Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 4/6/12
MILWAUKEE Box scores will show until the end of time that Ryan Braun finished Opening Day 0 for 5 at Miller Park on Friday. They won't reveal the standing ovation Braun received from a sellout crowd to acknowledge its much-maligned hometown hero, which meant more to Braun than any season-opening base hit likely could. "I truly appreciate it from the bottom of my heart," the Brewers' left fielder said after Milwaukee's 11-5 loss against St. Louis. "It meant a lot to me. Definitely much appreciated." Braun, of course, endured a tumultuous offseason that left many questioning his clean image. In December, it was revealed that Braun -- the reigning National League MVP -- had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug late last season and would face a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball. More than three months later, just before the start of spring training, the suspension was overturned, and Braun openly questioned the integrity of one of baseball's urine sample handlers. The true cause of the failed drug test may never be known, but Brewers fans made it clear Friday they still back their star player. A crowd of 46,086 -- the second-largest in Miller Park history -- stood on its feet in the bottom of the first inning to cheer Braun as he strolled to home plate for his first at-bat since the drug test was revealed. "It was pretty loud," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "It reminded me of the playoffs last year, how loud it got in there whenever he came up. It's pretty cool to have that kind of support. Not a lot of people can say that." Braun, who said he didn't have any expectations about how he would be received, was grateful for the greeting. He touched the brim of his helmet to acknowledge the fans' reception and quickly stepped into the batter's box. Braun then lined out to shortstop on the first pitch he saw. "It's always a little bit uncomfortable because you don't want to take away from the game," Braun said. "You never want to be disrespectful to an opponent or something like that. It's not really something that you can be prepared for or know what to do. I just kind of wanted to get the at-bat underway." Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he wasn't surprised by the support offered from fans. "That's what I expected it to be," Roenicke said. "People like him here, and there's a reason they like him. He's a classy guy. He's a great ballplayer. He goes out of his way to sign autographs. He goes out of his way for the community. I understand how they feel about him." Last season, Braun batted .332 with 33 home runs and 111 RBI to take home NL MVP honors. But repeating those statistics won't be easy, particularly with expected anti-Braun crowds in opposing stadiums. During spring training, Braun clearly struggled, and Roenicke attributed part of those issues to Braun's mental state. He finished spring training 10 for 47 (.213 batting average) with as many strikeouts as hits. Braun acknowledged Friday that his demeanor had changed since the start of spring training, when he was still dealing with the affects of the failed drug test to his image. "It was a lot," Braun said. "It was a difficult situation. It continues to be a difficult situation. It was a lot to deal with mentally and emotionally. I feel like I got to a point where I was able to process it and move forward and move on, and I really am in a good place right now." On Friday, Braun flied out to center field in the third inning, grounded out to second in the sixth and struck out swinging in the eighth. He came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and flied out to center field for a second time, this one to end the game. Through it all, the fans roared for him with every at-bat. Braun said he doesn't expect to receive the same treatment when he travels on the road. He also said he won't discuss the offseason with reporters moving forward, however difficult that might be. "For me, I've moved on beyond the situation," Braun said. "It's not something I'll address any longer. I understand that people will continue to ask about it, but I just wont go there. The focus is on our team, on us winning games and hopefully getting into the postseason." Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
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