Baseball: Mike Breyman learns the process as first-year Slammers manager
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media August 27, 2013 8:36PM
Former Joliet Slammers manager Mike Breyman. | Tim Tierney~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 29, 2013 6:45AM
In his first year as a manager in pro baseball, 32-year-old Mike Breyman didn’t expect to make all the right moves with his roster on the field and off it.
“I knew this was going to be a learning process,’’ he said. “I wasn’t going to know everything right away.’’
What the Joliet Slammers’ rookie manager did deliver was an energetic and enthusiastic demeanor to the game he played and loves and hopes to stay a part of in the future.
Although it’s disappointing to Breyman the Slammers will finish under .500, his thoughtful approach still remains for every game as the team starts the final week of its Frontier League season.
“Your mind is going at all times,’’ Breyman said. “I’m always trying to think an inning ahead. I’m trying to make sure I have everything right. Sometimes, things happen where you’re not ready for them, the chess game between you and the other manager.
“Trying to make sure you put your guys in the best situation to make them successful. When you get a guy out there, you put them in a situation and they do succeed, that’s probably the best feeling you can have as a manager.’’
Breyman has come a long way from his boyhood home in Republic, Ohio, a town of about 400.
He hit .810 as a high school senior, played two years at Rend Lake College in Ina, Ill., and finished his college career at the University of Kentucky, with the “big boys’’ in the SEC, he said.
Breyman played for the Gateway Grizzlies in the Frontier League from 2004 through ’08, finishing with a .325 career batting average.
“There was definitely a time where I had to figure out what I wanted to do,’’ he said. “I was still able to play. I was just coming off my best year with the Grizzlies.
“I decided I wanted to coach. I knew I wanted to stay in baseball. I loved it too much. At this point, I want to be a part of baseball for a while.’’
Breyman was the Grizzlies’ bench coach in 2009, hitting coach for the River City Rascals in 2010 and ’11 and returned to Gateway last season as its hitting coach.
“The hardest thing to learn was how to interact with players the correct way,’’ he said. “I was only 29. The guys I’m coaching were 22, 23, 24 years old.
“You want to be a guy they count on, not a friend-type person, but you want to make sure they know they can trust you and rely on you. At the same time, make sure they know who’s in charge. You’ve got to walk that fine line.’’
Breyman credits three managers — Gateway’s Phil Warren, Southern Illinois’ Mike Pinto and Windy City’s Ron Biga — with aiding his development. Pinto is a former JackHammers coach and Biga spent two seasons as the Slammers’ vice president of baseball operations.
“Those three guys have probably been the biggest who’ve helped me through this whole thing,’’ he said.
Breyman lives in town during the season with his wife, Jennifer, 4-year-old son, Beau, and 2-year-old daughter, Callie. After the season it’s back to Belleville to run the nearby Grizzlies Baseball Academy, partly owned by Warren.
Because most managers in the Frontier League have one-year deals, Breyman doesn’t know if he’ll be back with the Slammers next summer.
“That’s their decision,’’ he said. “I’d love to come back. I love this stadium. I love this town. It’s got a lot of character.’’