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Yelich manages charity game, ready for spring

Brewers star helped launch California Strong initiative in 2018
@AdamMcCalvy
January 9, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- Christian Yelich won’t hit any home runs Sunday in the second annual California Strong Celebrity Softball game at Pepperdine University. He will manage one of the teams instead. “I didn’t think that it was smart for my first baseball action to be in a celebrity softball game,” said

MILWAUKEE -- Christian Yelich won’t hit any home runs Sunday in the second annual California Strong Celebrity Softball game at Pepperdine University. He will manage one of the teams instead.

“I didn’t think that it was smart for my first baseball action to be in a celebrity softball game,” said Yelich, whose bid for a second straight National League MVP Award was cut short when he fractured his right kneecap last September. “I think I should probably wait until Spring Training.”

Spring Training is coming fast, about five weeks away.

And Yelich will be ready.

“If the Milwaukee Brewers had an actual game tomorrow,” he said, “then I would be able to participate. But I think it’s best for everyone involved that I hold off on that a little bit longer. I’m good to go. Feeling great. Looking forward to Spring Training starting.”

The Brewers will be careful with their superstar right fielder in Spring Training, but the expectation remains that Yelich will be in the starting lineup for Opening Day against the Cubs on March 26 at Miller Park. For now, another game is on his mind. This marks the second straight year that Yelich is joining with Brewers teammate Ryan Braun, new Reds infielder Mike Moustakas and Mike Attanasio, the son of Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, to collect funds for their California Strong initiative, which has already raised more than $2.3 million for those in need in their home state.

The idea started amid a text-message chain during the fall of 2018, after Southern California suffered the dual tragedies of a shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks followed by wildfires, including the Woolsey Fire, which burned swaths of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The fundraiser has grown into something big and impactful thanks to the dogged work of Attanasio and the players, and the involvement of corporate sponsors like RECOVƎR 180°, which announced a partnership with Yelich on Friday and is the official hydration sponsor of Sunday’s softball event.

Like last year, it will be a star-studded affair. Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff is back, having donated $1,000 for every touchdown he threw this season. So is Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger, a friendly rival of Yelich’s who edged Yelich for the 2019 NL MVP Award. Other MLB players scheduled to participate include Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, Braves pitcher Max Fried and Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson.

Actors Jamie Foxx, Patrick Dempsey, Rob Lowe, Anthony Anderson and Eli Roth, and actresses Tiffany Haddish and Kaitlin Olson were also in the lineup. There’s even an Academy Award winner in Mira Sorvino.

Yelich said he anticipates another sellout crowd.

“Last year we did the best we could on short notice,” Yelich said. “We tried to throw it all together in a short amount of time. I think the event was amazing. It was awesome to see the support we got, not only from the local community, but nationwide.

“This year, we have had a little bit more time to plan. We’ve had a full year. I think that’s what you’ve seen with the corporate sponsorships and the other people who have come on board. We’re really excited for Sunday.”

Was the idea from the start for this to be an annual affair?

“No. We didn’t know what we were getting into last year,” Yelich said with a laugh. “We just wanted to raise some money and help some people out. We didn’t know what we wanted to do [beyond that]. We partnered with the YMCA and figured softball was familiar to us. That’s how the softball game came together. It became way bigger than any of us could have envisioned. We’re all thankful for that. We have been able to help a lot of people along the way.

“Sometimes it’s a little mind-blowing if you think about it, especially when you realize that the 4-5 of us who started it, started it on a group text. You see where it is today in such a short amount of time. I think that California Strong is here to stay.”

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.