Michael Brettell isn’t only a pitcher with the Central Michigan Chippewas team with potential going into next week’s Major League Baseball draft.
He’s much more.
The 6-foot-3, 210 pound Brettell was a child in Fonthill, Ont. when he first started building things. He made a high chair for his little sister at just six years old.
“I always knew I had an aptitude for building things,” Brettell said. “I had (the high chair) done before (my dad) even looked up from the instructions. I was a Lego guy as a kid. I always loved building.”
The meeting point between technological interest and baseball talent began before his sophomore season at CMU. Fulfilling both of his passions, he designed a personal game system to take with him across the country on road trips.
“The game system came about with my love for technology,” Brettell said. “You get bored on the long bus trips and need to do something. I put two and two together and went on with it.”
Brettell’s current game system is the second edition of his machine. The speakers are from a desktop computer, which was easy for Brettell to assemble. The most difficult part was getting the screen to work with the controller board, but after some trial and error, the step-by-step process was complete.
“The first one was built out of a Wii carrying case,” Brettell said. “It was just the size of a 13-inch desktop. This time, I made a wood case, added some speakers, put a bass in it and made room for a PS4. I took it to the whole next level.”
The second game system took Brettell about 2 1/2 weeks to assemble, not including the time it took to order parts. He worked on it for a week before playing summer ball in the Cape Cod League and finished the system before coming to school for the fall semester.
While he is a computer science major in the classroom, Brettell is a junior right-handed pitcher for the Chippewas. Brettell uses his mind to excel in the classroom and on the mound.
“When I’m on the mound, I have to know game situations and tendencies of the hitters,” Brettell said. “Having the knowledge of the reasoning and deductive side of things, you’re able to break down hitters in different ways.”
Early in the season, Brettell allowed 12 runs in two innings against New Mexico in a 20-9 loss. Now, he has bounced back and finished with a 6-7 record with a 5.37 ERA in 15 starts. He walked 32 and had 70 strikeouts in 93 innings pitched.
“I have to trust my pitches and the way the ball moves,” Brettell said. “Baseball is one of the most mental sports. I had a bad start, but there was only a week until my next start. There has to be something in you to strive for greatness.”
During road trips, Brettell’s teammates can pick between entertaining themselves with the Wii, GameCube or PlayStation 4. While the student-athletes play, pitching coach Jeff Opalewski and head coach Steve Jaska enjoy watching.
“I’ve been back there,” Jaska said. “I just watch, laugh and let them enjoy it. It’s an opportunity to pass the time and relax a little bit. They do it together, so it’s great.”
Sophomore reliever Cameron Brown said redshirt freshman reliever Cameron Miller is the best “Fortnite” player on the team. Brettell agreed.
Fortnite is an online co-op sandbox survival video game that has gone viral since its launch in September 2017. The team also plays “MLB The Show,” “Rock Band” and a variety of other video games on Brettell’s homemade portable game system.
“Michael is another breed,” Brown said. “He’s just got stuff figured out and he knows things that nobody else does. Nobody is going to make fun of him because everyone wants to play (his video game).”
At the start of the season, Brettell said he planned to block out his MLB Draft stock to focus on his team. He has continued that mentality in order to help the Chippewas win and leave a positive legacy for himself in the Maroon and Gold.
“When I go on the mound, I’m not worried about what the scouts think,” Brettell said. “I’m focused on winning a Mid-American Conference championship for Central Michigan University. I want people to think that I was a great person and a great pitcher. I want them to know I worked my butt off and look for the same dedication in themselves.”