MILWAUKEE - Ryan Braun grinned. He had just agreed to the largest contract in Milwaukee Brewers' history.
"I really believe in the direction this franchise is headed," the NL Rookie of the Year said Thursday after his $45 million, eight-year deal was announced. "I'm extremely excited in our future."
Braun's contract, which runs through 2015, replaces the $455,000, one-year renewal the Brewers gave him in spring training. It includes a $2.3 million bonus this season and could increase to $51 million through escalators.
"How unreal is this?" said Braun's mother, Diane, who was looking on from the front row.
Braun hit .324 with 34 homers and 97 RBIs last season in 113 games after a May 25 callup. He entered Thursday with a .287 average, nine homers and 29 RBIs.
"For me, the opportunity to secure my future financially is something that really means a lot to me," the 24-year-old said. "I feel I was ready to make this commitment to the city of Milwaukee, to the fans and to the Brewers' organization. For them obviously to step up and give me this type of deal, this type of offer, is unprecedented and it means a lot to me."
The deal surpasses the $42 million, four-year contract the Brewers gave free-agent pitcher Jeff Suppan got before the 2007 season.
Braun said the money talks distracted him early this season.
"Anybody who says that contract negotiations aren't a distraction is not telling you the truth," he said. "It definitely comes into play, it definitely factors in and for me, it's just great to have that out of the way and just be able to focus on baseball and know financially I'm secure for the rest of my life."
General manager Doug Melvin said Braun made a commitment from the start, just like when he immediately signed after being selected with the fifth pick of the 2005 amateur draft.
"When we went into negotiations, Ryan wanted to be a Milwaukee Brewer for an extended period of time," Melvin said. "It wasn't about three years, it wasn't about four years. He wanted to be here that long a period of time — eight years."
Braun's power was never a question from the start, but his league-high 26 errors last season forced the team to move him from third base to left field. Braun has not had an error there in 39 games this season.
He becomes the first player with a long-term deal among the Brewers' young core, which includes Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy. Braun hopes the others get long-term contracts.
"Obviously, we have a lot of great young players, and we have a lot of guys that enjoy playing with each other, enjoy being around each other," he said. "I certainly hopes this starts a trend."
Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said he hopes for a "domino effect" with his other young players.
"Relative to the state of baseball, there's a little bit of a sea change here," Attanasio said as he was leaving the owners' meetings taking place about 5 miles from Miller Park. "There's been a number of young players now who are getting signed, and I think what you see is there's a real economic incentive on both sides to do something."
Braun has a no-trade clause for the next four years, then a limited no-trade clause allowing him to block deals to 12 teams from 2012-13 and six teams from 2014-15.
"We've done other long-term agreements before, but I was surprised at the complexity of this one," Attanasio said.