With a stacked football family tree, two brothers decided to break the strong ties and introduce the family name to baseball.
One plays professionally for the Miami Marlins.
The other plays catcher at Sam Houston State.
SHSU junior catcher Collin Yelich and his older brother Christian played many sports growing up, but it was the baseball diamond, not the football field, that they chose to pursue.
“Growing up as kids we always played many sports, but baseball just stuck with us,” Collin Yelich said. “We just gravitated to the baseball field. We played football and had fun with it, but when it came down to it, we just loved baseball more than we loved football.”
The Yelich family is highlighted with a National Football League Hall of Famer, a two-time Rose Bowl champion and a Major League Baseball Gold Glove award winner.
“Growing up in our family, everything we did was competitive,” Collin said.
His uncle, Chris Yelich, was an offensive lineman at the University of California – Los Angeles, and won two Rose Bowls with the Bruins.
Collin Yelich’s great-grandfather, Fred Gehrke, played 11 years in the NFL, was an NFL champion and an All-Pro with the 1945 Cleveland Rams. Although he did not have the stats to make it into the hall of fame, it’s what Gehrke did off the field that got him into Canton, Ohio. Gehrke designed the iconic St. Louis Rams logo and was the first to put a logo on helmets. He is also credited for creating a face mask for helmets after suffering multiple broken nose injuries.
Christian Yelich, Collin’s brother, currently plays in the majors for the Miami Marlins. Christian was drafted in 2010 and was brought up to the Marlins midseason in 2013. In 2014, Christian was awarded a Gold Glove Award, an award given to players who have superior fielding, voted on by other players and coaches.
“As brothers, you’re always trying to out-compete each other,” Collin Yelich said. “With him winning the Gold Glove I was like ‘oh good for you, but you better do it again or else I’ll give you a problem with it.’”
According to Collin Yelich, the brothers have a great relationship, talking to one another every day and helping each other out when needed.
“I’m able to ask him anything I want and he helps me out with anything I have questions with,” Collin Yelich said. “Whether it be hitting wise or defensive wise or just the mental makeup of the game, it’s nice to have someone to bounce questions off of.”
Collin Yelich’s journey from Westlake Village, California to SHSU took some time because he transferred two times before becoming a Bearkat. He began his collegiate career at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas before transferring to Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California.
Former SHSU head coach David Pierce recruited Collin Yelich to become a Bearkat.
“[Pierce] flew me out for a visit and showed me around,” Collin Yelich said. “I liked the program and the guys on the team.”
When Matt Deggs was named the new head coach for SHSU, Collin Yelich’s decision to transfer never faltered.
“When I heard Deggs was coming in I did some research on him,” Collin Yelich said. “I saw he had a great hitting philosophy, and I thought it would be a great fit no matter what.”
Despite transferring three times, Deggs said he believes Collin Yelich can call SHSU home.
“I believe it’s a great fit for the team and himself,” Deggs said. “We’re very fortunate to have Collin Yelich on this ball club.”
Deggs also likes what the catcher brings to the team.
“I really like Collin, he’s a great kid,” Deggs said. “You never have to worry about him off the field. He’s a great teammate and he gives great effort every single day. He’s everything you’re looking for as a coach.”
Christian Yelich traveled to Huntsville in February to watch his brother and SHSU host Wichita State.
“Christian visited with the team and a lot of the players,” Deggs said. “It’s always fun when you have a big-leaguer around.”
Collin Yelich is currently batting .296 for the Kats including six doubles and 14 RBIs. He has also struck out a team-low 11 times this season with senior Travis Lee between the starters.
“It’s obvious that one thing Collin and the Yelich family have is work ethic,” Deggs said. “I think the best is still yet to come from Collin. He’s got a future in this game, obviously, it’s in his blood.”
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