LOS ANGELES — Christian Yelich made it to the World Series, just not the way he hoped.
The Milwaukee Brewers star accepted the Hank Aaron Award as the outstanding offensive player in the National League before Game 3 between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. Boston slugger J.D. Martinez was the AL recipient.
Yelich and the Brewers were one win shy of reaching their first World Series since 1982, but lost to the Dodgers in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series. Yelich said he isn’t over the disappointment yet, but he’s tried to move on.
“To be that close is definitely disappointing, but like I said earlier, use that as motivation throughout the offseason and into next season,” Yelich said. “It was a great learning experience for us as a team and I think it’s going to help us going forward.”
Yelich and Martinez each won the award despite being in their first seasons with their respective clubs. Yelich, acquired in a trade from the Miami Marlins, led the NL with a .326 batting average, was second in RBIs with 110 and third in home runs with 36.
Martinez, who signed with the Red Sox as a free agent, led the AL in RBIs (130) and finished second in home runs (43) and batting average (.330).
“My goal going in was to be the player that they traded for, nothing more, nothing less, and just contribute to what they already had going there,” Yelich said. “It was an unbelievable year. It was a lot of fun.”
Martinez made it three straight years that a player on a World Series team has taken home the award. The Cubs’ Kris Bryant and the Astros’ Jose Altuve were the previous two.
“I feel very honored to receive it from where I was five years ago to today. It’s really a blessing,” said Martinez, who struggled early in his career with the Astros before thriving the past five seasons with the Tigers, Diamondbacks and Red Sox.
The award, in its 20th year, is presented to the top hitter in each league as determined by a panel of several Hall of Famers and fan voting.
Aaron said during Friday’s presentation that the sport is in good hands with players like Yelich and Martinez. One of the things he wishes, though, is that some of the game’s top players would be a little more embarrassed to strike out.
“It always was embarrassing to me. I never, and I said this, bragging about my career for 23 years, that, no, I never struck out 100 times,” he said. “It was quite embarrassing to me if I walked up to the plate, even facing pitchers like (Don) Drysdale or (Sandy) Koufax and those guys, if they got me one time, I felt I could go home and sleep well at night. I felt very well that I had a very good night striking out once a night rather than four times.”