Breen and Moeller the prototypical Balers

San Benito High catcher Zack Moeller, seen here with teammate Andrew Breen last season, recently gave a verbal commitment to play at the University of Utah.

Andrew Breen and Zack Moeller represent the prototypical San Benito High athlete: hard-working, productive and team players.
“They’re kind of quiet leaders because they don’t talk very much, but they do a good job of leading by example,” Haybalers coach Bill Aviles said. “They’re not very vocal, but they always seem to get the big hit and be in the right place.”
Moeller, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound junior catcher, and Breen, a 5-10, 150-pound senior infielder, have both made an impact for a San Benito team that is looking to regain the form it showed earlier in the season.
The Balers, who clinched the Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division championship after a 10-0 win over Monterey on Tuesday — powered by Greg Steinbeck’s no-hitter — recently endured a tough stretch in which they lost three consecutive games and four out of five.
“We had never lost three in a row since I’ve been here,” said Aviles, who is in his fourth year coaching the team. “This year it’s been one thing after another, so we’re just trying to get healthy so we can make a good run down the stretch.”
If San Benito makes another deep run in the Central Coast Section playoffs — it has reached the CCS Division I playoff semifinals in three of the last four years — then it will look back to a 3-1 win over Saratoga on April 25 as the game that jump-started its late-season surge.
Needing a victory against a quality team — Saratoga entered the contest with a 15-6 record — the Balers received a huge boost from Moeller, who had a home run and gunned down a runner at third base to snuff a Saratoga rally.
“It’s a great feeling when you see someone going back to the dugout after throwing them out,” Moeller said. “The Saratoga player just got too far off of third base, and I just backdoored him for the out.”
Much to his credit, Moeller has improved in every phase of the game from a year ago. All of his offensive numbers are up — entering the week he had a team-tying best seven doubles among the starters, while ranking second on the team in walks (nine), RBI (15) and third in slugging percentage (.574).
Moeller said he made a concerted effort to improve his game from a mental standpoint during the off-season, realizing he couldn’t dwell on unproductive at-bats or defensive miscues.
“I realized if I have a bad game, I have to let it go,” Moeller said. “Before I used to struggle with going up to the plate and thinking about my previous at-bat, or letting go of a bad game.”
Moeller loves catching and takes pride in throwing runners out. Although he’s developed into a solid catcher, Moeller said he still has plenty he can improve on. Moeller admires St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and former big-league catcher Benito Santiago, who at times threw runners out from his knees.
“Yadier Molina has a cannon behind the plate, and no one messes with that guy,” Moeller said. “I like watching Benito Santiago on Youtube ever since my dad talked to me about him. I mostly watch in admiration, because of how powerful he was in throwing guys out from his knees. (I haven’t thrown anyone out from my knees), but it’s a hope for the future.”
Like Moeller, Breen was introduced to the game by his father, Adam, a teacher at San Benito and a former reporter at the Free Lance. Breen had a good reason for missing the baseball team’s first game this season — he played significant minutes this season as the backup point guard on the school’s basketball team that advanced to the CCS D-I playoff semifinals.
However, it didn’t take long for Breen to make an impact once he went from the hardwood to the field. One game, in fact. In a 3-1 loss to Saratoga on March 8, Breen collected a hit and stole a base. In the team’s next game, a 6-4 victory over Gilroy three days later, the shortstop-third baseman went 2-for-3, walked twice and stole another base.
That’s been a typical stat line for Breen, who entered the week with a team-best 15 walks while ranking second on the team with a .465 on-base percentage. Simply put, Breen finds a way to get on base and score.
“I do my best to get the job done,” Breen said. “I try to get on base, move runners over and do what it takes to help the team win.”
Even though baseball is no longer the national pastime in the U.S. — from a ratings standpoint and water-cooler talk, the NFL is king, hands down — it still reigns supreme in the Breen household.
That’s because Adam shared his love for the game to his sons, Andrew and Michael, a 2013 San Benito graduate who is now playing at San Jose State University. Andrew and Michael at times played on the same team growing up, and the two still share a close bond, texting each other everyday.
“Last year was really fun because we hadn’t played together for a couple of years,” Andrew said. “Baseball has always been an important part of our lives. Dad always took us out to the field to hit us ground balls and throw us BP (batting practice). He always pushed us to do our best.”
Baseball has always been Breen’s favorite sport. Even during the middle of a busy high school basketball season, Andrew would go to the field even on a school day — during his free period — where Adam would hit him grounders and work on the fundamentals of the game.
Those sessions helped Breen stay sharp enough to make a seamless transition from basketball to baseball season. Breen plans on playing baseball next year, whether it’s at a junior college or trying as a walk-on at a university.
“Who knows in the future, maybe I might get a chance to play with my brother again,” Breen said.

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