In the mid to late 1990s, Wellington High School was known for its highly talented baseball teams. Year after year, the school graduated first-round draft picks and earned a reputation as one of the country’s top baseball programs.
It was an affinity to play for a team of that caliber that convinced a hard-throwing righty from the Boston area to move to Wellington. He wanted to be the next in line.
John Brebbia came to Wellington in 2008 for his senior year of high school having lived in Sharon, Mass., his entire life. But he quickly found a home on the mound for the Wolverines, going 10-1 with 55 strikeouts and leading the team to a district title. He was drafted out of Elon University in the 30th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft by the New York Yankees and now plays for the single-A Charleston RiverDogs.
“I wanted to play baseball in college, and I wanted to hopefully move on to a professional career,” Brebbia said of his move to Wellington. “I thought the best way to do that would be to find some warm weather, find a top-quality coaching staff and go from there.”
Brebbia arrived in Wellington already familiar with the team. He had played fall baseball in Boston for the Hammertime team with Wellington players Bryan Adametz, Trey Ferrano, Lee Reumann and Evan Stermer. He became close friends with the Wellington players.
“Everyone was really excited when he announced he would be playing at Wellington his senior year,” Reumann said. “I remember our coaches had the radar guns out at tryouts, and he was throwing 90 to 92 consistently. Word got out quickly, and he lived up to the hype.”
It took getting accustomed to a larger school and the weather, but Brebbia found quick success on the mound, beginning with his first start in a game at Park Vista High School. Later in the season, he threw 18 strikeouts against John I. Leonard. “He was one of the best pitchers in the state that year,” Reumann said.
Despite his success, Brebbia said what he learned most from his short stay in Wellington was work ethic. He, like all Wellington students who have been on the back0fields of campus around 2 p.m., watched coach Scott Riddle manicure the field. With pitching coach Bob Bradley, Brebbia learned everything should be geared toward perfection.
“Both of those guys were some of the hardest working people I’d ever seen, no matter what it came to, not just baseball, but in anything,” Brebbia said. “Not only did I feed off that, but other people on the team did.”
Along with his talent and success, Brebbia clicked with his new friends. “I got to know John only for a year, but in that time, we all realized that he had special talent,” Stermer said. “He had a tremendous work ethic to back up his God-given ability. Off the field, John was a joker and a great friend.”
The camaraderie Brebbia and his old teammates had is what he now has with his professional teammates. Brebbia called the friendships he has with the players he’s played with in the minors the highlight of his professional career. Yes, there are long bus rides, but at the end of the day, the positives outweigh the negatives.
Last year, in spring training, Brebbia was given the chance to sit in the dugout during a big league game. He said hello to Derek Jeter and grilled Andy Pettitte about his slider.
Although Brebbia was recently demoted from High-A Tampa to Low-A Charleston, his goal is still to reach the majors. He plans to hone his fastball command and work on the location of his off-speed pitches to go level to level to reach the big leagues.
“The goal in the end is to play Major League Baseball,” Brebbia said. “That’s pretty much everybody’s goal. Hopefully I can progress to the next level and then the next level, until the final ultimate goal of playing at Yankee Stadium.”
If he does make the majors, he’ll be yet another player to make a stop in Wellington before doing so.
“I just remember that whole team being a bunch of not only great baseball players, but great people who I had so much fun with,” Brebbia said. “The whole year was a blast. I couldn’t even have imagined that I could have had that much fun. We had a great team, and we did really well. It was a awesome experience.”
ABOVE: John Brebbia on the mound for the Charleston RiverDogs. Photo Courtesy Charleston RiverDogs