'Dream Come True': Breasseale, Collins Sign National Letters of Intent
Last week marked a memorial occasion for Union Pines athletics as Viking senior baseball players Seth Breasseale and Nicholas “Nic” Collins signed national letters of intent to continue their careers at the collegiate level.
A third-year captain, Collins penned his name to attend Division I Georgetown University, while Breasseale committed to playing ball for Division II Barton College, located in Wilson.
For both players the day marked the final reward in a journey that started with playing college ball as the objective. At the same time both feel it served as the start of a new phase in their overall baseball voyage.
“It is a dream come true for me,” Collins said “and I am very excited. I have wanted to play at the college level ever since I was 7 years old and discovered what college baseball was all about.
“It is an amazing feeling to know that I am going to be playing ball at the next level. All I can do is thank God for all the blessings that he has given me in my life. Of course, I feel some relief (having signed already), but I don’t feel it will make any difference in my performance this year. I always strive to perform at the best of my ability so that we as a team can succeed and make memories that will go down in the books.
“I hope to have a great senior year along with all of my fellow teammates. My goals for this year will be to continue to better myself and continue to provide leadership for my teammates.”
Breasseale comments rang very similar to his teammates when discussing the fact that he had accomplished a long-term goal.
“When I signed I obviously felt happy,” Breasseale, “but at the same time I felt accomplished. This was the No. 1 goal on my mind for five years and signing those papers made it all come true. I made this goal my eighth grade year. It was the first time I had experienced success on the baseball field at more than the parks and recreation level. I realized after that season, I wanted to be able to have the feeling of playing for a school and wearing a jersey with pride for as long as I could. I wanted it more than anything.
“I love everything about baseball. It has always been my favorite thing to do ever since I could walk, so signing was great in the fact that it took the pressure off of having to perform like I did last year, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to. I will always have personal goals and I will always expect myself to perform to the best of my abilities.”
Last season the pair of sluggers both put up prodigious power numbers while leading Union Pines (19-8) to the third round of the 3-A state playoffs and a North Carolina High School Athletic Association record-breaking performance at Viking Field in Cameron, as Union Pines set a new mark for most home runs hit by a team in a single game.
The Vikings hit 11 homers in the 16-9 nonconference win against East Montgomery. The game’s grand total of 13 round-trippers also broke the previous NCHSAA state record of 10. Four different Vikings had multiple homers in the game, as Collins and Justin Allred each had three blasts for Union Pines, while Breasseale and Gabe Gonzalez both had a pair of long balls.
Collins turned in the second of two straight monster seasons last year on the diamond. Over the course of his junior campaign he batted .539 with 37 RBIs and 18 extra base hits, including nine doubles and seven homers, and 36 runs, while slugging .987 with an on-base percentage (OBP) of .621.
As a sophomore, he was voted the runner-up in the Cape Fear Valley Conference Player of the Year voting for baseball, finishing second to Gray’s Creek senior ace Brandon Browne.
The 6-foot-3 southpaw slugger posted phenomenal offensive statistics that season as well, leading Union Pines in all but one offensive statistical category, batting .603 with five home runs, 38 RBIs and 35 runs scored. His eight doubles were second-best on the team. Out of 95 total plate appearances that season he struck out just two times, while also drawing 18 walks. He had an OBP of .684 and a .945 slugging percentage.
In turn, Breasseale had the best offensive season in Union Pines’ history and set the school record for home runs. As a result he was selected as the 2011 Cape Fear Valley Conference Player of the Year and made the 3-A all-state team.
The southpaw slugger batted .506 with 14 home runs, 49 RBI, 27 runs and seven doubles. His final on-base percentage was .596 and he slugged 1.195 for the year.
The home run tally was a new Union Pines’ school record, making Breasseale the 2011 3-A division home run king and placing him second overall in long balls hit in the state. He also led the 3-A ranks in RBIs, finished second in slugging and fourth in OBP. His RBI and slugging totals were each the third best recorded in the regular season statewide.
Along with being a six-time MaxPreps player of the week for Union Pines, Breasseale received a spot on the sixth annual International Power Showcase’s 12-man featured lineup that included high school players from eight different states. The senior was also one of 10 finalists in the running to become the fourth annual N.C. STEP “No Spit” All-Star of the Year.
