TEDDY BEAR WITH A BAT - Rend Lake College baseball slugger Mike Breyman will be part of the largest class ever inducted into the RLC Sports Hall of Fame on Nov. 7 in Waugh Gymnasium. CLICK HERE for a larger image.
By Bob Kelley, retired RLC Sports Information Director
How is this for a novel idea? Someone should write a book about Mike Breyman and title it, “A Tale of Two Seasons.”
Two Totally Different Seasons. Even the Head Coaches were different in this baseball saga of a first baseman-outfielder – and even late-inning relief pitcher/closer – headed into the Rend Lake College Sports Hall of Fame on Nov. 7.
Only the main character never changed. In particular, the character of the character neve changed. There could be no argument from any book review critiquing this 2000-02 story line: the character of the main character always showed strong character.
“Everybody liked him,” said Breyman’s first-year Warrior Head Coach, with an emphasis on “everybody.”
“He was just a good-natured guy . . . a big ol’ teddy bear,” added Rich Campbell, who resigned after his ninth RLC season in 2000-01.
“You look at him, and you knew he could snap you in two. But he had such a good heart.
“Mike was a coach’s dream, because he was a guy who knew how to take constructive criticism. Whatever you asked him to do, he would do, no questions asked. He was more of a leader by example type of guy.
“Just a great guy with great character. Everybody loved him. I would be surprised if he ever had any enemies.”
Chris Moddelmog inherited Breyman when he took over the Warrior reins days before the start of the 2001-02 campaign.
“I got there late,” Moddelmog recalled. “[Breyman] was one of the guys who made it a real easy transition for me.”
A leader? “He really was. He was kind of a ‘goofy’ guy – and I say that in the nicest sense – who everybody likes. He is just a big teddy bear, really.
“A great, fun-loving kid,” added Moddelmog. “The thing I would have to say about ‘Big Mike,’ he has always been as good a person as he was a player. He was just a big kid at heart, and he still is.”
Lest we make anyone believe Breyman will be a Hall of Fame inductee based on character only, consider some of the credentials for the 6-foot-2, 240-pound “Teddy Bear,” who was a two-time All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference selection and National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Second-Team All-America pick as a sophomore. He led Rend Lake College both springs in runs scored (89 career total), runs batted in (84), bases on balls (80) and batting average (.385 in ’01, .390 the following spring, .388 career, 119-307), on-base percentage (.547 and .564, respectively) and slugging percentage (.584 and .860).
So how does the Two Totally Different Seasons enter into the equation? Check out the last figure in the statistics above.
Breyman, a product of Attica (Ohio) Seneca East High School, led a 34-25 Warrior squad as a freshman with 66 base hits and 21 doubles. He also had four home runs, second behind the six of Robert Mosby. After the southpaw hit .512 during the unofficial Fall, with 18 RBIs in 15 games and three homers, Campbell affectionately called the rookie “a big bull” and predicted, “He’s got plenty of strength ... with a couple of adjustments to his swing, I think he has the potential to hit .410-.420 in the spring with 15-16 home runs.
“Most of his home runs when I was there were hit to the opposite (left) field or straightaway center. I always thought I would love to see him turn on more balls and see just how far he could hit it. I would love to know where his home runs were to as a sophomore.”
Campbell’s wish came true . . . one year later.
Sophomore Breyman turned into a prodigious slugger, mashing a Warrior single-season record 18 dingers in 50 games, half the number of combined Fall/Spring games for the previous standard-bearer (Chad Stombaugh, 17 in 1987-88) 14 years before.
He hit a round-tripper every 7.56 official at-bats, representing more than a third of his total hits, and half of his hits went for extra-bases, leading to that ridiculous .860 slugging percentage.
“This is my 16th year in college coaching,” said Moddelmog, now Head Coach at NCAA Division II Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. “And I haven’t seen too many players with much more power than that.
“I’d say maybe half of his home runs were pulled to right – he worked hard at that and figured out what he needed to do to turn on it more – but he still hit a lot of them to left-center, too.
Moddelmog recalled a game at rival John A. Logan against “their stud who threw 95 [miles per hour].
“He hit it about 500 feet, all the way to the softball field. It was one of the farthest balls I have ever seen hit.”
He was equally impressed by Breyman’s ability to reach base other ways and his versatility.
