Just take one look at St. Charles East’s James Brennan, and you will realize that the senior first baseman/relief pitcher is not your stereotypical future college baseball player.
But that’s not the end of it. The 6-foot-3, 270-pound Brennan is also an offensive lineman in the fall. He committed in February to play both spots at Aurora University.
Through the years, Saints coach Len Asquini has had players who did two sports in college. Usually, that combination is along the lines of a shortstop and a quarterback, though.
“I guess I’ve been blessed,” Brennan said. “You look at my parents — they’re not giant by any means. I enjoy it and have fun. That’s all you can do.”
Brennan is coming off a productive season for St. Charles East.
Last spring, Brennan hit .440 with a slugging percentage of .733 and an on-base percentage of .563. He had seven doubles, five homers and 27 RBIs.
“He produced a lot of runs for us last year,” Asquini said. “He was a big part of that offense. We’re fortunate to have him on our side coming back. We’re really looking forward to it.”
Asquini is excited to see what lies ahead for Brennan after he returned to the football field. He came back out for that sport this fall, playing his lone varsity season.
Brennan confirmed he can feel a big difference in his mobility and athleticism.
“Definitely in the field it’s helped,” Brennan said. “I have more mobility. I cover a lot more ground. I’m able to play more toward second base because I know I can get to the ball down the line.
“At the plate, too, I feel like my bat is whippier. It helps me stay more balanced.”
Asquini marvels at what Brennan, at his size, provides on the baseball field.
“I think the football experience for him really helped in a lot of ways,” Asquini said. “He looks more agile and mobile here. He’s playing first and he may do some pitching, maybe some relief stuff.
“We experimented with some of that stuff last year and it was too awkward. Everything is a little bit better now. A lot of that has to do with his work and his athleticism.”
Despite his lack of experience in football, colleges started looking at him.
Once that process began, Brennan made it clear he wanted the opportunity to play both sports at the next level.
Brennan received several offers before deciding on AU.
“I came back, and ever since I started getting looks for football, I was like, ‘I want to do both,’” Brennan said. “It helped make a few choices for me.
“That’s why I settled on Aurora. I went there and (coach Don Beebe) was like, ‘It’s your pick. The offer still stands. Go ahead and look at other schools.’ I did, and I enjoyed Aurora.”
Asquini has a long-standing joke that his first basemen are the nonathletic players on the team.
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Now, Brennan comes along and is committed to play two sports in college while holding down that position for the Saints.
“Most of the time you see that with the shortstop/center fielder kind of guy,” Asquini said. “Here you have a first baseman/offensive lineman. He’s legit. He’s 270 pounds.
“It’s kind of ironic the one kid that’s going to college to play two sports is a lineman.”
While Asquini knows elite speed is never going to be Brennan’s forte, with the way he mashes the ball, that’s hardly a detriment.
“He hits for average,” Asquini said. “He hits for power. The one little thing lacking is foot speed, but he’s not hitting triples. The ball is getting by outfielders and it’s a sure double.
“We’re real happy with his progress.”
Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.