Hate, it turns out, works pretty well as fuel.
Since the baseball season began and he was warmly welcomed back in Milwaukee from his 65-game suspension in connection with the Biogenesis investigation, Ryan Braun has heard every imaginable negative reaction on the road. There’ve been boos. Chants. Taunts. And then he went to Philadelphia, where he heard everything Phillies fans had to offer Tuesday and went wild. He hit three home runs, drove in seven runs and had a stellar catch in the outfield.
“I love it,” Braun, who has a career average of .405 in Philly, said. “It’s great. Seriously, as a competitor, I really do enjoy it. This is a challenging game for all of us, and it’s a long season and playing in an environment like this is motivating. I wouldn’t say I want it to be like this, if it’s my choice. But I don’t have much of a say in how the fans are going to react. I might as well make the best of it and use it to my advantage as motivation.”
Braun, the 2011 National League MVP, and the Brewers were booed, shall we say, lustily during introductions and Braun caught it again when he made a diving catch on Carlos Ruizand during his at-bats. He also was treated to chants of “Ster-oids! Ster-oids!” Braun hit .417 in spring training, but is hitting only .240 in the first week of the season in part because he continues to be bothered by an inflamed nerve in his right thumb and forefinger, as he was last season.
“Really, it makes a difference,” Manager Ron Roenicke said of the boos. “Those guys that can turn it up, you don’t want to be messing with. There’s no better way to quiet people than to do what he’s doing.”