Both Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton were still beaming Friday afternoon.
Each was back in the Marlins’ clubhouse for the first time in nearly three weeks, and still reveling in the experience of helping the United States win its first World Baseball Classic championship.
“This is our Olympics,” Stanton said. “We sit and watch the Olympics for two and a half weeks every four years in the heart of our season, so this is our version. We made the best of it.”
Yelich stood in front of his unpacked WBC duffle bag, and reflected on the memories of what he called “the most fun he ever had playing baseball.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“My stuff still does smell like champagne,” Yelich said. “It’s kind of cool. I’ll have to get it washed.”
Yelich said he tucked his gold medal in the pocket and kept it there during his flight back from Los Angeles.
“I didn’t want to put it in my luggage,” Yelich said. “I didn’t want to put it in my backpack. I had sweatpants on with a zip-up pocket. I just put it in there for the whole cross-country flight. I kept reaching to see if it was still there.”
For Yelich, winning the title for the United States had special meaning since his brother, Cameron, is serving in the Marines.
“He’s in Hawaii right now, so he texted me afterwards and we texted before and after,” Yelich said. “There’s a lot of things you think of in that moment. I thought of him, for sure. It was such a cool moment, especially after we won, the flag, the U-S-A chants throughout the game. The tournament was just awesome.”
Yelich got a chance to hit third in a star-studded USA lineup and put together a solid tournament, going 9 of 29 at the plate with four doubles and three RBI.
Stanton went 5 for 22, but came up with one of his team’s most important hits when he belted a go-ahead home run in a second round comeback win over the Dominican Republic.
Stanton and Yelich, who will each return to the Marlins’ lineup on Saturday in Jupiter, echoed each other’s sentiments on the value they felt in playing for Team USA in the event.
“Those guys have won almost anything you can do in baseball, just to be around them was special,” Yelich said. “I learned a lot just from being with them, and talking with them every day. That was also one of the experiences that made the tournament great.”
Stanton added: “The biggest takeaway was just the atmosphere, being around so many future Hall of Famers, All-Stars, MVPs and seeing their work for two weeks, and just the atmospheres that all the countries brought.
“Everyone came and represented their country and represented their talent to show on the field in whichever way they thought was fit. I loved it.”