Steve Thompson believed it when Ryan Braun said, time and again, he had never used performance-enhancing drugs.
So Thompson, who was Braun's coach at Granada Hills High, was among the many Monday who reacted glumly after the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder finally acknowledged he had violated Major League Baseball's basic agreement and joint drug prevention and treatment program.
Braun, the 2011 National League most valuable player, accepted a 65-game suspension without pay, ending his season.
Thompson said he was "disappointed [Braun] did do it," but added, "acknowledging he did something wrong is a good thing. He's hurt his image and now he's going to have to repair it."
Braun was supported by Thompson last year when it was learned that the Brewers star had a positive test thrown out because of a technicality. Despite the turnabout, Thompson said, "I support him in his efforts to move forward."
Braun had become a baseball hero to a growing number of constituencies, from Granada Hills, 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 had become the face of the franchise since winning the NL's rookie-of-the-year award in 2007. Braun's contract with the team runs through 2020.
He was also the first Jewish player since Dodgers great Sandy Koufax in 1963 to be a league MVP.
"The potential impact is incalculable in that it confers a real privilege and responsibility on him," Rabbi David Woznica of Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles said when Braun won the MVP award. "He becomes a role model."
Austin Dudley, a catcher at Granada Hills High, looked up to Braun and is still taking an optimistic view. "I'm happy he's taking his punishment," he said. "It shows they're not afraid to go after anyone no matter who it is."
Austin White, a junior first baseman at Reseda Cleveland High, said, "The whole situation is disappointing because he was such an influential player people looked up to. It's sad to see he cheated." White, who played at Dodger Stadium in last season's City Section championship game, added, "I think what baseball is doing is right."
Pitcher Jack Flaherty of Studio City Harvard-Westlake, last season's Southern Section Division 1 player of the year, said he was disappointed a player of Braun's stature was found to be cheating "because there's so many who did it the right way.
"It just makes you think who might else be doing it," he added.