Must-see TV: Central Missouri's Brennen van Breusegen resembles MLB outfielder Harrison Bader

May 16—University of Central Missouri's baseball team has been must-see TV once again this year. That is thanks — in large part — to redshirt senior center fielder Brennen van Breusegen.

He is seventh in the MIAA with a .384 batting average and he leads the conference with a 1.281 OPS (on-base plus slugging). His 19 home runs are tied for the league's best and his slugging percentage of .800 is atop the leaderboard.

He's top 10 in basically every offensive statistic aside from doubles. His 12 doubles are 28th in the MIAA. He even showcases his speed with 17 steals on 25 attempts. Those 17 steals are 10th-most for all conference players.

It isn't just his offense that is among the best. He has 108 putouts as the captain of UCM's outfield and four outfield assists, and van Breusegen is one of six athletes in the conference to not record an error yet this year.

I was able to watch the 6-foot-tall speedy ballplayer live for the first time this past weekend when the Mules faced Missouri Southern State University in the MIAA Tournament championship in Pittsburg, Kansas, at Pittsburg State University's Al Ortolani Field. Let me say, he is must-see TV himself.

Aside from the talent, one thing just jumped out at me. This young man's game resembled former St. Louis Cardinal and current New York Met Harrison Bader's. They're similarly built, quick hands when swinging the bat, good defense and an ability to defend well in the most important spot in the outfield.

As a Cardinal fan myself, who has watched plenty of St. Louis games over the years, it was obvious he resembled the former Cardinal.

After the game, I was able to talk with the Illinois native about the similarities.

I asked if he was fan of the Cardinals and he said, "Yep."

When I said I thought he resembled Bader he let out a laugh and had this to say when asked if he was a fan of Bader's: "Oh, huge fan of Harrison Bader," van Breusegen said. "Well, I appreciate it. It's a good comparison. Honestly, him with the Cardinals my senior year of high school and then going into college, he was immediately my favorite player. Just because of his defense.

"He just goes hard all the time and is fun to watch. He's electric out there, and I do try to be like him sometimes, I'm not going to lie."

That can be seen in the batter's box. Bader will sometimes let go of his bat with his bottom hand and go into a bit of a crouch when he watches a pitch go by. van Breusegen does the same thing.

He plays the same position as Bader and also wears the same number — 48 — that Bader wore while in St. Louis. But that wasn't by choice — more by promise to a teammate.

During his freshman season, he and fellow freshman Sam Tatum were redshirted and got what van Breusegen called "bottom-of-the-barrel jerseys." They vowed to keep those jerseys as long as they remained Mules.

Van Breusegen delivered some electricity of his own during Saturday's game. He stole third base. He came charging in on a softly hit ball and had to make a catch on the run while going down toward the turf in center field. He finished 1 for 5 with a walk, a run scored and an RBI.

He also struck two well-hit balls into deep center field that were both caught by MSSU's center fielder Drew Davis. The first was a tough running grab on a line drive. The other was a long fly ball that didn't have the distance to go over the fence so Davis caught it on the track.

His hair even somewhat resembles the flow Bader used to have in St. Louis. It wasn't quite as long this weekend. But it was long enough to flow out of the back of his helmet a little. Van Breusegen typically doesn't grow his hair out, though, and says, "It needs to be cut." But he's saving the haircut for after UCM's season ends.

The Mules are the No. 1 seed in the Central Region and are hosting three teams in Warrensburg with action beginning Thursday. The Lions are the No. 2 seed and are hosting the rest of the Central Region field.

If both teams win their brackets, they will meet again in Warrensburg for the Super Regional championship.

"It's a good team and I'd love to see them again," he said.

MSSU's Henry Kusiak had this to say about potentially meeting UCM again: "Hey, I told their first baseman 'I hope we see you in two weeks at your place. It will be a dogfight. It'll be fun.'"