Slammers can see new manager Mike Breyman hoisting championship trophy
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org January 8, 2013 5:28PM
Mike Breyman (left), the new Joliet Slammers field manager and director of baseball operations, smiles while getting a push from team mascot Spikes (right) before the start of a news conference at ATI Physical Therapy Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, at 790 Remington Blvd. in Bolingbrook. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 10, 2013 5:55PM
Finding the ideal Frontier League manager can be tricky.
You can get the guy with the major league name or the guy who has managerial experience in independent baseball.
Or you can follow the path the Joliet Slammers have chosen.
Mike Breyman was introduced as the Slammers’ manager Tuesday at a news conference at ATI Physical Therapy in Bolingbrook. He was announced as Bart Zeller’s successor last week and has hit the ground running.
Zeller is 70 years old, Breyman, 31, as he begins his first managerial stint. Zeller guided the Slammers to the Frontier League championship in 2011, and the organization feels Breyman can do the same.
“Before I became an owner I was in scouting,” Slammers CEO Josh Schaub said. “The thing I asked was if Mike is a guy I could see hoisting the championship trophy in Joliet.”
His answer was yes.
“We talk about community acceptance,” Schaub said. “The easiest way to have that is to be successful, and we think we can with Mike as our manager.”
“Mike is passionate about what he does,” said Slammers general manager Chris Franklin, who was the general manager of the River City Rascals in the Frontier League when Breyman was the team’s hitting coach. “He is a hard-working, dedicated individual I have some history with. He had a stellar playing career and that has translated to his coaching career.”
However, that association with Franklin did not make Breyman a slam-dunk hire.
“Mike earned this position in the interview process,” said Franklin, who weeded through scores of applicants.
David Garcia (pronounced Garsha), who will be the hitting coach, also attended the news conference. Eric Coleman, who was unable to attend, was a Frontier League manager when Breyman played for the Gateway Grizzlies in 2008 and will be the Slammers pitching coach.
“Dave was with me two years in River City,” Breyman said. “He complements me very well. We’ve been on the phone every day the last month.
“Eric Coleman was a no-brainer, too. I’m a hitting guy, a power guy. Any questions I have about pitching or anything else, Eric will be there to help me.”
Breyman, an Ohio native who never got an opportunity to test the waters in affiliated ball after playing at Rend Lake Community College and the University of Kentucky, played five seasons with the Grizzlies and finished his Frontier League career with a .325 batting average and .999 OPS. He said former JackHammers manager Wally Backman talked to him about coming to Joliet to play in 2009, but that did not work out.
While the Slammers won the Frontier League title in 2011, their first season, things went south in 2012, when they finished 37-58.
Not a complete surprise, Breyman said.
“Joliet had a very well-balanced team in 2011,” he said. “You look at who they had coming back last year and I was scared about having to play them. But there were injuries and guys left for family reasons and other reasons.
“Things happen in this league. Guys get complacent and the next year they fall off. We definitely have our work cut out. There definitely will be a lot of new faces on this team in spring training.”
Year 3 will mean a fresh start for the Slammers, with Breyman as the face of the franchise. Make that, the Breyman family as the faces of the franchise. Mike and wife Jennifer have two children, Beau, 4, and Callie, 16 months.
“My family will be joining me here (for the season),” Breyman said. “So if you see two little red-haired kids running around the park, they’re mine.”