Inside Yelich's 'classy move' vs. division rival

September 19th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Adam McCalvy's Brewers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

With one small gesture, showed that even in a playoff chase when every pitch matters, there’s room for good sportsmanship.

After Yelich stood tall and took the first pitch of Wednesday’s game at Busch Stadium, Cardinals catcher looked up and said, “Thank you.” , out on the mound, would praise Yelich’s class act after the game. With that first fastball last Tuesday at Busch Stadium, Wainwright and Molina set the AL/NL record with their 325th start as a pitcher-catcher battery, and by taking the pitch so Molina could toss the baseball to the dugout for authentication and safe-keeping, Yelich gave them something to remember it by.    

After that, it was time to compete.

“I thought that was a really classy move, and you could tell he was just going to kind of give that to us,” said Wainwright, who went on to strike out Yelich. “It did cross my mind that he’s a great hitter, he’s got a lot of power and if he hits the first ball into the stands, do I want that ball back? It’s a pretty cool ball, but not if he hits it out. 

“So I appreciated him doing that. That’s the moment of the game I’ll think of.” 

Yelich said it was common sense. It’s a record, he believes, that will never be broken. 

“I haven’t played this game as long as they have, but I’ve played enough to appreciate that they achieved something together that’s probably never going to be done again,” he said. “They’ve had to play a really long time together, through injuries and all kinds of things, to be out there. Me taking the pitch, it was out of respect to them for all of the years it took to accomplish that. 

“I take the first pitch of the game 90 percent of the time anyway. If it was a ball or a strike, it doesn’t really matter. You’re down 0-1 in probably half of your at-bats. So to me, it was out of respect for what it took to get to that moment. It’s the right thing to do. After that, it’s game on.  

“But for them, I don’t think anyone is ever going to come close to what they’ve done. It was out of respect to them and respect for the game.”  

Wainwright told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he planned to have the baseball sawed in half so he and Molina could each have a memento.  

Molina looked up and said thanks to Yelich just before Wainwright threw pitch No. 2.  

“You guys deserve this. It’s well-earned,” Yelich responded. “And that was that.” 

The Cardinals and Brewers meet again at American Family Field next week, and it will be the final visit for longtime foes Molina and Albert Pujols, who say they intend to retire. Wainwright, meanwhile, has left open the possibility he’ll continue to pitch.  

At the moment, it looks like Wainwright and Molina are lined up to make one last start in Milwaukee.  

"It's incredible. The privilege to be teammates that long, from a former player's perspective, is probably the coolest thing about this," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "They've been a battery where they rely on each other so much, get to know each other so much and help each other be successful in the field. It's really cool. To be teammates for that long, it's truly incredible and certainly worth celebrating."