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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Ryan Braun is selected most valuable player in National League

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder beats out Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp in voting by the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America.

November 22, 2011|By Eric Sondheimer

Ryan Braun was looking out at the Pacific Ocean from the balcony of his home in Malibu on Tuesday morning as he waited for a phone call telling him whether he had been selected National League most valuable player.

When the call came that he had won, he said he reacted with great emotion.

"It's pretty incredible," he said.

Braun, who learned to play baseball on youth fields and high school diamonds in the San Fernando Valley before becoming the top hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers, received 20 of a possible 32 first-place votes and 388 points in voting from members of the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America.

He beat out Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, who received 10 first-place votes and 332 points. Prince Fielder of the Brewers finished third with 229 points.

"I'm happy for Ryan," said Kemp, who congratulated him first on Twitter and then during a call with reporters. "I knew it was going to be close. He deserves every bit of this award."

Braun complimented Kemp, saying, "Matt is one of the best players in the game. The season he had will always go down as one of the greatest in Dodger history. If he had won the MVP, I couldn't have argued with him winning."

The award is still a goal for Kemp, who last week signed a $160-million contract extension.

"I've got eight more years in L.A. to try to win that award," he said.

Braun led the Brewers to a franchise-record 96 wins and the NL Central Division title and batted .332 with 33 home runs, 111 runs batted in and 33 stolen bases. Kemp batted .324 with 39 home runs, 126 RBIs and 40 stolen bases, but the Dodgers finished 111/2 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.

"I'm extremely proud to win this award for the city of Milwaukee and the fans who believed in me," Braun said.

Braun, who turned 28 last week, is the first player from Southern California to win an MVP award since 2000, when San Francisco Giants second baseman Jeff Kent and Oakland Athletics slugger Jason Giambi were honored. Kent attended Huntington Beach Edison High; Giambi graduated from West Covina South Hills.

Robin Yount, a Woodland Hills Taft High graduate who played for the Brewers from 1974 to 1993, was the AL MVP in 1982 and 1989.

Braun has become a baseball hero to a growing number of constituencies, from Granada Hills High, where he was a three-time All-City player; to the University of Miami, where he was an All-American; to the Brewers, where he is signed through 2020 and has become the face of the franchise since he joined the team in 2007 and was selected NL rookie of the year.

He is also the first Jewish player since Sandy Koufax in 1963 to be an MVP.

"The potential impact is incalculable in that it confers a real privilege and responsibility on him," said Rabbi David Woznica of Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles. "He becomes a role model."

At Granada Hills, an announcement was made over the high school's public-address system informing students of Braun's accomplishment.

"Wow. That's terrific," said Steve Thompson, who coached Braun at Granada Hills. "I'm thrilled to death for him. He's a terrific young man. I'm very proud of him."

Granada Hills is also the school that produced an NFL MVP in John Elway. Another high school in California, San Mateo Serra, boasts an NFL MVP and NL MVP in Tom Brady and Barry Bonds.

Braun mentioned that one of his defining moments on the path to success came when he was a freshman at Granada Hills. He was supposed to play for the junior varsity, but a senior failed to show up to set up the field on the day of a game, prompting coaches to pull Braun out of class and stick him in the varsity lineup at second base.

"The first time up, he got a base hit," Thompson said. "The second time up, he hit a home run. The third time, he hit a double, and the rest is history."

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Staff writer Jim Peltz contributed to this report.

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