Soon after Ryan Braun was named National League Rookie of the Year, I had a chance to sit down with him one on one. Dressed in a stylish navy, pinstriped suit, the 23 year old phenom was California cool as we discussed the season, the award, and his love for the fans of Milwaukee.
BRIAN ANDERSON…What was your first reaction when you got the call saying you’d won the National League Rookie of the Year Award?
RYAN BRAUN…I was just thrilled. You know, it’s just cool…this is the biggest achievement of my baseball career to this point. I was a little bit anxious, a little bit nervous anticipating the result. I actually woke up early and went for a jog to burn off some of nervous energy. It’s extremely exciting and rewarding knowing that all the hard work paid off. I don’t think I could’ve possibly started my career any better individually. To be recognized for an award of this magnitude at the end of my first season…I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
BA…Who was your first call to?
BRAUN…My parents. I called the house and they put me on speakerphone so they could both hear at the same time…(smiles)…I told them I won (Rookie of the Year) and they both just started yelling…(laughs)…My parents have been so supportive. I just can’t thank them enough.
BRAUN…I’m humbled by it. I realize how much my teammates contributed to winning such an award. Without guys in front of me like Corey and JJ getting on, I don’t drive in runs…without guys like Prince behind me, I don’t score any runs. Any individual award ANYBODY on this team wins is a result of being on a good team and we all know that.
BA…Going from the disappointment of not making the club out of spring training to winning Rookie of the Year, can you tell us about the range of emotions you went through this season?
BRAUN…I was certainly disappointed not making the team but I’m a firm believer in things happening for a reason. The opportunity to go play in Nashville was unbelievable. A great city. A great team to play with. Frank Kremblas is a tremendous manager. Without that experience I have no idea if I would’ve had the same success in the Big Leagues. Once I got to the Big Leagues, I just wanted to fit in, contribute, stay healthy and try to help the team win however I could. Now, to win this award after starting the year in Triple A…It’s a phenomenal achievement. I don’t think it has really sunk in yet.
BA…I believe one of the deciding factors in you winning R.O.Y. was the fact that from the day you arrived you were expected to carry a significant load offensively. Very few Rookies in the history of the game are asked to do that. You seemed unfazed. How were you able to handle that kind of burden?
BRAUN…I embraced it. I expect myself to have success. I love having pressure and being one of the guys who is being looked upon to help carry the load.
BRAUN…Making my Major League debut. It was a dream come true…something I had been dreaming of and working toward my entire life.
The home run I hit in off Lidge in Houston.
Winning this award.
The lowlight was being eliminated from contention.
BA…Having hit second, third, and clean-up in ’07, what is your favorite spot in the order?
BRAUN…Third! Right between two All-Stars in JJ and Prince.
BA…What are your thoughts about talk of a position change? (note: Doug Melvin has stated third base is where he expects Braun to play but the two have spoken about a potential move to the outfield).
BRAUN …I will do whatever it takes to make our club better. I’ve always been confident in my abilities. I understand this is only my second season at third base and I have work to do. I believe I have the athleticism and work ethic to become a very good third baseman…it’s just a matter of time.
BA …You grew up on the West coast. Played college ball on the East coast (Miami). Now you’re loved in the Midwest. How about your relationship with the fans of Milwaukee?
BRAUN…Incredible. My flight arrived at 12:30am last night and there were some fans there waiting for me. I was surprised. I signed some autographs, took some pictures…it was fun. Our fans are unbelievable…they’ve been extremely supportive. I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done for me and for the entire team. As players, we talk about how we look forward to putting together a better season than this one and becoming a perennial contender. We have a chance to be a very good team for quite a few years to come and we’re all very excited about it.
BA …What do you work on this off-season in preparation for next year?
BRAUN…Everything. I have a long way to go to become the player I ultimately want to be. I want to continue to get faster so I can steal some more bases…continue to work on my footwork defensively. I want my defense to catch up to my offense. I want to continue to get stronger as well. I’ve learned so much from this season. Our entire team learned a lot from this season. We all expect bigger and better things and we want to build on the things we accomplished this year and ultimately get to the post season and win a World Series.
*Photos courtesy of Scott Paulus
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