A Coach’s Commentary
Vike head coach Chad Hill recently began his sixth season as the skipper for Union Pines varsity baseball. He has seen some special players come through the program over that span.
“We are coming off of a very solid year as a team,” Hill said, “but these two athletes right here (in Seth and Nic) are the ones that have pushed our team throughout the offseason in the weight room and on the field to not rest on last year’s accomplishments and instead go above and beyond the bar that was set.
“These two guys have put in hours and hours of time outside of practice to get better and to allow them this tremendous honor of being able to play collegiate baseball.”
When discussing Collins, Hill said he is a player that simply does not come along that often.
“Not only is he a wonderfully talented baseball player, but he’s just as talented on the academic side,” said Hill. “Nic has continued each season to get better and better and it is great to see his hard work come to fruition. As an eighth-grader playing for me in summer ball, I was amazed at his baseball knowledge and his understanding of the game.
“Nic has a way with his peers that he can be their buddy and a leader without compromising either relationship. Plus he is a wonderful kid. He will do great at Georgetown because he has a great work ethic in the classroom and on the field and that will help him throughout his life.
“I have not coached a kid with as much all-around talent, in the sense of having the physical ability and the mental capability to process situations and then figure out a solution — in my six years of coaching high school — I have never seen a better hitter than Nicholas Collins.”
Hill remembers Breasseale making huge strides during the offseason between his sophomore and junior season. According to Hill, he became a gym rat and a baseball junkie.
“Every conversation I had with him (Seth), he was talking about getting bigger and stronger and going to hit baseballs,” said Hill. “I told him back during his freshman year that I would love to see him work on a few things, so I could pencil him in at first base every day.
“We also talked after his 10th-grade season about how I am not a big batting average person, but rather I’m more worried about on-base percentage. Seth really took that to heart, and I believe his better pitch selection helped contribute to his unbelievable junior season. He was very well deserving of the player of the year award and I was extremely proud when he won it.”
Tale of Two Players
During their junior seasons, both Breasseale and Collins shined blazingly bright. However the path each player took to attain that high level of production is markedly different. While both trips involved dedication and practice, for Collins the skill set, power and consistency was a given by his sixth game as a freshman, which is buttressed by his being the runner-up in the CFVC player of the year voting as a sophomore.
For Breasseale, the road to becoming an elite player was a bit bumpier.
“My sophomore season was the worst season of my life” he admitted. “I led the team in strikeouts and hit .198. After that season I realized I never wanted to be like that again, I wanted to play to the best of my abilities and, more important, if I wanted to play college ball I really needed to step it up.
“Consequently I was dedicated wholeheartedly to baseball and there was no stopping me. Even a setback due to a football injury could not hold me back. I broke my thumb and wore in a cast for four months. It was painful but it was truly a blessing, because when that cast came off I worked harder than anyone. I was in the cages getting lessons, lifting and throwing with fury because I wanted to make up for the time that I had lost. It paid off.
Seth’s father, Scott Breasseale, remembers that once his son was able to drive that his work ethic really took off.
“Once Seth got his driver’s license, he got up and drove himself every Saturday and still does today,” said Scott. “He was determined to work on every aspect of his game — on his own — and he knew if he could hit the ball well, the rest of his game would fall into place. I’ve never seen anyone his age so dedicated to the sport.”
Throughout Breasseale’s and Collins’ Viking careers, it has become common place to see both lads mothers and fathers at every game — home and away. With both sets of his grandparents residing locally, Collins often has a large contingent of family supporters, including his older brother, Todd, who graduate from Union Pines in 2009 and his younger brother, Mason, who will will be a sophomore on the squad this season.
Moreover the two sets of families have become a close unit and it is evident before, after and during every game the youngsters play.
Jeff Collins, Nic’s father, was the long time PA announcer for home games at Viking field, while his wife and Nic’s mom, Sarah, often volunteers at the concession stand. However, Jeff happily relinquished his role as announcer a year or two ago so that he could enjoy watching the games more intently.
