March 8, 2017
By Dylan Goetz
Central Michigan Life
Freshman pitcher Michael Brettell returns to the dugout while his teammates congratulates him during the game against Kent State at Theunissen Stadium, Saturday, March 26, 2016.
Since baseball isn’t necessarily the most popular sport in Canada, sophomore right-handed pitcher Michael Brettell found another way to explore his talents with the Canadian junior national team.
To recruit players, the Canada junior national team travels around the country to watch showcase games and talented teams to select the best players they think can represent the country.
“It is an opportunity they gave me to show off my stuff,” Brettell said. “You go down for a week and play with (the team) and you are not guaranteed a spot the next time too, so you have to keep working to get better.”
In his second season with the Chippewas, Brettell has pitched in three games thus far going 1-1 with two strikeouts. He is building off of a freshman campaign where he 3-1 with an earn run average of 4.50 and 33 strikeouts.
The Fonthill, Ont. native, is one of 18 Canadian sophomores on NCAA teams at the Division I level. Brettell said he already knew most of his teammates before joining the national team because Canadian baseball is such a tight-knit group of players and coaches.
One of these relationships was the reason Brettell got involved with the national team in the first place.
“I had a little bit of an in with one of my coaches from my summer ball team,” Brettell said. “He actually used to play with them and he helped out with coaching.”
CMU head coach Steve Jaksa said being from Canada made no difference in recruiting the right-handed pitcher, but the experience with the national team did help Brettell.
“We love Canadians,” Jaksa said. “We have had a lot of success up there, so there’s not anything that is different. I am pretty close with the junior national team’s coach and I know the organization pretty well. One of them was a CMU baseball alum who works in the organization.”
Through this opportunity, Brettell was able to travel to Japan for the Junior World Championships as well as to the Dominican Republic and Australia.
“(Japan) was an unreal experience just being in a different culture,” Brettell said. “(Before this) I never had traveled outside of North America. It was a whole different culture shock and people were friendly. The baseball atmosphere was amazing because Japan loves baseball.”
Playing for the national team helped Brettell’s recruitment as well.
“When I was about 16 (years old) I joined a team in Canada, it was a new team that had a lot of guys that played professional baseball and had their ways in,” Brettell said. “Once that team came about that is when I started getting looked at. And then traveling with the national team definitely helped get more looks.”
Assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Jeff Opalewski said traveling with the national team has made Brettell more experienced and mature.
“That type of experience helps in so many different ways,” Opalewski said. “Just being on your own and forcing that maturity and accelerating that process. Also, guys that coached that Canada junior national team are former big-leaguers.
“Being around those guys and to be immersed in that (atmosphere) is going to help you as a baseball player as well as something as simple as how to go about your business. He’s had a mature approach to how he works.”
Agreeing with Opalewski, Brettell said traveling with the team helped him transition to college baseball since he was already playing at a high level.
Though he can not play for the team anymore, Brettell said the connections he made throughout the experience can be one of the most valuable takeaways.
Jaksa said Brettell is willing to help his CMU team in any way he can either starting or coming from the bullpen.
“Whatever role Michael (Brettell) has for us is going to be best for the team and help us win,” Jaksa said. “Right now it is as a starter but who knows because he did a little bit of both last year.”