BOLINGBROOK — So, on Tuesday I was up at the ATI Physical Therapy corporate headquarters for a press conference held by the Joliet Slammers. ATI is the presenting sponsor for the Frontier League franchise, which is why the media session was held there instead of Silver Cross Field.
The occasion was due to the face that the Slammers were naming their new field manager in Mike Breyman. A small media contingent was on hand that morning and it marked the first time I had been introduced to Breyman.
"It's great to be here," was the first thing he said to me as I welcomed him. "There's nowhere else I'd rather be right now."
It was his moment to shine since it is his first managerial job ever. He was one of six finalists for the job, according to Chris Franklin, the Slammers' general manager. As you probably know by now, Franklin is a Morris Community High School graduate.
Chris and Mike have a history together from their days with the River City Rascals. Still, it sounds like both he and Slammers CEO Josh Schaub did their due diligence with the hire.
"There were name guys with recognition. Guys who had played in the big leagues, but I looked for the best fit for this team and this league and the organization," Franklin said. "Whether they played Major League Baseball or not, and it could have been a Major League guy, but I felt where we were at as an organization and his position in the Frontier League I thought he gave us the best opportunity to win."
It's something Schaub told me personally was important before the conference started and something he reiterated that day.
"Before I became owner of this team and before I was an attorney, I was in scouting. I'll never forget sitting in the scouting room one time and one scout asked another, 'Will this guy hold a championship trophy over his head?' That was the question I asked myself about Mike," Schaub said. "When you talk about becoming the face of a team and the face of a franchise, that's the easiest way to do it. There is a picture of Mike holding a championship trophy above his head, and Joliet continuing a tradition it's always had."
Schaub is an engaging fellow who shared a couple of stories with me about his days as a scout with the Milwaukee Brewers and you can tell he has a passion for what's he's doing with the Slammers. That's good for you minor league baseball fans out there who want to see a winner.
Schaub is actually the CEO of an ownership group called Joliet Baseball Community Entertainment and he is also exploring every opportunity to make a trip to Silver Cross Field a memorable one — both inside and outside the stadium.
Part of that may include dog mascots wearing a Slammers uniform with the name 'Spikes' on the back.
"First of all I'd like to say, I don't know who is more at home here, myself or Spikes," ATI Senior Vice President Jason Hafner pointed out during his turn at the podium. "He seems to make himself right at home."
Spikes is one of two mascots for the Slammers with the other being a crow named J.L. Bird. Spikes brought high energy to the press conference and even pantomimed to Breyman a wish for a spot in the lineup.
"Can you bunt?" Breyman asked. "Then you're in the two hole."
I guess you could say that the press conference has the chance to be a portent of things to come. A nice combination of brusk seriousness sprinkled with moments of fun and levity. It's a mix that the new Slammers management group seems to be banking on.