Slugger Ryan Braun retires after 14-year career with Brewers

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers’ home run leader whose production was slowed by injuries during the second half of his 14-year career, announced his retirement on Tuesday.

Braun hasn’t played all season and said during spring training that he was leaning toward retirement. The 2011 NL MVP made it official Tuesday in a video the Brewers posted on Twitter.

“While it’s impossible to summarize my emotions right now, what I feel most is one simple thing — gratitude,” Braun said.

Braun, 37, batted .296 with 352 homers and 1,154 RBIs. He ranks second among Brewers in RBIs (1,154), extra-base hits (809), total bases (3,525) and doubles (408). He ranks third in runs (1,080), hits (1,963), triples (49), stolen bases (216) and walks (586). He is fourth in games played (1,766).

Braun became a free agent after the Brewers declined to exercise a $15 million mutual option in his contract last October. The six-time All-Star batted a career-low .233 with eight homers and 26 RBIs in 39 games last season while dealing with a back issue.

“I have weighed this decision for many months,” Braun said in a statement released by the team. “While I still love this game very much, the time is right for me to retire from my playing days.”

Braun was one of baseball’s best hitters from 2007-12, but was never the same after he was suspended midway through the 2013 season for using performance-enhancing drugs. He acknowledged that he took banned substances while rehabilitating an injury and apologized.

From 2014 on, Braun never played more than 144 games in a season. He reached the 30-homer mark once after topping 30 homers five times in his first six years, including an NL-leading 41 in 2012. Still, he remained a key contributor for the Brewers.

“I always thought that the way Ryan’s last six or seven years went, he should be incredibly proud with how those years went,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He should be incredibly proud of that. At that point, he had a story to write, he didn’t know how it was going to go and I think he wrote a great story and that he should be proud of that.”

Braun was teammates with Counsell early in his career before eventually playing for him.

“What I always tell Ryan is, I always joke with him that maybe besides your mom and your dad, I have seen you play baseball probably more than anyone in the world. I was there for every game throughout his career,” Counsell said. “I got a close seat for a vast majority of them. Watching him play was definitely an honor.”

In his announcement, Braun thanked the Milwaukee fans for showing him “unconditional love” and making him and his Southern California-based family feel like “we truly belonged to this community.”

The Brewers selected Braun with the fifth overall pick in the 2005 amateur draft out of Miami. He was named NL Rookie of the Year in 2007 and ranked in the top 15 in the MVP voting every year from 2008-12. He finished second in the MVP balloting in 2012 and third in 2008.

The Brewers reached the postseason five times during Braun’s career (2008, 2011 and 2018-20).

“Ryan brought us many unforgettable moments on the field, from playoff-clinching, dramatic home runs to nearly 2,000 career hits,” Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said in a statement. “He is unquestionably one of the greatest players in Brewers history. Moreover, Ryan has become a good friend to our family, and his commitment of countless service hours and more than $1 million to community causes over the years has impacted many lives.”

The Brewers plan to honor Braun at a pregame ceremony Sept. 26 before they face the New York Mets in their regular-season home finale.

“It’s well-deserved considering what he’s done for the city, the organization and obviously, (after) not having a chance to play in front of fans last year, to get that sendoff,” outfielder Christian Yelich said.

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