January isn't when you expect one of the most important moments of a baseball team's existence to take place – but that's exactly what happened on Jan. 25, 2018, when the Brewers, in addition to signing Lorenzo Cain, traded for Christian Yelich of the Miami Marlins.
It was a big exclamation point of a move from the Brewers – but also one with its fair share of question marks coming from some fans, particularly surrounding Yelich. Would this solid outfielder be worth the big-name, highly touted minor leaguers Milwaukee sent back? Considering Milwaukee was still supposedly working through a rebuild, dependent on having many of those young players now playing in Miami rise through the Brewers' ranks, it was a big bet.
Safe to say the Brew Crew won that bet.
In just two seasons in Milwaukee, Christian Yelich has quickly turned into one of the fandom's favorite franchise players, driving the Brewers to two consecutive playoff appearances – as well as one game away from the World Series in 2018 – and providing thrilling highlights with his smoothly gorgeous homers, energetic play in the field and on the base paths, and his one-of-a-kind record book feats. (You think you're ever going to see another bi-cycle against the same team in one month's time?) And thanks to recent reports of a hefty multi-year contract extension, it seems we'll have several more years of Yelich to love.
But before we look too far ahead of ourselves, let's take a look back at some – a fitting 22, to be exact – of our favorite Yelich moments and headlines, on and off the field.
1. His gaudy MVP stats
Of course, the number one thing we love about Christian Yelich is how incredibly great he is on the diamond. He's an utter joy to watch in every aspect of the spot, whether at bat, in the field or on the bases – and, best of all, he's got the gaudy All-Star stats and two playoff visits to back up the highlights.
In his first year with the Brewers, when there were still doubters about his skills and if the Crew gave up too much in return for the good-but-not-yet-great outfielder, Yelich would just hit .326 with 36 home runs, 110 RBI and a 7.6 WAR – all top five numbers in the National League if not the best – en route to his MVP award. Amazingly, his numbers the next season were somehow almost all better: .329 with 44 home runs, 97 RBI and a 7.1 WAR. The only reason he didn't win a second MVP was because the baseball found his one weakness: his poor unfortunate knee cap, which he fractured with a foul tip near the end of the season.
Now that he's back to health for the 2020 season, here's to those numbers continuing their ridiculous upward trends – and here's to getting Yelich some hockey goaltender pads for his knees and legs.
2. Hitting for the cycle ... twice
Ten players in the history of the Milwaukee Brewers have hit for the cycle. Christian Yelich is one-fifth of that list.
For much of the 2018 season, the NL Most Valuable Player contest was a two-man race between Yeli and the Chicago Cubs' Javier Baez, but the Brewers' outfielder locked himself in as the clear frontrunner after he knocked not one but TWO cycles in less than a month – Aug. 29 and Sept. 17 – against the same team at that, the poor Cincinnati Reds. It was the ultimate statement for his MVP candidacy, as well as an invigorating jolt to the Crew's wild finish to the end of the 2018 season, helping carry them to a game away from the World Series.
Sidenote: The first Milwaukee player to hit for the cycle, all the way back in the 19th century in the American Association, was Abner Dalrymple. Reason #23 why I love Christian Yelich: He gives me a reason to bring up a man named Abner Dalrymple.
3. He's fine getting dunked on by a buddy
Most people wouldn't be game for being dunked upon – much less in front of a crowd of fellow star athletes and celebrities, on a competition broadcast to millions. But Yelich joined fellow Milwaukee MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (who we also have plenty of reasons to love) in getting dunked over by bouncy Bucks bench mob star Pat Connaughton at the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk contest – all while representing another Bucks great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Connaughton's dunk only netted 45 points from the judges (far from their most controversial decision of the night), but for Milwaukee fans, thanks to Yelich, it was a perfect score.
4. He's got excellent taste in tennis shoes
In a video interview with GQ last October, Yelich talked about the ten things he cannot live without, ranging from a baseball to headphones to his Tom Ford sunglasses – replacements after his original Gucci sunglasses were stolen. Hey, don't steal – especially from Yeli! But the most important thing I learned from the video was that, when he's not wearing baseball cleats, Yelich has excellent taste in footwear as he rocks high-top classic Converses. The shoes are so slick, I'll even ignore that he's a Chipotle fan as opposed to the far superior Qdoba.
