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Bredesons bring brotherly bonds to Michigan

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jack Bredeson, left, is a sophomore right-hander on the Michigan baseball team. Ben is a freshman left guard for the football team.

Ann Arbor — Ben Bredeson was 8 years old when he got nailed by a baseball in the upper shoulder close to his neck. He immediately shied away from the game, while his brother Jack, older by 18 months, continued in the sport.

A few years later, Ben wanted to give baseball a shot again.

“So Jack said, ‘All right, well, we need to get you ready,’ ” Ben said, laughing. “So he took me into the basement with a bucket of balls and had me stand against the wall and just plunked them at me for a half hour until I wasn’t afraid of it anymore.

“I went and hit two home runs in the tryout. Made the team. If I could take it from him, no one was going to throw it faster than he was. It worked. It worked. Cured it right there.”

What are older brothers for, after all, if not to take advantage of an opportunity to throw stuff at you?

While the Bredeson boys grew up in Wisconsin playing hockey first, both on triple-A teams, their athletic prowess spread to football, basketball and baseball, which primarily was Jack’s interest.

Jack is now a sophomore right-hander on the Michigan baseball team that is 29-7, while Ben is a freshman who emerged as a starter at left guard for the Wolverines last fall.

“This is the one that stood out the most,” Jack said of the Michigan baseball program when he was exploring his college options. “The overall atmosphere. The tradition. Saturdays are special here. Obviously grew up a football fan and can’t really beat it.”

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He was also sold on Michigan baseball coach Erik Backich and committed right away.

“He’s a good talker — he’s great in the recruiting process,” Jack said. “I liked the younger style of coaching. He’s going to do everything with us and show us how to do it instead of just telling us how to do it. He’s learned a lot, he’s been to a lot of different schools and kind of learned from the best. He grasped all that and made his own system out of it. It’s starting to show.”

‘Best bonus ever’

Ben found his own way to Ann Arbor and did not follow Jack to Michigan. He grew up loving Wisconsin football, and that was only an hour away with many of his friends heading to Madison.

Ben Bredeson on committing to Michigan: “It took a lot to tear me away from Madison but Michigan did it with ease.”

“In the end, Ann Arbor and Michigan was by far the best place for me,” Ben said. “It took a lot to tear me away from Madison but Michigan did it with ease. I’ve always said I would have gone here if Jack wouldn’t have gone here. It’s just a great bonus having both of us here, absolutely the best bonus ever.”

The two have dinner together at least once a week.

“It’s perfect,” Jack said. “Everything worked out. Parents love it, I love it. Being able to have somebody always around. I have great friends here, but there’s still nothing like having your brother here, someone who knows everything, who’s been through it all with you. Something not everyone is fortunate to have.”

Ben describes Jack as the more “worldly” of the two. Jack would always be active and running around with friends, while Ben said he was content sitting in the backyard doing nothing.

“He’s probably the biggest mentor I have,” Ben said of Jack. “Whenever I needed advice with anything, he’d already done it, he’d already gotten in trouble with it. So if I ever needed a helping hand, Jack knew what to do.”

With Schembechler Hall, the football building, and the baseball facilities so close, Ben has been able this spring to head over to baseball to watch his brother and the games after practice. And from the enormous window on the second floor of Schembechler, Ben can watch baseball while eating meals.

“It’s cool for us because we have relationships with each other’s teammates, each other’s coaches,” Jack said. “My coaches are always asking about him, ‘What’s going on with Ben?’ ”

They have helped each other expand their worlds.

“It’s nice because I can go and talk to any of the baseball guys,” Ben said. “It’s like a refreshing change of pace. Talk to them, get the inside scoop on how Jack is doing, and he does the same with me every week. It’s nice. It definitely broadens (your circle) because you all of a sudden have an in with the entire baseball team and he’s got an in with the entire football team just like that with just having family on the other side.”

Pulling together

Because they grew up together, they played the same sports and there was always a competitiveness, a sibling rivalry.

“Really, once we hit high school is when we started mellowing out and figured out if we work together it’s probably better than fighting each other all the time,” he said, laughing.

Jack Bredeson, the shrimp of the family at 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, has made 10 appearances for the Wolverines this season.

They probably also noticed how different their bodies were growing. Jack, a defensive end in high school, is 6 foot-6, 235 pounds, while Ben is 6-5, 319.

Jack, who has made 10 appearances this spring and pitched 81/3 innings, was proud to see Ben starting last season.

“It’s not something I was expecting coming right away,” he said. “Watching him grow up, I guess it’s something I figured he always had the potential to do. It was cool to see all his hard work pay off, all the bullying I put him through pay off.”

Little brother Max, an eighth grader whose bedroom walls are plastered with all things Michigan, is, they said, the best athlete of the family. He has not yet settled on a sport.

“He’s a diehard (Michigan fan),” Jack said, “and not afraid to tell anyone.”

As far as each other, Jack and Ben say the other is the better athlete, and Ben praises Jack for his mental toughness. They credited their high school football coach Greg Malling for developing their mental toughness, which has helped them at the next level.

“He got me ready (for Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh),” Ben said.

Ben is certain Jack could play for Harbaugh.

“My baseball coaches always say I have a football mentality playing baseball,” Jack said.

“Jack’s extremely mentally tough, and that’s the biggest thing with coach Harbaugh, if you’re mentally tough,” Ben said. “Our high school coach, that was his biggest emphasis — learn to grow up and learn to be mentally tough.”

“Figure out stuff on your own,” Jack said.

They credited their parents for not always giving them what they wanted, and making sure they worked out problems and issues on their own and earned their way.

“Part of it is if you live in an environment where things are given to you — we had to work for everything growing up,” Ben said. “You were expected to help (at home). It wasn’t like if you didn’t there were consequences, but you learned to work. Once we hit high school, we both had work ethics to do that.

“Our high school coach just drilled the mental toughness part. We were ready to go and we needed that extra push on how to use it. A blocking technique was not as important as being mentally tough. It worked.”

Said Jack: “Our high school football coach played a huge role in both of our lives. The stuff he did is something that we both look back on and that’s our foundation. We both played for him for four years. The stuff he taught us is the stuff we both fall back on when we need to. That’s the invaluable stuff I carry when it comes to mental toughness.”

While the Bredeson Brothers have a shared mental toughness and athleticism that carried them to scholarships at Michigan, there’s still plenty that’s unique about each.

“Once you get out of sports, we’re pretty different,” Ben said. “Sports is the key thing and that’s a major part of both of our lives. Once you get away from that, we both have different interests. Nothing really too specific about it, it’s just we’re not the exact same person. It’s hard to put your finger on what is exactly the difference between us. Once you get outside of sports we have our unique personalities.”