Exit Brett Favre.
Enter Ryan Braun.
Since the retirement of my favorite athlete of all time, I have been in search of his successor. However, finding a favorite athlete cannot be forced. The choice sometimes slowly, or quickly, reveals itself.
After Favre’s retirement, I had a favorite player in mind already, Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw is the phenom pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has a fastball that stays consistently in the mid-to-high 90-mph range, and a curve ball that petrifies hitters. Dodger General Manager Ned Colleti said that Kershaw could be the opening day starter earlier this year in spring training. The only thing that kept him from holding that position was his age. Kershaw is only 20 years old.
For now, he is being groomed and gaining experience in the minor leagues, before he is called up to the major league team sometime within the next month or so.
Kershaw’s arm is electrifying, and the fact that he and I share the same exact birthday only made him more of a perfect candidate.
As a die-hard sports fan, it is tough to go without a favorite player and Ryan Braun jumped into that role when I was in the grace period of finding one.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, you shouldn’t be. Ryan Braun is the left fielder for the Milwaukee Brewers. Since being called up from the minor leagues on May 25 of last year, he has been the most prolific hitter the league has seen—seriously.
In only 113 games, he launched a whopping 34 homers and drove in 97 runs. His slugging percentage, .634, was the highest of any rookie since Mark McGwire’s .618 in his rookie season in 1987.
What do these statistics mean to anyone who knows nothing about baseball? Braun basically had one of the best seasons a first-year player has ever had. The Brewers were so impressed with Braun’s success that they rewarded him with the biggest contract for a player with less than three years of major league experience: eight years, $45 million.
Not only is Braun an absolute stud at the plate, but also a star with flare. He struts confidence that players who have been in the league for years already have. After he hits no-doubter home runs, he tosses or flips his bat to the side, then lowers his gaze and rounds the bases. He knows how sick he is.
At spring training, I was priveleged to have Braun sign my ball. The experience was far more memorable because of personable he was. He looked us in the eye and answered every question The Prophecy and I threw at him.
“Ryan, you still driving that Corolla?,” yes, I knew what car he drove.
“Nah, man. I’m rockin’ that Mercedes,” said Braun with a smile.
“Ryan, I drafted you first over Alex Rodriguez in my fantasy draft!” said The Prophecy.
“Really? Thanks man,” said Braun, with genuine surprise and appreciation.
As if his skills were not enough, his personality made us fall in love with him even more.
A player/person of his kind deserves the success he has, and it makes me want to support him in any way possible, even if it doesn’t directly benefit him. Here is a list of things I have done because of Braun:
•Own his special edition Affliction T-Shirt.
•Own his Brewers shirt.
•Own MLB TV to watch his every at-bat.
•Own his Granada Hills High baseball shirt.
•Made Red Bull my preferred energy drink when I saw him drinking one before a game.
•Use Brawny Paper Towels.
•Use Braun razor.
•Voted for Megan Braun (no relation).
(By the way: Ryan Braun just hit a home run off World Series winner Josh Beckett, his second of the day).
The state of Wisconsin has fallen in love with him, as they did with Favre. Look into the outfield and you will find fans of all ages with Braun jerseys. Earlier this season I spotted a young Braun fan holding a “Ryan, will you marry me?” sign; he was male and not over 16 years old. A weird part of me sympathized and understood his intentions… anyways.
The National League Rookie of the Year has been on fire as of late. After hitting a slump during the first week of the season, Braun has hit eight home runs in the last eight days with three of those games being multi-home run games.
Most players are pleased to hit eight home runs over the course of two months (that averages to 24 home runs a year); he did it in just over a week.
He is the fastest player to reach 40 home runs in major league history: Faster than Ken Griffey, faster than Albert Pujols and faster than Alex Rodriguez, his idol.
He is the LeBron James of baseball. Matter of fact, James should change his first name to LeBraun.
It’s interesting to note that “Brawn” is defined as, “muscular strength.” Coincidence? I think not.
Braun is still relatively unknown because he is playing for a small market team in Milwaukee. If he just keeps entertaining us with his swagger and keeps producing with his bat, Ryan Braun will soon be a household name.
He has set the bar extremely high for Clayton Kershaw. I am completely content with that.