It happened rather unceremoniously, but there was a changing of the guard last Monday and Tuesday for one of the state’s biggest high...
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Brady Breeze is of a mindset that if you put forth the hard work, good things will come back to you in return.
The South Medford sophomore now has even more reason to believe in that theory thanks to a surprising turn of events recently while up in the Portland area.
Hoping to get in a few hacks and maybe pick up some pointers during a baseball workout in Portland, Breeze got that and more when he caught the eye of Seattle Mariners scout Jeff Sakamoto.
"He saw me hit and we talked to him afterwards and he was really nice but then we went back home not thinking anything of it," said Breeze.
One week later, that chance meeting turned into an invitation for the Panthers outfielder to play for Sakamoto in the 16U Perfect Game Baseball World Series in Fort Myers, Fla., set for July 26-30 at the Jet Blue Player Development Complex.
"It was awesome because we weren't really expecting anything to come out of it," said Breeze, "and out of the blue he calls and invites me to go to Florida. He just said, 'Are you down to play?' and I was like, 'Yeah, of course.'"
"It was crazy and like a dream," added the 16-year-old standout. "For a while I was like, 'Is this really happening?'"
Breeze will compete with the West Coast Mariners, based out of Springfield, at the 16-team event. He'll get a chance to play seven games at the professional facility of the Boston Red Sox and play in front of around 200 coaches and scouts from the professional and collegiate ranks.
"I'm so excited," said Breeze. "I think about it every day."
That Breeze even has this chance stems from a quirk of fate, and a relationship born over time between Breeze's father Jim and good friend Vic Rust, whose son Ronnie is also in the Class of 2016, at Central Catholic, and plays for Sakamoto's traveling team.
"I was just there to get a few pointers from Ronnie's hitting coach and it's just crazy how it all worked out," said Breeze, who was South Medford's starting right fielder as a freshman last year and one of its top hitters.
No matter how unconventional it was for the opportunity to present itself for the young Panther, it was his years of dedication and commitment to bettering himself that ultimately threw the door wide open. Breeze has long played on traveling baseball teams and routinely found his way to camps in football, baseball and basketball in an effort to push his talents to the next level.
In fact, Breeze was in Portland that fateful Sunday only because of his work with the Northwest Elite Index football camps. Projected as the state's top safety prospect for his class, Breeze has been heading up to Portland on a weekly basis throughout the winter to increase his skill and exposure.
"Every Sunday we wake up at 7 in the morning and leave at 8 and drive there because the camp starts at 2 p.m. and ends at 4:30," said Breeze. "A bunch of people have been giving me crap because I wasn't playing basketball this year, but it's been totally worth it. This last weekend we got to go to Las Vegas for this huge 7-on-7 tournament against all these crazy teams, like Snoop Dogg's team and Brian Dawkins' team from Colorado. I feel like I'm getting a lot better as a player because of all those experiences."
A natural athlete at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Breeze is also the nephew of former NFL safety Chad Cota, who, along with Breeze's parents, showed Brady at an early age the value of working hard to get what you want.
Even if that means very little time to simply hang out with his buddies or make plans for the weekend.
"It's just how it is," he said without hesitation. "It's the life of an athlete."
"You've got to have goals in life and you can't achieve goals without hard work," added Breeze. "It's not going to be easy to go anywhere and play so you've got to work at it if you really want it to happen for you."
Breeze was named defensive MVP by the NEI for his efforts in Las Vegas with the Northwest Underclassmen squad, leading to the inevitable question on whether he sees himself more as a baseball or football player.
"That's going to be a hard decision if I ever have to choose," he said. "It all just will depend on what schools are interested and me and whatever's the best situation for me. For now, I've just been working really hard at it and going to these camps and doing whatever I can to hopefully get something out of it."
With another two years left in high school, Breeze is certainly off to a fantastic start.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry