The Brewers lost to the Reds on Sunday, but the result of the game between these two cellar-dwelling squads was secondary, as it is with so many September baseball games. No, Sunday’s game was notable because of the assumption around Brewers nation that Ryan Braun may have played his last home contest in a Milwaukee uniform. Braun received massive cheers for all of his at-bats Sunday, and the Brewers faithful gave Braun a standing ovation that he rewarded with a tip of his helmet before his last at-bat in the eighth inning.
“I think that people here, at least most of them, recognize there is at least a chance that today is my last home game as a Brewer,” Braun said in the wake of a 4-2 loss to the Reds. “I don’t think there is a great chance, but certainly a higher chance than at any point in the 10 years that I’ve spent here.”
Brewers fans have gotten awfully good at ovations like this over the last six years, dating back to the ovation fans gave Prince Fielder at the close of the 2010 season when it appeared all but certain Fielder would be dealt before he had the chance to test the free agent market the next season. We understand that the few established stars we’re lucky enough to watch in Milwaukee will be heading for greener pastures at some point. Fielder received another ovation during the 2011 NLCS, his actual last game as a Brewer. And this season, Jonathan Lucroy received an ovation before the trade deadline. If you were to point to any three Brewers who were the core of the club’s recent successes, it would be clearly be those three.
It’s unfortunate that this scenario keeps popping up, and that Brewers fans are so used to talented players leaving the city that we have this ritual already prepared. But it is wonderful to see the appreciation Brewers fans have for these stars, and it’s clear that the appreciation is reciprocated. All those players have in some form declared their love for Milwaukee’s fans, and I think it’s in no small part due to the consistent love we show for the players.
Jonathan Lucroy probably put it best after receiving his ovation this July. He told the AP:
“The fans here are awesome. They’ve always treated me great, and I’m very blessed to be able to grow up in front of fans like this. The fans have treated me really well. They have shown me nothing but love and respect — and that’s all you can ask out of your home fans. There are not a lot of home teams that can say that. We have fans here that love you no matter what. I can’t even remember the last time we were booed here — so it’s pretty impressive with our fan base how positive and loving they are.”
Carlos Gomez’s exit from the Brewers wasn’t quite as telegraphed, and there wasn’t an ovation for him before the trade deadline in 2015, as he still had some time remaining on his contract. But nonetheless, he expressed similar sentiments when he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “”I have a lot of respect for this organization. They gave me the opportunity to be the way I am right now. And the fans are passionate and they are always there for you, when you’re good or you’re bad. I feel like I’m home.”
The fact that Brewers fans could help make Milwaukee, Wisconsin feel like home for Gomez, a native of the Dominican Republic, practically half a world away, is remarkable. It speaks to the power of a fanbase that can make its players feel loved and appreciated, and I hope the fans at Miller Park never lose that joy and respect for the players that make the ballpark worth coming to even when the club isn’t racking up wins like we would want.