Tigers Ouintin Berry had to take a circuitous route to earning a spot in Major League Baseball (MLB).
At the age of 27, spending seven years and over 700 games in the minor leagues, and bouncing around four organizations the previous two years, one would think that a player like Berry would find himself in a pressurized situation when the Tigers finally came calling after injuries to centerfielder Austin Jackson.
“I never got discouraged,” Berry told me in a one-on-one interview, “but I thought about my situation a lot. I always felt that I could help a team and I never understood why no one really gave me a real chance to make a roster.
“That is why I did not let the pressure of the situation get to me because in the past years I have been through it all. Getting released, being at the end of a roster after spring training, and being in the minors with franchises that have people at my position already.”
Berry said when he finally got the opportunity with the Tigers he told himself to relax, enjoy it and play his game. He also noted that he is not surprised that he has managed to be productive thus far.
“I always knew what I was capable of doing,” he said. “It’s just that everywhere I’ve been people for some reason downplayed my hitting because I was labeled as a speed guy. But I can hit a little bit. I’m not a Punch-and-Judy guy. I come to the plate with a plan, I study the pitchers and I can get the ball in play depending on the situation.”
Said manager Jim Leyland: “Quintin has been a pleasant surprise; he has been fantastic. I think he is a great story coming from his background. I love guys like him that have fought through things and hung in there to be where they are. We knew he stole bases in the minors, but that is different that the big leagues.. Yet he has done it and has been a shot in the arm to this team that is fighting to get in the playoffs.”
In fact, Berry had stolen over 50 bases twice in the minors and over 40 twice. He has hit around .270 and was ready for the opportunity the Tigers presented to him.
As a Tiger, Berry is hitting around .280, stolen 14 bases without being thrown out, has had a walk off hit versus MLB champion St. Louis and had a five-hit game.
“Q has taken advantage of his opportunity and the team is better because of him,” said Prince Fielder. “When Jackson went down he stepped in and did the job for us at a crucial point in the season. It was unfortunate for Jackson, but a blessing for Berry.
Added infielder Ramon Santiago: “Berry has brought energy, clutch hits and speed to this team. People talk about his speed, but he played for MLB Hall of Famer Tony Gywnn, so he has been taught how to hit.”
Said catcher Alex Avila: “Berry brings a dimension to the team that we needed. When we have Jackson and Berry at the top of the lineup it changes the way pitcher have to pitch to the three, four and five hitters. I’ll tell you, I played against him in the minor leagues and we never got him out and I never threw him out.”
Berry may be turning heads in MLB, but he continues to divert all the credit.
“Because I bat in front of Miguel (Cabrera) and Fielder, pitchers look at me and say they are going to pitch to me. Why not! If Jackson and I get on base they have to pitch to Cabrera of Fielder, so they try to pitch to me in hopes I can’t handle it.”
Berry has more than handled his opportunity in the midst of a team fighting for a playoff berth.