5. He's comfortable in his own skin
Last fall, the Brewers outfielder steamed up ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue with some handsome in-the-buff images that proved he's not just hot in the batter's box. His athletic bod was so impressive that the hot-and-bothered prudes at Google banned our article about his photoshoot. Maybe they were just jealous. Or maybe they're Cubs fans.
Still, as handsome as this photoshoot may be, nothing Yelich-related will be as sexy as this:
That clip is borderline porn.
6. He supports his fellow MKE MVPs
It's cool enough that Milwaukee has arguably the best trio of athletes currently assembled – and even arguably the best cross-sports trio of all time. After all, how many fan bases can claim three MVPs in three separate major sports, playing around their peak at the same time? (We're even politely leaving Ryan Braun out of the conversation.)
But to make matters even more awesome, Yelich, Giannis and Aaron Rodgers all show the colors for the rest of the state's stars. In the case of Yelich, the NL MVP has been no stranger specifically to Bucks games, cheering from the seats and, after a Bucks playoff win, hanging with Giannis off the court for a conversation between modern greats that made all Milwaukee sports fans desperate to be a fly on the wall.
"It’s kind of like the feel of the city is that all the sports teams support each other," Yelich told MLB.com's Adam McCalvy last May. "A couple of the Bucks guys have been out here checking it out, and the last time (the Bucks played on a free night for the Brewers), we had Packers, Bucks and us all in the same arena, which is pretty cool."
By the way, just a few hours before watching the Bucks win a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals as a fan that night, Yelich went 3-4 with a home run in a win over the Washington Nationals at Miller Park. So that's gotta be one of the all-time best Milwaukee sports days ever recorded.
7. He earned a fan a puppy ...
That home run above from a 2019 win over the St. Louis Cardinals would be sweet enough on its own – but that dinger scored more than just the Crew's first run of the game. It would also nab some happy young fans in the crowd a puppy, as she arrived to the game with a paw-ticular request:
And as he's done throughout his two seasons with Milwaukee, Yelich came through – and then some ...
8. Then delivered the puppy himself
Indeed, in case it wasn't enough that Yelich delivered the dog-earning dinger, a few weeks after the game, he even delivered the actual dog.
A dad promised his daughter a puppy if Yelich went yard. He hit a homerun and got her a puppy. Christian Yelich is the man. @Starting9 pic.twitter.com/haK4CIPBcF — Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) April 16, 2019
The pupper's name: Yeli, naturally.
Remind me next season to go to a game and make a similar sign, but about my college loans.
9. He owns the St. Louis Cardinals
If you're a Brewers fan, you've spent most of your life being menaced by the St.Louis Cardinals. Sure, the Cubs may be the closer rivals geographically and they certainly get under our skin, but the Cardinals are the team's true nemesis, always there to stomp the Brew Crew into the dirty any time the team is flying remotely high. I still have nightmares about David Freese.
So thank the baseball gods for Christian Yelich for delivering some much overdue vengeance upon the Redbirds – especially during the first month of the 2019 season, when Yeli hit eight home runs and 18 RBI against the Cards alone. It was such a dominating stretch that the St. Louis Cardinals' Wikipedia page required some important corrections.
Best of all, even when Yelich isn't able to play, apparently his ownership status is contagious with the rest of the team. Cue my favorite video of 2019!
10. He's an MVP off the diamond as well
We all know Yelich is one of the best in baseball on the field, but he might be an even better person off of it. Take, for instance, this moment from last September when, during one of the team's sporadic off-days, instead of using his free time to relax or binge a TV or even perfect his already immaculate swing, Yelich went to Children's Hospital to visit some young ailing fans, brighten their days and cheer them on they way they cheer for him.
