Most players who spend seven years playing minor league baseball never see the light of day in the major leagues.
Last season, Quintin Berry refused to become a statistic when he got his first call-up to the Show and made his presence felt when he joined the Detroit Tigers.
At 27, Berry got his first taste of the big leagues when he made his major league debut on May 23 against the Cleveland Indians. He immediately showed that he belonged in the big leagues, starting his career with at least one hit in each of his first six games.
Over the six-game hitting streak, Berry averaged .360 with a .429 on-base percentage and three steals.
Berry got his call-up mostly because Austin Jackson was out for an extended period of time with an abdomen injury. But after his early performance, even after Jackson returned, Berry wasn't going anywhere.
Berry was spectacular on defense, making several highlight-reel plays in spacious Comerica Park. He also led the team in steals after about two weeks on the team and gave the Tigers a shot of energy they desperately needed.
He proved to be an impressive four-tool player and showed some pop from time to time, earning 18 extra-base hits and finishing the regular season with a .258 average, .330 OBP, two home runs, 29 RBI and 21 steals in 94 games.
Berry, now 28, took some time to reflect on his dream rookie season on Wednesday in Grand Rapids during the Tigers' annual Winter Caravan.
"I spent three years playing Double-A ball, so I just wanted to get out of there and get to Triple-A. That was my ceiling at that point, but I got lucky, and it grew a little higher," the Tigers' Rookie of the Year said to MLive.com's Steve Kaminski. "I felt like I was drowning in Double-A. I couldn’t get out of there. I kept telling people Triple-A was like my big league call-up. That’s all I was thinking about."
Berry defied the odds last season, playing almost 100 games in his rookie year after playing 692 games in the minor leagues, and he'll find himself fighting for his career again in 2013.
No one is overtaking Jackson in center field in Detroit anytime soon, and the Tigers also return Andy Dirks, who hit .322 with a .370 OBP last season and looks to have the left field starting spot all but locked up.
It looked as if Berry could get a chance at significant playing time in right field this season until the Tigers signed perennial Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter to a two-year, $28 million deal in November.
So, now, Berry is back in familiar territory: battling to prove he belongs in the major leagues.
He will need to do everything in 2013 that got his name written down in the lineup 94 times last season. He'll need to continue to steal bases, picking up where he left off from a perfect 21-of-21 mark last year. He'll need to be almost perfect defensively, while making an eye-popping play or two as well, and he'll need to find a way to produce in some way, shape or form every time he steps foot on the field.
Berry is one of those "glue" players that doesn't get a lot of face time on ESPN but always finds a way to reinvigorate the team and bring a lot of energy. He'll need to do all those things in spring training and into the 2013 season because the Tigers will be loaded.
“Our front office surrounded us with a bunch of great talent,” Berry said. “We have great guys all across the board. I’m just trying to prepare myself to be a part of the team and be able to help in any aspect that I can. I’m just trying to make sure that I’m healthy and ready to go 100 percent.”
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