training bunt tournament doesn’t hasn’t shown any immediate results six games into the season. Ian Stewart, Bryan LaHair (both trying to beat an infield shift) and Geo Soto (sacrifice try) all failed to get bunts down Wednesday. And the Cubs have just one sac bunt as a team so far.
◆ Manager Dale Sveum said if teams persist in putting on the shift, he might have to schedule extra bunting for targets such as Stewart and LaHair.
◆ Ryan Dempster was 15-3 in his career against the Brewers through 2010, but is 0-3 in four starts since — despite a 3.80 ERA and three quality starts in that winless stretch. The score of his last win against Milwaukee? It was 1-0 on Sept. 11, 2010.