“I think it is every baseball dad’s dream to see his son play at the next level,” said Jeff. “I remember him (Nic) being about 10 years old, and we all went to a Durham Bulls game. He very seriously told his grandfather and I that he would play on that field one of these days. I laughed then but who knows? Nic has a way of achieving what he sets out to accomplish.
“I am so proud of him. All of this just seems like a dream. Working hard on the field and in the class is just something Nic does. He has always been a team player and I am proud of him. Of course, he has those typical teenager episodes but overall I think he has become a wonderful young man. I wish him all the best as he joins the Georgetown Hoyas.”
Switching subjects, Jeff reflected on the past, especially his sons’ recent time on the diamond.
“I would not trade the past few years for anything,” he said. “I switched my shift at work several years ago so that I would be able to see most of my boys’ games. Whether they were playing recreation ball or school ball I wanted to be there. I was privileged to have had the opportunity to coach each of them in baseball when they were younger. As they grew older, I knew it was time for dad to take a back seat and let others take over.”
Todd was a three-year starter for Union Pines and played as a senior with Nic in 2009, during his brother’s freshman season. Mason, the youngest of the trio, made the team last season as a freshman.
Sarah Collins is also very proud of her son and touched in detail about the family affair that one of Nic’s typical Union Pines baseball games has become.
“We have a very supportive family,” she said. “Nic has been blessed to have his grandparents be such an active part of his baseball and his life. Most of our family live right here in Moore County. So when baseball season starts, everyone wants a schedule.
“We are all very close and it is only appropriate to include them in Nic’s accomplishment. They deserve as much thanks as anyone. Nic has been supported by many family and friends over the years. Countless people in the community have congratulated Nic and we are so grateful for each one of them.
“ I hope that Nic can go forward and make Union Pines and Moore County proud. Lots of wonderful memories have been created on baseball fields for our family. We have made friendships that will last a lifetime. I guess now we are just going to have to rent a big van or bus to go see Nic play. Jeff said we needed a good deal on a used helicopter or airplane but neither one of us knows how to fly.”
Scott and Mary Breasseale make it a habit of arriving early to their son’s ball games so they can sit behind home plate right next to the media section. Over the course of the game they talk baseball, analyze at-bats and cheer like crazy.
“Seth can do anything he puts his mind to,” said Scott. “I really believe that this occasion is one of many more to come in life for Seth. Describing how I feel is hard to put into words, but knowing that I have helped Seth attain one of his dreams is what every parent wishes.
“I will never forget when he was in the second or third grade one year that he made the cover of Stars and Stripes newspaper in Europe, throwing from the mound. But more recently, I would say it started about his sophomore year when he got his driver’s license. For a couple of years before Seth and I would make the drive to Sanford every Saturday morning so that he could work on his ability to hit the ball at Line Drive and receive batting instruction from David Young.”
Scott says his role in his son’s development has been as a ‘coach’ and supportive dad.
“The relationship that Seth and I share is what any parent would want and do for their children: be there, guide them, listen and help them attain their dreams,” he said. “The real role models and relationships that helped Seth come from this community, faculty and coaches of Union Pines High School.
“With regard to the last three-plus years, the Collins and Harward (Sarah Collins’ parental side) families along with Chad Hill and (assistant Vike coach) Chris Allred have taken Seth to the next level of play.”
Breasseale’s mother did not hesitate to convey how extremely excited she is, and one reason is she gets to see her son play more baseball.
“It is wonderful to know that his senior season is not the end of baseball for Seth because we have enjoyed watching him grow as a young man through baseball,” she said. “And he loves the game so much.
“I have been able to watch Seth play baseball on a team since T-ball and he would play anywhere and anytime he could. When he was in middle school he played a lot of ‘left bench’ along with one of his best friends. I give him credit for sticking with it. His desire to play high school ball made him work harder. Never say quit is definitely one of his mottos.
“Then when he got to high school he decided he wanted to play ball in college. We told him that would take a lot more hard work and dedication while keeping up the good grades at school. He said, ‘OK,’ and never gave up. I am extremely proud of him for that.”
Click the links below for full Q&A transcripts with Nic and Seth
Contact F.W. Manning II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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