MILWAUKEE -- Christian Yelich is about to appear in the postseason for the first time. His Brewers have been the National League's best team this month. He's very likely closing in on the NL Most Valuable Player Award.And his story just keeps getting better.Cameron Yelich -- Christian's youngest brother --
MILWAUKEE -- Christian Yelich is about to appear in the postseason for the first time. His Brewers have been the National League's best team this month. He's very likely closing in on the NL Most Valuable Player Award.
And his story just keeps getting better.
Cameron Yelich -- Christian's youngest brother -- was honorably discharged recently from the United States Marine Corps and attended the Brewers' final regular-season series, which began on Friday with a 6-5 win over the Tigers at Miller Park. The brothers teamed up for the ceremonial first pitch while Brewers fans celebrated the team's post-clinch homecoming, and then Christian continued the party by launching a two-run home run -- his 34th -- to key a game-tying three-run inning that reset the game.
He added two more walks and another run scored, but that first-pitch first-inning home run was the moment he'll remember.
"My heart was pumping a little bit in that first at-bat with how loud the stadium was and everybody I had in attendance watching," Christian Yelich said. "You're just trying to catch your breath, so for that to happen on the first pitch was really cool. It's really hard to describe. It was an awesome moment."
Cameron had just enjoyed an awesome moment of his own, battling butterflies to deliver a ceremonial pitch on the fly to his brother at home plate.
"I haven't seen him play since I was in the Marine Corps, so it's super cool to come out here and throw the first pitch with the Brewers," Cameron said. "I'm a little nervous. I haven't thrown a baseball in a little while."
A "little while" as in 12 years.
But it was an opportunity too good to pass.
"He texted me and said, 'I've got to go practice,'" Christian said with a laugh before the game. "So don't set the standards too high on the quality of the first pitch. We'll see how it goes."
Cameron served a four-year commitment in the Marines, and he has not seen a Major League game in person since last May. Since then, his oldest brother made his first MLB All-Star team and has become one of the preeminent hitters in the sport.
Yelich's 1.193 OPS in the second half is the best of any everyday player in the Major Leagues. The NL leader with a .322 batting average, he is within two home runs of league leader Matt Carpenter's 34 and within five RBIs of league leader Javier Baez's 111. He reached safely in nine consecutive plate appearances, including two home runs and seven walks, before taking a called strikeout in the seventh inning Friday.
It's all earned the notice of the Brewers' only two-time league MVP, Robin Yount, who dropped by for Milwaukee's final homestand of the regular season.
"He's got a lot more power than I had, and he plays a different game than I played," Yount said. "I think he's more talented than I was. He's potentially got a number of MVPs in front of him, the things he's capable of doing."
Said another former league MVP, Ryan Braun, "I know [Craig] Counsell brought it up the other day, but it's almost Barry Bonds-esque, if you look at how rarely he's being pitched to and how often he's doing damage with the opportunities he's getting. Just continually stepping up and embracing the moment, embracing the situation he's in. There's a lot of pressure when you're in that MVP discussion, and for him to continue to elevate his game night in and night out, it's pretty remarkable. What we're watching is greatness right now."
And yet Yelich was more comfortable talking about his brother. Cameron enlisted in the Marines following his high school graduation and was promoted to sergeant earlier this year, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. At the time of his discharge, Sgt. Cameron Yelich was part of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, Weapons Company.
Earlier this year, Christian sent a large box of Brewers apparel to Cameron and his fellow Marines on base in Hawaii. Cameron's friends responded by sending Christian a photograph of themselves wearing the gear, as well as a Marine Corps flag signed by the group.
Today, that flag hangs in the Brewers' weight room at Miller Park.
"I think what he's done is great," Christian said. "It was a selfless four years, and I think he gained a lot from the experience, and we're all thankful for everybody that serves this country. To get a greater understanding of what military families go through and the schedule was probably the most eye-opening thing, and I'm glad he's back."
Cameron's overseas service included stints in Japan, Korea and the Philippines, his brother said. They stayed in touch via text, to the extent it was possible.
"There's a lot of times where they don't have cell service or they're on the other side of the world and our schedules don't exactly match up," Christian said. "Sometimes text conversations can take a week, week and a half. But we found a way to get it done."
While Christian excelled for the Stars and Stripes in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Cameron trained with the Marines in Hawaii. After Team USA won the gold medal at Dodger Stadium -- not far from where the three Yelich brothers grew up in Thousand Oaks, Calif. -- Yelich told MLB Tonight, "What we did was nothing compared to what my brother does. [He] fights for our country and puts it all on the line. This was the next-best thing. This was the best thing that we could do."
The admiration is mutual.
"Crazy, crazy year. I'm super proud of him," said Cameron. "Hopefully he gets that MVP. We'll see."
Jon Paul Morosi is a columnist for MLB.com.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.