Berry moves from front desk to center stage
Nearly out of the game a year ago, outfielder enjoying first postseason
DETROIT -- At this time last year, Quintin Berry could hardly imagine playing in the Majors, let alone preparing for a playoff game. When he did consider it, the feeling was painful more so than pleasant. It had been his lifelong dream to play in the big leagues, but for Berry that dream was becoming a distant memory.
At 26 years old, the outfielder was released by his fifth team in six years, having never played more than four games above the Double-A level. At best, he seemed destined to be a career Minor Leaguer. At worst, his baseball career was finished.
"After being released and sitting at home for three weeks and not knowing if I would ever get on another team again, I started realizing I might have to fill out that resume and get going," Berry said.
That resume would include baseball and a handful of part-time jobs he kept during the offseason, mostly working camps and doing front-desk work at various gyms.
"I would check people in and call people and make sure if they change their credit card information I would try to get it," he said. "Just trying to scrape together some extra money and stuff like that."
Berry had a family to provide for -- a wife and a newborn son. He didn't have time to wait around for a call. But fortunately for the outfielder and for the Tigers, the call came quickly from assistant general manager Al Avila, and he signed with Detroit on Nov. 9, 2011.
From there, he impressed enough in Spring Training to be assigned to Triple-A Toledo. And when center fielder Austin Jackson was sidelined in May, Berry's dream came true.
He made his Major League debut on May 23 in Cleveland, played his way onto the roster for the rest of the season and on Friday, found himself preparing for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the A's.
"It's amazing," said Berry with a gaping smile. "I was at home last year working out at 24 Hour Fitness just watching the [playoffs] go on and just realizing how great it would be to ever get a chance to be part of something like that. To finally get here and kind of come out of nowhere and have this opportunity, I'm excited about it."
Manager Jim Leyland hasn't announced his roster yet, but the 27-year-old rookie is all but a lock to be included. He'll likely platoon against right-handed pitchers, meaning he could be in Saturday's starting lineup against Oakland's Jarrod Parker.
Already a fan favorite for the emotion he shows on the field, Berry anticipated being "amped up multiplied by 10" when he jogs to his position with the Comerica Park fans roaring.
"I can't wait for this to start," he said. "It's going to be something I've never even witnessed before and I never expected this to happen."
He's one of the few Tigers with no big league postseason experience. In fact, the only playoff experience he's had was in Double-A. Teammates had some advice, but expect him and the other young guys to be just fine.
"I'm sure you're going to have butterflies. Everyone does," catcher Gerald Laird said. "That's what postseason baseball is all about. ... These guys just got to go out there and be themselves and not try to do too much."
It's been a long, arduous journey for Berry and his family. He readily admits that. But being in this moment, making his way from a no-name player to fans proudly sporting his No. 52. From batting in the Minors to batting directly in front of Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years and another one of the league's best hitters in Prince Fielder. It makes it all worth it, he said.
"It's been a great ride, man. I've enjoyed every minute of it. I've enjoyed every part of this team," Berry said. "The coaching staff, the front office gave me the opportunity to be here. I just keep soaking it all in. And it's only getting better."
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.