Just how good of a chance was it that Braun might only be in his first year of retirement ... or still playing?
"Yeah there was a chance," Braun said after the ceremony at American Family Field acknowledging Braun and Jonathan Lucroy as inductees, with Prince Fielder getting his place on the more selective Walk of Fame.
"We discussed it multiple times. Obviously I have a great relationship with the organization, with the Attanasios, with (president of baseball operations) David Stearns and (general manager) Matt Arnold, so we stayed in touch regularly," Braun added. "It would have to been a perfect set of circumstances all the way around for everybody, and it never got there. I'm very content with that. I'm at peace with it, I think they were at peace with it.
"You never want to look back and reflect and say what-if. But obviously because of my relationship with the organization, we were in touch regularly."
Braun said he's had organizations reach out to him even now, "in the not too distant past.
"I was fortunate to have a number of teams reach out ... but I could have never envisioned a scenario in which I would have considered playing elsewhere."
Braun, 38, wrapped his career somewhat unceremoniously in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season with no fans in the stands. Last year's Brewers came into the year with clear-cut options in the corner outfield spots, Christian Yelich and Avisaíl García, and the designated hitter wasn't in play for the National League. Braun experimented at first base but played only one game there in 2020.
The Brewers declined their half of a mutual option that would have paid Braun $15 million for 2021.
Other highlights from the ceremony highlighting the players at American Family Field:
The first thing Ryan Braun noticed about Prince Fielder ... was his speed
Braun and Fielder became the prototypical 1-2 punch for the middle of Milwaukee's order, one lefty and one righty and both capable of MVP numbers. But it wasn't the power that Braun first remembers noticing about his longtime teammate.
"We were at a team one showcase in Arizona; we graduated high school the same year," Braun said. "I remember him running the 60-yard dash, faster than most of the little guys. Just being incredibly impressed with the overall athleticism. He was such an incredible athlete."
Braun also fondly remembers the first time he came to Milwaukee after the club drafted him in 2005, and so do most Brewers fans. Braun visited with the television crew that night June 25, 2005, when Rickie Weeks and Fielder hit their first career home runs in a thrilling win over the Twins.
"It's really interesting the way our paths intertwined," he said. "I'm fortunate to come up with that group of guys who were able to show me the way. That group of guys helped put the organization back on a path to being consistently competitive. He was certainly at the forefront of that group."
Later, the two orchestrated a "1-2 punch" celebration after big moments for either player.
"Braunie came up with it," Fielder said. "Obviously we were 3-4 (in the order, thinking), 'We should do something like a 1-2 punch,' and he did it and I thought, 'That's pretty cool.'"
Prince Fielder's explosive first impression knocked a catcher into another position
Former Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told a story about Fielder's playing days at Class A Beloit.
"I remember Prince barreling around third base and he knocked this catcher, Jason Motte, into the on-deck circle with the collision at the plate," Melvin said. "And two months later, (Motte) became a pitcher. That's the way you played the game."
OK, the timing is a little fuzzy there; Motte was indeed drafted as a catcher by the St. Louis Cardinals and was playing at Class A in 2003, though he didn't convert to pitching until 2006, then became an effective big league reliever from 2008-17.
Francisco Rodriguez doesn't show
The Brewers reliever was inducted to the Wall of Honor in 2021 but wasn't available to attend last year, so he was expected to appear this season, but he again wasn't able to make the trip.
Who's next to make the Wall of Honor?
The 21 Braves and Brewers luminaries on the Walk of Fame were selected by a vote of Brewers media and front-office personnel. It's a stingy process; before Geoff Jenkins was inducted in 2018, there had been only four new inductees since 2007, and three played with the Milwaukee Braves.
The Wall of Honor, meanwhile, honors those in Brewers history with 2,000 plate appearances, 1,000 innings (or 250 games) pitched, or winners of major awards such as MVP, Cy Young, Reliever of the Year, Rookie of the Year or Hall of Fame induction. For managers, anyone to manage a pennant winning team makes the cut.
So who's lined up to get in next?
Most players are still playing, but it stands to reason that John Axford and Jeremy Jeffress will be next on the list.
Corbin Burnes, winner of the 2021 Cy Young Award
Christian Yelich, winner of the 2018 MVP (and 2,397 plate appearances)
John Axford, winner of the 2011 Rolaids Relief Man award (and 269 games pitched)
Jeremy Jeffress, 301 games pitched
CC Sabathia, if he's inducted into the Hall of Fame, eligible in 2025
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Ryan Braun discussed 'multiple times' returning to Brewers in 2021