Today, MVP @ChristianYelich stopped by the hospital to hang out with some of our MVPs (Most Valuable Patients). Jack has been in the hospital since May 19 and watching the Brewers on TV has brought him comfort. Thank you, Christian, for bringing smiles to our kids’ faces. pic.twitter.com/gQuGhrgSCk — Children's Wisconsin (@childrenswi) September 4, 2019
Or perhaps this moment, also from the 2019 season, when Yelich and Ryan Braun teamed up to send a winless Oconomowoc little league team a video pep talk to give them a smile during a struggle of a season. And honestly, isn't receiving a message from Yelich and Braun a MUCH bigger win than any that appeared on a scoreboard that little league season? The other teams may have won more games; those kids won at life.
11. He's not to be messed with on Twitter ...
Yelich isn't just a ruthless monster on the field. Indeed, as pleasant and nice as he seems, he has a snarky side on social media – such as the time he brutally clapped back at Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish on Twitter for implying that he was potentially stealing signs.
Amazingly, Darvish did not retire immediately from baseball after that.
His Twitter wrath wasn't reserved for merely on-the-field competition, either, slamming ESPN just a few months prior to his duel with Darvish due to the sports network using an quote about a "pity party" out of context in an article about his fractured knee cap.
12. Just ask "Roxane"
That all being said, Yelich's most iconic Twitter beef easily came at the expense of not a fellow player or a news organization but pesky "Roxane," a Twitter user who infamous pearl-clutched at the MVP's revealing ESPN Body Issue photoshoot, apparently concerned that the young kids looking up to Yelich would discover that people have bodies. And Yeli had the perfect polite but tart response, the two words that launched a thousand memes:
For anyone who missed it, I'm happy to report the saga of "Relax Roxane" does have a nice sequel:
13. He can chug a beer like a proper Wisconsinite
OK, kind of. We see that half-filled cup. But hey, still a better chug than some other notable Wisconsin sports figures ...
14. He's so good at sports that we don't even mind that he looks like Pete Davidson
I don't know, I don't see it. Or maybe I just don't WANT to see it. Anyways, I now demand that Netflix give Christian Yelich a stand-up comedy special.
15. He's been a souvenir machine for fans
If you're looking to get more than just a good time at the ol' ball game, Christian Yelich has been one of the most reliable souvenir machines in baseball over his two years with the Brewers, hitting 80 home runs – the second-most in the National League during that span, only surpassed by the Cincinnati Reds' Eugenio Suarez. If he keeps this up, by the end of his career in Milwaukee, the number of fans who haven't caught a home run from Yelich's bat may be larger than those who have.
16. He's still helps out back home in California
"To see a group of young people come together like this, it speaks to their character and integrity, and it's what we try to have in our clubhouse..."
-#Brewers Chairman and Principal Owner Mark Attanasio about the efforts of @CAstrongfund. #ThisIsMyCrew pic.twitter.com/rabS5inyB3 — Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) January 15, 2020
While Yelich has certainly made his mark in Milwaukee and seemingly found a home in Brew City, he hasn't forgotten his California roots and the state and communities that helped raise him – so much so that, in response to the many tragedies California endured over recent years, from the shooting in Thousand Oaks to the numerous wildfires, Yelich (along with Ryan Braun, former Brew Crew teammate Mike Moustakas, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff and Mike Attanasio, son of Brewers owner Mark) founded California Strong to raise money and awareness for their home state. With events like the recent California Strong celebrity fundraiser softball game – which featured the likes of Adam Sandler, Jamie Foxx, Brad Paisley, Rob Lowe, Justin Turner, Baker Mayfield – more than $1.4 million has been distributed to struggling households across the state and more than 650 families have received grants. And that's work just as worthy of cheers as a home run.
17. He's an outstanding hat designer
I see a few people commenting on Brook's hat. It's a @ChristianYelich design, including an embroidered signature on the back. When Brook saw the mashup up his home state and his new hometown baseball team, he said he knew he had to have it. https://t.co/p6vgSQ7stu — Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) November 17, 2019
Not that you should ever take fashion advice from me, someone who may or may not still be wearing pajama pants at 2:51 p.m., but the hat Brook Lopez is rocking in the above interview – a blend of the Brewers globe-and-ball logo and the California state flag – is pretty outstanding. And apparently it comes courtesy of Christian Yelich, who designed the bi-state hat complete with an embroidered signature on the back. Now, these hats may be out of stock now that the Brewers have revamped their look for the 2020 season, but I see an obvious way to solve this problem: Let Christian Yelich design more hats! Specifically one just like Brook's but with the Wisconsin flag, if I may put in a request, please and thank you.
