Last January, Christian Yelich got the call. The 27-year-old outfielder was told he would be trading in the sunny beaches of Miami for the industrial cityscape of Milwaukee. His offseason would include meeting new teammates, getting accustomed to a new area, and impressing new fans.
Little did the public know, these weren’t the only adjustments Yelich had planned for the upcoming year.
During his debut season in Milwaukee, Yelich took a giant leap in his journey from standout high school prospect to arguably the best player in baseball. He finished with a stellar .326 batting average, smashed 36 homers, and drove in 110 runs. His statistical performance was so impressive that he easily took home the coveted MVP award, finishing in first place on 29 of 30 ballots cast.
Yelich’s improvements didn’t come with any changes to his swing. Instead, he credits his breakout year to completely redefining his mentality at the plate.
“I didn’t really make any mechanical adjustments,” Yelich said. “It was more just targeting what I wanted to do and staying disciplined in a routine every day. Flush out whatever happened the night before and stay locked in on what you’re trying to do that day.”
To say Yelich was locked in is an understatement. During the second half of the 2018 season, he smacked 25 home runs and posted an insane 1.219 OPS, resulting in his second career Silver Slugger award.
Although Yelich’s production at the plate was second to none, he’d rather reminisce on the special moments he shared with his teammates rather than boast about individual accolades.
“My favorite memory from this past year is when we played in Chicago to win the division,” Yelich said. “That was the culmination of everybody’s hard work from spring training. We had this goal to win the division, make the playoffs, and we were all able to accomplish that together as team.”
That focus on team camaraderie over individual success coupled with Yelich’s genuine love for baseball shaped the player that he is today. He even reminds himself to occasionally step back from the grind and appreciate the game that’s given him so much.
“You have to just enjoy the game and realize how fortunate you are,” Yelich said. “You can get so caught up in the pressure and wanting to perform that you lose sight of the fact that it was always your dream to play in the big leagues.”
Make no mistake, Yelich’s gratitude should not be confused with complacency. He’s gotten a taste of the postseason and is ready to return next year with championship aspirations.
“I’m looking forward to being back with the guys and chasing that goal of winning a championship,” Yelich said. “I think the fact that we got so close last year gives us that drive and hunger to get back there and experience those feelings all over again.”
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words // Luis Sanchez
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Earlier this year, Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player to hit 600 home runs and added his name to a short list of what many consider to be baseball’s most revered batting statistic. Now imagine being the only one to ever reach what will be one of baseball’s most elusive clubs, even more elusive than the 600 home run club. Tuesday night Trevor Hoffman created his own 600 club, the 600 saves club.
The path to 600 saves has become bittersweet this season for Hoffman.
Hoffman, already the all-time leader in the statistic, has struggled this season. The 42-year-old lost his job as a closer due to a long string of rough outings. Hoffman started off the season with an ERA of over 11 through his first 18 appearances. He was then demoted. Being demoted isn’t easy for anyone, but when you are the greatest closer of all time, you might think that it would push Hoffman out of the game for good at his age.
Trevor Hoffman has always been regarded as one the games most well-liked guys, and the actions he took after losing his role as the Milwaukee Brewers closer is the perfect testament to his character. Rather than hang up his cleats and call it quits, or choose to challenge management’s decision, Hoffman made the best of it, by taking his new replacement, rookie John Axford, under his wing and sharing his knowledge of the game. Hoffman even worked his way back out of his pitching slump by working middle relief when the opportunity was presented.
Hoffman has continued to work hard and climbed back to his familiar un-hittable self over the last 30 games, lowering his ERA to near his career average in the mid 2.0s.
Tuesday against the St. Louis Cardinals it was the mentor that got help from the student as Axford became Hoffman’s setup man. Axford got the hold by retiring two batters in the eighth and the stage was set for the man who had showed him the ropes.
Hoffman gave up just one hit in the ninth inning to carve his name just a bit deeper into baseball history. The team celebrated as if they’d won the pennant, hoisting Hoffman onto their shoulders as he tipped his cap to the cheering fans.
This season may have been filled with ups and downs for Hoffman, but it looks as if this future Hall of Famer will end his career on top.