Through The Eyes

An Oakland Athletics site

Grizzly For Life

By Brandon Heidal

Growing up, I played most positions on the baseball field.

But it wasn’t until I was around 11 years old when I fell in love with a position that I still play to this day.

The catcher position.

I was playing for a travel team as a pitcher, and our other pitchers wanted me to catch for him during one of our scrimmages.

I agreed, and ever since then, I just loved everything about the catcher position.

I love how you’re involved in every play as a catcher.

You’re kind of like the “general on the field,” the “mind of the defense.”

And at Oakland University, I get to be just that.

Leadership of a catcher

The catcher position lends itself to leadership.

Everybody on the field is looking at you — every pitch. 

It allows you to connect with your teammates on a deeper level, especially with the pitchers.

You have to be able to connect with them and understand their presence on the mound.

If they need tough love, I give them tough love.

If they need a smile on their face, I give them a smile on their face. 

I have had my ups and downs since being in this program, so I know what a lot of my teammates are going through.

College is tough.

Baseball is tough.

What helped me get through it was simply growing up and just doing the work. I use this now as one of my main leadership ideals.

Another crucial piece of leadership is listening.

I tell my teammates that I am always there for them if they need to talk.

Being able to talk about problems and things that occupy our minds is very important for a mental sport like baseball, especially with the high expectations of our program.

And I hope I’ve done a good job making everyone feel comfortable addressing those things.

Culture and pride

I also learned about the impact of loyalty during my time at Oakland. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of pride in this school, and I’ve been loyal to the program since I arrived.

I’m a Grizzly for life.

It’s not something that we see a lot in college sports nowadays with the transfer portal. It becomes difficult to build a solid culture with so much turnover every year, in my opinion.

One of the reasons I didn’t transfer is because Coach Banfield and how he gave me the opportunity to play consistently.

That’s all I ever wanted — to play Division I baseball.

And I’ve been able to do that every single year I’ve been at Oakland.

Through the years, coach and I have built a great relationship. He’s helped me become the man I am today and I enjoy playing for him.

Over those years, I have seen the culture of the team change tremendously, too.

That’s a testament to our coaching staff and the players on the team. We’ve risen into one of the top spots in the league, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for this program.

We’re building something special here, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.

Enjoy the ride

I’ve played in over 100 wins during my time here, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have some incredible memories on and off the field.

This is a special place, and I’ll always be proud to call myself a Golden Grizzly.

Even the cold winters that may or may not have required some getting-used-to for a kid from California like myself — I appreciate them as they toughened me up and made me a better player.

When I leave, my message to the team is going to be simple — enjoy it.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and don’t let yourself get too frustrated.

DI baseball is a grind. We travel a lot, and we play a lot of games. It can be mentally and physically exhausting, but it’s also an experience that you’ll never forget.

Soak it all in and have fun.

Play every game like you’re playing wiffle ball with your friends in the backyard.

This is something you’ve always dreamed of, so just go out there and enjoy the ride.

It’s been an honor to be a part of this program, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Oakland.