The Pitch Man
SPRING VALLEY — Brett Fanning received many accolades this past school year and over the course of his career at Hall High School.
Unanimous Tri-County All-Conference basketball and baseball selection.
The 2012-13 BCR Basketball Player of the Year and co-Baseball Player of the Year honors.
Finishing as the second all-time leading scorer for Hall basketball behind former All-Stater Shawn Jeppson.
When asked if he had gotten everything out of his time in Hall red and white, Fanning paused, but affirmably said, “No, I did not.”
There is one thing missing in his scrapbook. A chance to play for a regional championship. The Red Devils’ basketball team lost to Seneca 42-40 in the regional semifinals. This spring in baseball, they fell to Ottawa Marquette 8-1, again in the regional semifinals. His junior year, the Red Devils basemen lost to St. Bede 5-2, again in the regional semifinals.
Those defeats stick with Fanning like a thorn in the side.
“I just wanted to play in one regional (championship) and didn’t get to do it,” he said. “That was my whole hope, just to get into one regional game. Winning it would have been even better, but even to just play in one would have been awesome.
“There have been area teams that have won regionals and had even more success in sectional. Just to not to play in a regional was just hard. We lost in the semifinals every time.”
He said getting to play in the Tri-County Conference tournament was the closest thing to regional. But even then, he said, “you still know you have games after that championship, but in regional you don’t. It’s a different feeling.”
“That’s one thing I would give up any personal achievement or award, just to play in a regional championship,” he added.
Fanning’s mom, Rachel, relayed the story about how the toddler Fanning always had “Nuk in his mouth and a ball in his hand.” He was either shooting Nerf balls around the house or batting them with a bat.
When he outgrew the confines of his home, he took his game outside, perfecting his skills with pitchback screens and on the family’s driveway, hoops on Iowa Street in the same neighborhood where Jeppson came up before him.
Despite being the one player opposing team’s defenses focused on every night, Fanning averaged 21.3 points per game. He was especially adept at drawing fouls, cashing in nearly 82 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe. The 5-10 guard also led the Red Devils in rebounding (5.4 rpg), steals (1.7 spg) and three-point baskets (51).
Fanning will be putting his basketball career behind him when he heads to Lafeyette, Iowa to play baseball for Division II Upper Iowa University. He is hoping to get in his Basketball Jones playing intramurals, but said, “I’m really going to miss it come winter time. Going to be really weird.”
But, baseball is and has always been his first love. He got his start in the Spring Valley little leagues before moving on to the ranks of travel baseball. He’s been a pitchman ever since.
“I’ve always wanted to play college baseball since Minor League. I knew right from then I got to start working if I’m going to get there,” Fanning said, who will pitch Upper Iowa Peacocks.
He repeated as co-BCR Player of the Year honors in baseball with St. Bede’s Brad Groleau. On the mound, he fashioned a 7-2 record with a 1.92 ERA and an area-high 87 strikeouts in 47.3 innings. At the dish, he batted .430, leading the Red Devils in nearly every offensive category with 26 runs scored, 28 RBIs, nine doubles, two homers and 11 stolen bases.
Like his basketball career, Fanning’s days swinging the bat are numbered after he wraps up his summer season with the Illinois Bobcats. He will concentrate solely on pitching and is OK with that.
“I kind of don’t like it. At the same time, I know there’s better hitters out there than I am. It’s whatever’s going to help the team ultimately,” he said.
A three-sport talent, Fanning was a quarterback for the Red Devil football team. He says he really liked playing football, because “it was as good time, being with your buddies out on a hot day, getting team chemistry ... it’s fun.”
His senior season started out with much tragedy, however, when the Red Devils lost teammate Daniel Lule to heart failure on the very first day of practice and later dying at the hospital.
Fanning said the Red Devils really never got over that loss.
“It was devastating. It’s hard to put together a program and get back on track after that happens,” he said. “Our coach said right from the start, two things are going to happen after this, you’re either going to come together or your going to fall apart. I feel like we came together. Chemistry wise we came together. Playing wise I’m not sure all our focus was all on play.”
While he won’t play football at Upper Iowa, the old Red Devil quarterback may find himself getting sacked in his dorm room. He will room with Nate Roemer, a linebacker from Streator Woodland, who will play football for the Peacocks. Fanning knows once a linebacker always a linebacker with quarterbacks around.
“He’ll flip my mattress or something,” Fanning said.
Hall Red Devil fans have flipped over Fanning the past four years.
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