While he and his teammates left Shelby, N.C., as two-time defending American Legion World Series champions — the first team to do so in 40 years — Sean Breen had some extra hardware to pack.
In what Breen considered being on top of his game — the infielder’s American Legion tournament run in which he batted .575 — it earned him numerous awards: the tournament MVP, the George W. Rulon American Legion Player of the Year, the Big Stick Award and the Slugger Award.
“Everything was going right for me,” said Breen, a Gloucester Catholic High School student. “I thought I brought my 'A game' and never let go of it the entire time. I played hard and stayed focused while we played with one goal in mind: to win.”
The Iona College commit led the tournament in batting average and total bases (29), which led to him earning the Big Stick and Slugger awards, respectively. But his most cherished individual postseason award is his MVP award.
“It was the greatest moment of my life,” said Breen. “It was an incredible experience when you’re recognized for all your talent. There is no greater feeling. It meant that all my hard work has paid off.”
His average jumped over 100 points from the regular season to the postseason, but Breen didn’t make any adjustments. In 57 games played, Breen batted .442 with a team-high 64 RBIs on 80 hits.
There were numerous times when he stepped into the box with runners in scoring position during the playoffs, but still, he came in with the same mindset and confidence as he had all season.
“My approach when at the plate is always the same,” said Breen, a resident of Glendora. “Wait for the perfect pitch, get the clutch hits when my team is counting on me most.”
During the Mid-Atlantic Regional, played at Campbell's Field in Camden, it was clear how much respect Breen drew from the opposition. Because of how often he was connecting with every pitch, some teams decided it was safer to walk him than allow him to beat them with his red-hot bat. In particular, he was intentionally walked three times during one game.
“Intentional walks can sometimes be frustrating because ultimately it impacts my batting average or chances to score and get RBIs,” said Breen. “But I feel honored that they would not pitch to me because it means they recognize my talent and ability to hit.”
A few days since Brooklawn’s 18-0 series-clinching win, Breen looks back on the journey with amazement. He and teammates put in a lot of work throughout the offseason and to see it all pay off was worth every hour of practice, road trip and early-morning wake-up call.
“I have been playing baseball since I was four years old,” said Breen. “Bottom line, I love the sport. I feel proud I have done my best win or lose, especially when it counts. This whole experience has been awesome.”
Things looked to be in Brooklawn’s favor from the very beginning Tuesday night in Shelby, N.C.
It’s not everyday a runner successfully steals home in the first inning. But that is what happened for Pete Farlow of Brooklawn, a play which catapulted them to a 18-0 win in seven innings over Midland, Mich., giving the Brookers their second straight American Legion World Series title and the fourth in the ball club's history, which dates back to 1952. The other titles came in 1991, 2001 and 2013.
Brooklawn also became the first team in 40 years to repeat as American Legion World Series champions.
As Brooklawn pitcher Tyler Mondile cruised to a five-hit shutout, Michigan pitchers struggled to find the plate all night, walking fifteen batters in all, and giving up eleven hits.
According to Farlow, it was a simple look and two words from his coach, Dennis Barth, that started the steal of home.
“Once I realized the pitcher was going from the windup, me and Beans (Dennis Barth) looked at each other and he said, ‘You ready?’ ” Farlow said. “I took one pitch to get it down and then it was all running as fast as I possibly could to beat the throw. It was awesome.”
Fran Kinsey, who started in right field for Brooklawn, just saw what took place in this game as normal for his team.
“From the first inning, we played Brooklawn baseball,” Kinsey said. “ We were patient at the plate, got timely hitting, got bunts down, and stealing bases. We just did what we do best.”
The win, although not of the dramatic type, still showcased just how Brooklawn seemed to be a cut above the rest of the teams in the tournament. According to tournament MVP, Sean Breen, this comes from something that has nothing to do with skill.
“What sets us a part is the way we bond together in the dugout,” Breen said. “We can feel each other’s energy, and we use it to win the ball game.”
Breen finished off his outstanding tournament going 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the title game. When asked about winning the MVP award, Breen said, “It feels fantastic. I just wanted to do what I usually do and leave the rest in God’s hands.”
Shortstop Phil Dickinson, widely looked upon as the team's leader, talked about the make-up of Brooklawn's squad.
"The defining characteristic is that we were a team that knew what it took to win on a stage like that and to stay calm and composed to get ahead early and never look back," said Dickinson.
Not to be lost in the 18-run explosion was just another tremendous outing by ace pitcher, Tyler Mondile. At the beginning of the game's broadcast on ESPNU, the announcers talked about a sore neck Mondile had been suffering from. It did not hinder him at all Tuesday night.
“My neck was completely fine tonight,” Mondile said. “I felt pretty strong at the start and got more loose as it went.”
Mondile said his game plan was just to get ahead of hitters and to mix in his curveball and change-up with his fastball on both corners of the plate. He gave the credit, and a raving approval, to his pitching coach, Josh Copskey, a former Brooklawn pitcher.
“Copskey is the best pitching coach in the country, with no doubt in my mind,” Mondile said.
With the win, Brooklawn won back-to-back American Legion World Series championships. According to Kinsey, it doesn’t matter how much you win, it always feels great.
“Winning never gets old man,” Kinsey said. “The first one is awesome, but it’s even harder to repeat. We worked hard from day one, and this feels just as special as the first. It’s good to know our hard work pays off.”
Dickinson felt great after being a part of his second World Series title.
"This title means a lot to me, to get my last win with the kids I've been playing with the last four years and there was no other way I wanted to go out than another World Series victory," Dickinson said.
Hard isn’t the word when it comes to repeating in the American Legion World Series. What Brooklawn accomplished hasn’t been done since 1973 and 1974, when Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico won two in a row.
Said Dickinson of the historical perspective: "It feels good because that's something that people will remember for a lifetime and we just don't want to be remembered, we want to be legends."
“It’s awesome to be the first team in 40 years,” Kinsey said. “A lot of teams have played in Legion history, and to be the first one in 40 years to do this is an awesome feeling.”
Breen loved the repeat as well, but elaborated about another reason why this championship was so special. All summer, Brooklawn baseball as a whole has dedicated the season to the team's founder and longtime manager, Joe “Pop” Barth (the father of the team's current coach Dennis Barth), who passed away at the age of 92 back on March 1. Breen said this was for him.
“It feels great because with the loss of Pop, we wanted to win even more this year,” Breen said. “To achieve that goal as well is just a fantastic feeling.”
Farlow, who pitched a tremendous game in the semifinals against Hawaii, credits the hard work and dedication of he and his teammates to why this was such a great feeling for him.
“For us to repeat as national champions is unbelievable,” Farlow said. “Brooklawn Legion is the hardest working program I have ever been a part of. We barely see our girlfriends, and are on the baseball field everyday. We played 61 games this summer, and we won our last game again. I’m proud to be able to say that.”
Mondile, who will only be entering his junior year in high school, also shared the feelings of his teammates. However, he took it a step further.
“It is pretty cool to repeat,” Mondile said. “It will be even cooler when we are the first team to do it three times in a row.”
As this American Legion baseball season has come to an end, it is always fun to start wondering, “What if?”