I’m always a sucker for “ballplayer gets lost in the wilderness for years but then comes back all the wiser for his experiences” stories. Today Geoff Baker has a version of that one involving former Brewers’ prospect Tom Wilhelmsen, who is now a Mariners’ minor leaguer.
Wilhelmsen is no Josh Hamilton case, but he partied a bit too hard after he got his signing bonus back in 2002, got burnt out on baseball, wandered the Earth and then wound up tending bar in Tucson, Arizona. Including doing so this past offseason because, hey, even a ballplayer has to pay the bills.
Most guys who follow that path have several decades more of tending bar and telling the regulars about what pro ball was all about. There are far worse fates than that — bartenders I know are a generally happy lot –and Wilhelmsen may still end up there, but for now he’s trying consolidate the gains he made after his improbably comeback win the Mariners’ system.
Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.