Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, the likely 2018 National League Most Valuable Player, doesn’t want to talk about himself.
Maybe I should be talking about myself here, but I don’t know … that’s just not me. The real story of this season, if you ask me, is what we’ve done together, as a unit. Without my teammates, I’d be nothing.
With Lo[renzo Cain], you’ve got a guy who’s had to scratch and claw his way to the bigs. He didn’t even start playing baseball until he was a sophomore in high school. Since then he’s had to face doubters at every turn. And, you know what? He wouldn’t have it any other way. He just competes and competes, and then he competes some more.
It’s like: Just give me a shot, and then watch what happens.
And that spirit, that energy … I’m telling you. It rubs off on everyone who plays with him.
Lo and I, we became Brewers this year on the same day. He signed his contract about an hour after I got traded here back in January. And then a few days later we found ourselves paired up at fan fest in Milwaukee. Almost immediately, I realized that … his positivity and outlook on life is incredible. He literally believes that he can accomplish anything he puts his mind to. Then he basically goes out and wills himself to reach his goals. As a team, we’ve seen him do that over and over again all season — whether it’s going 8 for 14 a few weeks ago when we took two of three at Wrigley, or bailing me out when I got caught in a rundown in June.
That one, especially, was just an insane heads-up play. And it was perfect Lo Cain: Never quitting, always hustling, giving everything he has for every single base.
And over time, that mindset and desire to compete … well it’s really become our identity as a team. I mean, you have Jesus Aguilar break up a no-hitter against the Cardinals a few months ago with a home run in the seventh … and then he wins the game in the ninth with a walk-off homer. That’s the kind of stuff we do. Because we have become a team that just … finds a way.
We have 10 walk-off wins this year, and even though we’ve also been walked off six times, we’re always just right there fighting hard every single night.
We may not always be the most talented team on paper, but you’ll never outhustle us or compete harder than we do. That’s basically our whole mindset now. It’s part of the Brewers’ culture.
Lo’s played here before, so he knew what to expect right off the bat. But, you know, I grew up in California. I’m new to Milwaukee.
And I have to say: I’ve never seen anything like this town when it comes to people being nice. For real. It’s a stereotype about the Midwest, but it’s true. It’s pretty ridiculous how nice people are in Milwaukee. It’s like you’re a member of everyone’s family or something.
Even before I arrived in town in January, I got a taste of that hospitality. After I got traded, it was like a whirlwind — tons of calls and arrangements. My head was spinning there for a second. I was back visiting my mother in Southern California at the time, and I wanted to get to Milwaukee to meet everyone at the fan fest, but there was just a lot going on at once. Everything was just super complicated.
Then, all of a sudden … it wasn’t.
Mr. Attanasio reached out to me with an invite. He was going to be flying back into Milwaukee with Brauny, and wanted to know if I’d like to join them on the plane.
Oh, and then, I get on the jet and find out we’re going to be stopping in Arizona to pick up … Bob Uecker and Robin Yount.
I mean, are you kidding me?
It was like a Brewers legends trip, and I was somehow lucky enough to be invited.
Everyone made me feel so welcomed. I just remember sitting there on that plane with all those guys thinking about how much this organization really does seem like one big family.
Then I got to fan fest and realized….
Just how big this family really is.
You never really know how it’s going to go when you get traded … especially if you’ve never been traded before. And for me there was even more uncertainty involved because I didn’t really know a lot about the Brewers as a team, or any of the players.
So, you know, this wasn’t something that was guaranteed to go smoothly right out the gate. But once I got to the Brewers’ spring training complex I got a pretty good sense that it was all going to work out just fine.
Literally two days into spring workouts, it was like, “Hey, new guy … we’re doing a Sandlot video.”
I’m like, Um, O.K….
“You’re playing Benny the Jet. Good luck, dude. I’m sure you’ll be great.”
