Anyone that’s paid attention to high school fastpitch softball in Centre County the last couple of decades knows that Dave Breon knows a little about coaching and instruction.
Breon led Bald Eagle Area to four PIAA title games in seven seasons, winning in 2005 and 2009. As an instructor at The Ultimate Edge @ GoodSports in Bellefonte, he’s worked with many of the area’s top pitchers.
But unless you were around a little but farther back, you might not know that Breon was a pretty good player, too.
Make that an excellent player.
And for that playing career, among other contributions, Breon has been honored among the state’s best.
Breon, a standout pitcher, was recently inducted in the Amateur Softball Association of Pennsylvania Hall of Fame at the organization’s 41st annual banquet. Breon was one of three players inducted among a class of five at the festivities, held Feb. 28 in Sunbury.
“The Hall of Fame is absolutely one of the biggest honors I’ve had in softball,” Breon said. “To be considered in the company of the people that are in that Hall of Fame across the state of Pennsylvania is just incredible. I never pictured myself as being in the Hall of Fame with people like that.
“I didn’t think or realize that maybe I was that big of an impact in the game, whether it be as a player, or a coach or a manager. I’m just totally overwhelmed at the decision they made to select me.”
Breon’s fascination with the sport started in 1965 at age 12 when he was a batboy for Standard Lime. He began to imitate the pitchers he saw, throwing against the concrete wall at his home.
By age 14, he was eligible to play in the Big Spring Men’s Fastpitch League and Breon admits he was out of his league.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into as a player,” Breon said. “The manager for Standard Lime, he hit the nail on the head. ‘I was a boy playing in a man’s game.’ I wasn’t ready for that, but that’s all I knew. I didn’t play any organized baseball. I played backyard ball, but nothing organized.
“I didn’t know what I was up against, but I knew I wanted to play. I didn’t hit for probably the first six years. I wasn’t a very good hitter because I was learning how to hit. Once things took off for me, I had a real hunger for winning and being competitive, which was something I didn’t have before. That made me excel in what I was doing and what drove me so hard.”
He played for a litany of teams over the years — Valley Homes, Gunsallas Janitors, Jay’s Drive-In, Marblehead Lime, Confair Bottling, Colonial Lanes, The Hotel Do-De, Bill’s, Con-Lime, Cutshall Construction and Central Tank and Tower.
“Our goal in the men’s division was always to win the districts,” Breon said. “It was a pretty tough row to hoe because we had to win our district title to move on to states, then to move on to Mid-Atlantic Regionals and then to nationals. Unless you went to national qualifiers and won those, it was a tough road.”
Teams loaded up on the best talent available and communities took pride in those squads.
“Men’s fast-pitch softball in the late 1960s and early 1970s was so dominant across the state,” said Breon. “We had it very difficult. With one state title, I really feel privileged to even win that. The competition was always tough no matter where we went — whether it was qualifiers or tournaments for that matter. The pitching was incredible. People don’t realize what can be done with a softball at 46 feet and the kind of movement a person could put on the ball.”
Breon, a left-hander, could bring it consistently at 85 mph, the equivalent of a major league pitcher throwing about 112 mph. Over 33 years, Breon amassed a record of 396-165.
Ironically, his only state crown came at age 46, while pitching for Central Tank and Tower out of Johnstown in 1998. The team later finished ninth in the ASA Nationals in Prescott, Ariz., that year. An injury prevented him from pitching in the 1999 Nationals and he retired.
Breon also was president of the Big Spring League for 10 years until it folded in 1988. The interest in the game now has shifted.
“Not many in this area have the kind of perspective and respect sometimes of what men’s fastpitch softball was,” Breon said. “The only thing they can appreciate is what high school girls do, which is pretty phenomenal, too.”
Breon has helped those girls play at a high level as a coach and instructor. He was head coach at Lewistown, Bald Eagle Area and West Branch and also an assistant at Bellefonte and BEA. As an instructor, his students have won six PIAA titles and been to five more title games. He also was influential at the youth level with the Centre Region Fastpitch League.
His daughter Kristi went through the youth program and became an excellent pitcher at Bellefonte. She was a Pennsylvania Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee in 2007.
It’s those experiences at the youth and high school levels that Breon believes enhanced his résumé as much as his playing numbers for the Hall of Fame.
“I’m not so sure and I don’t want people to misunderstand that I was being put in the Hall of Fame was just as a player,” Breon said. “I think it was more than that. I think it was not just as a player but what I’ve contributed in softball over the years with high school, summer ball and with the youth program. I’m sure there are players that are better than me that would say, ‘Hey, if he got in there as a player then he got in there way before he should have.’ I think it was a combination of things that what got me nominated.”
Breon was nominated by the late Dean Amick, a Hall of Famer who passed away in 2014.
“I told my wife (Carol), ‘If I don’t even get into the Hall of Fame, I’m flattered and honored that somebody like a Dean Amick or others felt that I belonged there,’” Breon said.
“I just wish Dean was here to thank him, he and (umpiring great and Hall of Famer) Roy Harpster (who passed last summer),” he added. “They were very impactful people in my softball life.”
Breon still can’t believe he is in the same Hall as someone like Ty Stofflet, who was clocked at 104.7 mph.
“When you hear of a guy that throws 104 mph in fastpitch softball, you have to be in awe of that. That in baseball numbers is like 135 mph. ... I got to see him a couple of times and he was phenomenal.”
Joined by Carol, Kristi, granddaughter Ryleigh and business partner Bill Masullo at the ceremonies, Breon said the induction remains humbling.
“It was just one fantastic day and a day I’ll never forget.”