'Hitting guy' Breyman says he's ready
BOLINGBROOK — When he was a senior, Mike Breyman hit a robust .810 for his high school baseball team in Attica, Ohio — a national record that still stands to this day.
On Tuesday at the ATI Physical Therapy corporate headquarters in Bolingbrook, Breyman was unveiled as the new Joliet Slammers manager to complete an overhaul of the team's management structure.
His first order of business is to improve on a Frontier League franchise who went 37-58 last year and hit a paltry .241 as a team.
"Basically, I'm a hitting guy. I've always had success, playing wise, as a power guy," Breyman said. "A lot of the teams that I was on and a lot of the teams that I coached were hitting teams."
At the age of 31, Breyman will be taking managerial reigns for the first time in his career. However, he is no stranger to the Frontier League and he feels that he is ready to step up to the plate for the Slammers.
"Am I ready for this? Absolutely," Breyman said. "Do I have a lot of work to do? Absolutely again. But I have had experiences in this league where I feel that I am going to have success."
Success has seemed to follow Breyman wherever he has gone, from playing at the University of Kentucky to moving on to play for the Gateway Grizzlies to coaching in the Frontier League. As a player, Breyman hit .325 over five seasons (2004-2008) in the Frontier League and he had a career OPS of .999.
After the 2008 season, Breyman said that he had a big decision to make in regards to his career path.
"In 2008, I had a decision to make. Whether I wanted to keep on playing or to get my coaching career going. There was a lot of things that was involved in that," he said. "I had a family and had a decision to be a family man or to keep playing. I had a family and I had a house and sometimes it's time to go. You have to tell yourself that it's time to go.
"I'm very fortunate that I was able to control my departure from playing the game of baseball. I'm firm believer that when every door closes another one opens and the Gateway Grizzlies gave me a shot to be their bench coach in 2009," he continued. "They basically made a position for me to get me going. I owe them a lot because they could have basically told me to go ahead and get a job somewhere else. Who knows if I would be here right now as it is."
In 2010, current Slammers G.M. Chris Franklin was in the same capacity for the River City Rascals. It was there that he brought Breyman aboard to be the team's new hitting coach where he served for two years. Together they won a Frontier League championship in 2010, and in 2011, Breyman was named the Frontier League Coach of the Year. Last year, he served as hitting coach for the Grizzlies.
"I could go on and on about his accolades but I can say that throughout the interview process, Mike earned this position," Franklin, a Morris Community High School graduate, said of the newest hire by the Slammers. "We do have a history together but he's definitely earned it. I have every bit of confidence in Mike and what he is going to bring to the community this summer and on the field."
Breyman said that Tuesday's press conference to officially name him the new Slammers manager was the apex of a long term vision he had set for himself.
"I gave myself a five-year goal. In 2008, I wanted to be a manager in five years. After that five years that I would revisit where I was at," he said. "It's no surprise that you can't make a living being a hitting coach in this league. I appreciate this community and this team for giving me that shot to fulfill my goal."
So what can the Joliet, the surrounding communities and Slammers fans of all ages expect from Breyman?
"What to expect from me? ... I'm going to work my butt off," he said. "I'm definitely going to be that guy who stays up all night and I'm going to wake up early in the morning to get stuff done. I believe that you get rewards by how hard you work."
That's a well earned reputation according to new Slammers CEO Josh Schaub.
"Mike has been around this league a long time. When I was doing reference checks and all those thing, great things were said about Mike," Schaub said. "He's not new to the league. He might be new to Joliet, but you can tell that Mike is a pretty fun-loving guy. He's going to be out in the community, not only at Silver Cross Field, he's going to be out there and well known as the face of the franchise."
Breyman said that becoming the face of a franchise is much easier when the team plays in such a nice ballpark as Silver Cross Field.
"This organization is second to none ... This field (Silver Cross) has a feel about it. It's like a big league field with a minor league stadium," he said. "The first time I got here I didn't know what to expect. I knew it was a nice stadium but I didn't know what to expect. You come out of locker room and you see it and you're like, 'This is definitely something different.' Being here is very humbling for my first managerial experience. Usually you think about working small and then your way up."
Breyman said that there is much to the task of rebuilding a Slammers team to where it was two years ago when it won the Frontier League championship.
"You have to earn respect. You have to have success to earn that respect from anyone that is outside of that stadium," he said. "I definitely have my work cut out for me this year. We have already started to rebuild the team and there will be a lot of new faces come spring training."
With a new ownership group, G.M. and manager now in place, Breyman said that he feels completely confident that he is now in the perfect spot to succeed.
"This organization, with Chris and Josh, I feel like I am in very, very good hands right now," he said. "I know they are going to be behind me all the way 100 percent this summer."