Answering most of the tough questions about his drug suspension by saying he wouldn't go into specifics about what he did, Milwaukee Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun said Wednesday morning he was "extremely remorseful" and determined to earn back respect and trust from fans.
Speaking to the media for the first time since drawing a season-ending 65-game suspension von July 22 for his PED connection to the infamous Biogenesis clinic, Braun did make one somewhat startling revelation about the consequences of his actions. He and fiancee Larisa Fraser had dinner Tuesday night at the home of Dino Laurenzi Jr. _ the urine specimen collector he publicly attacked after winning an appeal of a positive drug test following the 2011 season.
"I've had some really productive and positive conversations with him," said Braun, who spoke outside Helfaer Field as the Brewers held their annual food drive with Hunger Task Force the day before Thanksgiving. "We've made amends, and I think we're both excited to be able to move forward and put this behind us.
"I'm not going to get into too many details other than to say it was an incredible experience. It was extremely kind and gracious of them. They're really special people and I appreciate them giving me the opportunity to go to their house and have a conversation in person."
Without mentioning Laurenzi by name, Braun blasted him in a media session at the start of spring training in 2012, openly suggesting he tampered with the urine sample that tested positive for synthetic testosterone. Braun said he made no financial settlement with Laurenzi, who has repeatedly declined to speak about the inflammatory things the Brewers star said about him.
"I wish that I could change it," Braun said. "I wish that I hadn't said anything about him. I wish I knew more at the time I said what I said. But he was really a special person and his family was a special group of people."
A month after accepting his suspension, Braun made a statement of apology with a sketchy explanation of what he did to warrant it. He did not name the banned substance he took, referring to "a cream" and "lozenges" that he said he needed to recover from an unspecified injury.
Given many chances on the frigid morning of the outdoor food drive to provide details of what he did, why he did it and why he lied about it for so long, Braun declined.
"I'm deeply remorseful about what happened," Braun said during the 14-minute session. "I wish I had the ability to go back and change things and do things a lot differently, but unfortunately I can't do that.
"All I can do is move on and try to do everything in my power to earn back people's trust and respect and support. I don't anticipate being able to earn back everybody's support, but I certainly intend to do everything in my power to do that and I won't stop trying."
After Braun won his appeal of the positive drug test from the postseason in 2011, he held a news conference at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix at the outset of spring training and attacked both the MLB drug program and Laurenzi. He knew at the time he had used synthetic testosterone and was fortunate to escape a 50-game ban on a chain-of-custody ruling.
"I wish that I hadn't done the press conference," he said. "It was a big mistake. I deeply regret having done it, and a lot of the things that I said that day.
"But again, all I can do is move forward, and in an effort to do that I'm not going to get into too many specifics. I really don't think that it does anything too positive or productive for me, the team, the game of baseball or anybody else. And in an effort to move forward, I'm not going to discuss that subject."
Braun said in his earlier statement that a "nagging injury" prompted him to use the banned substance to recover but would not answer when asked what the specific injury was.
Asked if he thought he owed it to everyone to provide specifics, Braun said, "I completely understand where you guys are coming from and a part of your job is to ask those questions, but I hope that you guys can understand and respect that in an effort to move forward that I'm just not going to continue to discuss that stuff."
Because of Braun's constant denials and attack on Laurenzi, he was publicly condemned by many players throughout baseball after the suspension was announced, something rarely seen to that extent. He also was ostracized by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had been a close friend, ending a restaurant partnership in the process.
"I actually haven't really read, paid attention or watched anything," Braun said. "But I understand people being disappointed, people being upset and people reacting emotionally."
As for what's left of his friendship with Rodgers, he said, "I'm not going to get into our specific relationship other than to say that he had been a great friend of mine for a long time."
Braun was named the National League most valuable player for his compelling role in leading the Brewers to the NL Central crown in 2011. Then came news of his positive drug test and eventually the suspension. But Braun turned away a question as to whether his PED use invalidated that award.
Braun also deflected questions about his contract, which still has seven years and $127 million remaining. He did thank owner Mark Attanasio and the Brewers for their support in the wake of his suspension and said he still expects a "great" relationship with his teammates.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin recently said teams had contacted him about Braun's availability on the trade market. Melvin said he had no intention of trading Braun.
"Absolutely, I want to stay here," Braun said. "I made the long-term commitment because the city has been amazing to me, the fans have been amazing to me, the organization has been incredibly supportive of me, and I fully intend to stay here."
As for what the lying and subsequent admission of guilt and suspension have done to his reputation and stature in the game, Braun said, "I don't think about those things, I really don't. I'm getting married here soon. My focus is on that and doing everything that I can to come back next year to be the best player I can be."
Braun realizes he will hear significant booing on the road next season and likely will hear some at Miller Park as well but insisted, "I don't really have any expectations. I have dealt with it in the past, and I'll do the best I can to be the best player I can be. We all deal with adversity, we all deal with distractions."
Should Braun play poorly next season, people will say it's because he no longer uses PEDs. If he performs at a high level, he'll hear insinuations that he's still cheating somehow. He insisted he doesn't think about such things.
"I'm going to continue to try to be the best person I can be, the best player I can be," he said. "I fully intend to be at least as good as I've been to this point in my career. Hopefully, I can get better.
"I can't control what people say or think. I put myself in this position, and people will have the opportunity to say whatever they want."
In the one bit of baseball news discussed, Braun said he was open to moving from left field to right field to accommodate other players, such as young slugger Khris Davis.
"I'll play wherever they want except third base. That didn't go well (as a rookie in 2007)," he said. "But I'll do whatever we want. It's not something set in stone but it's something we've discussed."