18. He loves his mom
In this house, being called a "mama's boy" is a compliment, not an insult. And it would appear that Christian Yelich agrees. Last May, in honor of Mothers Day, Yelich wrote a lovely piece in The Players' Tribune dedicated to "all the baseball moms" and his mom in particular, a woman who kept him playing baseball as a kid even when he was close to quitting. Yes, a five-dollar bribe was involved – but it's still sweet!
Actions speak louder than words, though – so Yelich also got his mom a puppy, a bernedoodle named Cooper. And she didn't even have to make a sign requesting a home run to get it! That's MVP son behavior right there.
19. He's putting money into Milwaukee
While Yelich has reinvigorated the Milwaukee Brewers into a regular playoff contender and a team worthy of national note, he's hoping to help do the same for The Shops of Grand Avenue as he – along with Ryan Braun – were announced as investors into the new space, a mixed-use combination of retail, food hall restaurants and residential units now called "The Avenue."
"Seeing how California Strong had such a positive community impact on our hometowns reinforced the importance of supporting the cities that support us," Yelich said, in a release back in August. "I’ve quickly grown to love Milwaukee in my time here and want to help show others its greatness and make its neighborhoods as successful as possible."
20. He seems to genuinely love Milwaukee
Maybe it's just brainwashing from the national sports media, but it's easy for Milwaukee sports fans to get cautious and scared when a player here starts breaking out as one of the game's best. We get paranoid that he, like many stars in the past, will eventually leave for bigger markets, brighter lights or better teams. But some players – Ryan Braun, Aaron Rodgers, hopefully Giannis (*knocks on all the wood in the surrounding area*) – stick around because, yes, sure, they're getting paid but also because they like the uniquely passionate community, fandom and city cheering them on.
And it sure seems like Yelich is one of those special cases – even before the words "contract extension" starting spreading around the news. I think Milwaukee fans knew it all the way back in his first season in town, when he wrote the Players' Tribute essay "Milwaukee ... LET’S GOOOOOOOOOO!" just before the official 2018 playoff chase. Sure, I could say The Players' Tribune is normally a glorified PR department, letting players write their own cushy profiles, but Yelich's piece – talking honestly about his arrival in Milwaukee, his introduction to the city and the culture and, in his typical humble fashion, the greatness of teammate Lorenzo Cain as opposed to himself – melted away any cynicism and was the perfect rallying cry for the Brew Crew's impressive postseason run that year.
He seems to really like Milwaukee – and I don't think it's a stretch to say Milwaukee really likes him back.
21. He's trying to make baseball popular again
I love baseball, but even I have to admit that the sport's fallen behind the likes of football and basketball as "America's game." So as a fan, it's nice to see Yelich working hard recently to take up that duty and be a face for a game that needs more faces and personalities.
According to a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, he's been eager and willing to attend popular events, appearing in MLB commercials, working with brands and in general trying to make himself a presence in the spotlight – and, in the process, grow the sport's presence in the spotlight. As a fan of baseball, it's great to see such a great, fun ambassador – and as a fan of Milwaukee, it's even better to see that great, fun ambassador come from our city. And apparently stay in our city ...
22. He's going to be a Brewer for a long time
It seems you can retire the common fan complaint that the Brewers are "wasting" the scant seasons they have with Yelich, as the former MVP isn't going anywhere thanks to a contract extension – first reported by The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal – that will keep him in Milwaukee until at least 2028 for about $215 million. It's a great deal, giving the Brewers an MVP-caliber player to confidently build around for most of a decade while giving Yelich a deservedly large chunk of change without overpaying and crushing the ball club's hopes of getting other talented players to support him.
Yelich didn't have to do this. If he performed the way he has over the past two years – or even just 75 percent of that – he would've easily made more on the open market, and probably would've landed in a larger, sexier market. But instead he chose to lock in with Milwaukee, a sign that he truly loves the city and sees promise here, both on and off the field.
Which means I think we're going to end up with a lot more than just these 22 reasons why we love Christian Yelich by the end of his career.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.