EAU CLAIRE, WIS. -- As you take the winding road into Carson Park, the first view of water is accompanied by a sign revealing that this is "Braun's Bay.'' Not far away sits the ballpark called Carson Park, the main home for Eau Claire baseball since 1937.
On Tuesday night, Carson Park was the home to the Northwoods League All-Star Game. This is the 20th season that the summer collegiate league has conducted business in the Midwest, and the 19th time that it has held an all-star game.
There will be a column in Wednesday's print edition on where the Northwoods League stands today -- in 16 cities now, and set to add Kenosha, Wis. and Kalamazoo, Mich. next summer.
Once that effort was finished, I felt obliged to walk through the stands in search of Brewers' fans, in order to give them a hard time about the former hero, Ryan Braun.
My opener went like this: "Considering the events of Monday, do you support the idea of changing the name of Braun's Bay to Aaron's Bay?''
The hilarity in this was that Henry Aaron played his first-ever pro game for the Eau Claire Bears of the Class C Northern League in June 1952. There's a plaque and a replica of the young Henry outside the front gate.
And now, with Ryan Braun disgraced ... why not change the name of that bay on the way to the ballyard?
"I don't know were the name came from, but it's been called 'Braun's Bay' for a long time,'' Tim Taggatz said.
Tim was wearing a windbreaker with a Brewers' logo. He was at the game with his wife Mary.
"We're Brewers fans,'' Mary said. "We go to six or seven games a year ... even this year, when they are losing.''
Tim shook his head and said: "The pitching is horrible. They have young pitchers who should still be in Nashville, and the veterans haven't been that good. [Kyle] Lohse pitched pretty well, but they weren't able to get him any runs.''
The Taggatz' weren't overly surprised when the news came on Monday that MLB had the goods on Braun and he had accepted a 65-game suspension.
"I felt last year, when Braun got out of it, that he probably had done something wrong,'' Taggatz said.
Mary said: "It's not surprise. It's disappointment.''
Mike Lenroot was sitting a couple of rows away, wearing a Brewers hat. Mike goes back far enough to have seen Aaron play in the Northern League. "Not here ... in Superior,'' Lenroot said. "When I was a kid, I used to chase baseballs outside the fences at Superior Blues games.''
Thoughts on Braun? "I wasn't that surprised,'' Lenroot said. "He'll pay his penalty. He'll start all over again next year and we'll see what happens.''
As did I. Even a guy my age didn't know the old Northern League had both the Superior Blues and the Duluth Dukes among its eight teams for a period of time.
Jarred Huth and Kent Hodny were more harsh toward Braun. They are also dedicated Brewers' fans, making the 4-hour drive to Miller Park a half-dozen times a year. The Huths and the Hodnys are also host families for players with the Eau Claire Express, the hometown Northwoods team.
"I would feel a lot better about Braun if he had come clean a year ago,'' Huth said. "It was hard not to believe him, the whole thing about, 'I know what I put in my body,' and 'I didn't do this,' and all the rest of it. His lies bother me more than anything.''
Hodny accepted the popular theory that this really wasn't much of a punishment for Braun.
"He's giving up $4 million, and then he's going to come back and make more than $100 million,'' Hodby said. ''I'll tell you what: You guarantee me you're going to give me $100 in the future if I give you $4 now, I'll make that deal.''
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