He walked 40 times – the team runner-up in that category had 17 – and struck out only 25 times – four teammates had more. The Hall-of-Famer played a lot of outfield for Moddelmog, because “I didn’t have anybody else who could play as well out there, and I had somebody who could play first base but nowhere else.”
Despite battling a sore arm that final season, the hard-throwing lefty filled a bullpen need for Moddelmog & Co. with nine relief appearances, two saves and a 1.50 ERA for a 30-20 squad. The Warriors were short on arms, according to the coach. Breyman had toed the mound in the past and “his breaking ball was unbelievable.” The imposing hurler whiffed 11 batters in 9 1/3 innings. Opponents managed just six hits, a .182 batting average.
Breyman’s second college coach made it a point to catch up with him in a UK uniform, also, when the Wildcats played at SEC foe Arkansas.
“They had a huge scoreboard in right-center. I bet him he couldn’t hit it over it in B.P. [batting practice]. He said, ‘I bet I can.’ He hit two or three mammoth shots over the scoreboard, waved at me and smiled. Gee, he hit one of those suckers a mile,” Moddelmog remembered.
Breyman returned to Rend Lake College in Fall 2002 to complete two classes and degree requirements before joining the University of Kentucky in the baseball-mad Southeastern Conference. UK had the equivalent of a “full-ride” grant-in-aid waiting for the late arrival, “because he was a difference-maker,” Moddelmog said. He batted .315 that spring for the Wildcats and .326 the next, with career figures of 22 more home runs and 86 RBI, a .412 on-base rate and .565 slugging mark.
Campbell said Breyman was always quick for his size. “A very good college player,” added his first college mentor of four in four years (including UK’s Keith Madison and John Cohen).
“I reflect all the time . . . If I had to go back and put together nine position players and a starting rotation from my days at Rend Lake College . . . there is no doubt Breyman would be one of them, not just for his playing ability but for all the other things he would bring to the team – his coachability, the attitude it takes to be a winner, his great ability to understand the total picture. Absolutely, he would be one of the top two or three players I would want to start with on my all-time team.”
He was called one of the Frontier League’s all-time “greats” recently when he retired at the age of 26 after five minor league seasons with the independent Gateway Grizzlies on “Mike Breyman Day” in Sauget.
Breyman averaged .325 with the Grizzlies and set league records with 458 hits, 312 RBIs and 815 total bases. He was second with 82 home runs. He also established team records in 2005 with his .365 batting average, 72 RBI, .432 OB% and .618 SLG%.
Breyman served as the Bench Coach for the Grizzlies this past summer. He is married to former Lady Warrior Volleyball player Jennifer Harsha (2000-02) of DuQuoin. They are the parents of a son born in 2008.
The largest class in RLC Sports Hall of Fame history also includes both the Fall 2002 and Fall 2003 NJCAA Division II National Championship Men’s Cross-Country teams, two-time NJCAA D-II Men’s Cross-Country National Medalist Ian Hornabrook (2001-03), All-American Champion High-Jumper Todd Green (2001-03), the 1995-96 Region XXIV Champion Softball Team, which advanced to the NJCAA Women’s Fast-Pitch finals, and Softball’s Third-Team All-American Meredith Ramsey (1999-2001).
The 11th Induction Ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. in Waugh Gymnasium on the Ina campus.
Previous inductees include Doug Creel, Mike McClure, Susan Woodward and Lee Yearwood in 2000, April Long and James “Hummer” Waugh in 2001, Bryant Lowe in 2002, the 1995 men’s golf team, Matt Armstrong, Jace Bugg, Jaymie Cowell and Cheryl Weis in 2003, Curtis Smith in 2004, the 1985-86 baseball team, Randy Lemay and Rick Gaebe in 2006, Jennifer Calandrilla and Cliff McIntosh in 2007, Mark S. Kern, Wayne Arnold, Elizabeth Kasey and the 2001 men’s cross country team in 2008, and Dan DeMent and Angela Robinson in 2009.
The current Hall of Fame Committee, charged with accepting nominations and voting in new members to the Hall, consists of Arnold, Kern, Waugh, RLC Vice President of Finance and Administration Larry West and McLain. For more information about the RLC Sports Hall of Fame, go online to www.rlc.edu/warriors/hof.
For all things athletic at RLC, visit online at www.rlc.edu/warriors.
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