Now, let’s just set it straight: Stuff like that is really, really far outside my comfort zone. I typically don’t do things like that. But I was being given the chance to bond with my new teammates and have fun with them off the field, so what am I going to do, decline the offer? Say I’m not going?
You just have to go and be with the guys; show them you’re a team player.
So that’s what I did. And then, next thing I know, I look up and it’s got thousands and thousands of views, and it’s all over social media.
We were just learning everybody’s names a day or two prior to that. And then we’re all in this viral video together? It was cool, though, and fun. We made it work. And I think it kind of shows the vibe we’ve had in our clubhouse all season.
No doubt one of the keys to that vibe, for sure, has been having thick skin and being able to laugh. This year, nobody’s been off-limits as far as people talking s*** in our clubhouse. Brauny’s the vet who knows everything about everyone. Wade Miley’s a character. He’s sort of hilarious, even when he doesn’t mean to be, if you know what I mean. Matt Albers is funny. Suter is crazy, the good kind of crazy. Erik Kratz keeps us all loose. So really you just never know.
It kind of sounds simple, right? It’s a long season, and you’ve got to stay loose. But it really is the kind of thing that shows up on the field during big games, when it matters.
For me, the best thing about this season has probably been all the big matchups against the Cubs. That sort of rivalry is something I hadn’t really experienced before in my career. It really is just two passionate fan bases that don’t like each other a whole lot. And you can feel that tension in the air.
I can’t tell you how much fun it is to be involved in games like that.
And as much as I love playing in Miller Park, I almost enjoy playing the Cubs more when we’re on the road. I like going into that hostile territory. Getting booed and screamed at … that does something to you, man. It starts during batting practice, too — Cubs fans let you hear it — and it doesn’t stop until the game is over.
When you go in there and rally together as a team — like we did in that last series at Wrigley a few weeks ago — it’s just the best part of playing baseball. And those games will stick with me for a while.
But that stuff’s all in the rearview mirror at this point. Now it’s almost the postseason. We’re hoping to make more meaningful memories this fall.
It’s like we’ve spent six months writing the opening chapters of a book. And those chapters are great — Brauny’s walk-off bomb against St. Louis during our very first home stand of the season, or a cycle or two by some new guy. Our story’s off to a cool start.
It’s all about how we end it.
I have a feeling we haven’t seen anything yet.
It’s going to take all of us.
It’s not just about the players on the field, or the coaches in the dugout. No. Our success in getting to and advancing in the playoffs is going to be just as much about you.
Because we feed off your energy.
We really, really do.
We fully understand that this team is more than just a random group of guys to you all — that the Brewers genuinely mean something to you. We realize that when we’re playing well it actually affects your lives and results in a certain level of joy and happiness throughout the city … and, actually, all across the state.
That’s big for us. We truly value that.
And at the end of the day, I keep coming back to how this organization, and all those who support it, really are like one big family.
To be at our best, and most happy … we need each other.
So, well … I’ve got a big favor I want to ask of you guys.
I need you to make Miller Park as loud as humanly possible these last few days of the season because it will probably come down to the last series.
Like, beyond loud.
And I guess that isn’t really much of a favor at all considering that you guys already do that anyway. But you know what I mean — make it even LOUDER than normal. Don’t hold anything back. And then, you know, we’ll feed off that energy and, well.…
Let’s just see what happens, Milwaukee.
We may not be a team overflowing with superstars, and we may not be on national TV all the time or get all the headlines or whatever, but I know we have something special here. And it’s largely because none of that stuff matters to us.
All we do is go out, grind and hustle, and compete like there’s no tomorrow.
But like I said before: We need you.
All of you.
So before I get out of here, I just have two more words for you.
Ten years ago, I got to see this …
… on the way to seeing the Brewers get to the postseason for the first time in 26 years.
Three years later, there was this …
… but other than that and the 1981 and 1982 playoffs …
… Brewers fans have had not much to celebrate since 1970, until wednesday night.