That would be what former West DePere standout Jason Berken is currently doing. He’s scheduled to make his third start for the Baltimore Orioles tonight. Scott Venci of the Green Bay Press-Gazette had a great column earlier this week on Berken’s plan to live the dream.
So, how was your week?
image via Wikipedia
Probably nothing like that of Jason Berken, the former West De Pere baseball standout who made his first major league start with the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.
The 25-year-old right-hander was a member of the Norfolk Tide, the Class AAA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, last Sunday. By that evening, he was told he was being promoted to the big leagues.
By Tuesday afternoon, Berken was picking up Orioles outfielder and former teammate Nolan Reimold at the Sheraton Inner Harbor and heading to Camden Yards, where he exchanged greetings with Baltimore manager Dave Trembley and several new teammates.
By Tuesday night, he was starting against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Berken became the first area player to reach the big leagues since former Oconto Falls standout Adam Peterson pitched in three games for the Blue Jays out of the bullpen in 2004.
He also is believed to be the first area player since Oconto Falls’ Bob Wickman to start a major league game.
Yeah, that’s a candidate for the best week ever.
Thing is, it felt pretty normal for Berken, although he admitted it was a bit different heading to the mound that night.
By the time he got there, he wasn’t nervous. He didn’t feel any extra pressure to prove himself to people who might have been unfamiliar with him. Baltimore’s play-by-play announcer, Gary Thorne, even called him “Berkens” at one point.
And to think there was a time even earlier this year that pitching at the Major League level didn’t seem in the cards this soon.
“I was sitting in the dugout with (rookie pitcher) Brad Bergesen and he looked at me and said, ‘How sweet is this? This is unbelievable,'” said Berken, who is scheduled to make his next start against Detroit in Baltimore this afternoon. “It is so cool to say that I’m a major league pitcher.”
A few months ago, this didn’t seem possible. Not this soon, at least.
Not after the Orioles didn’t invite Berken to spring training. Not after they started him in Class AA again.
Berken never complained, though. He didn’t care where he started, only where his journey ended.
“You really have to take advantage of your opportunities,” he said. “It’s about getting opportunities. You have to be ready and focused. The best advice I got was to never get comfortable.”
Indeed, this is no time to be comfortable.
It’s difficult to tell what the Orioles think of Berken, who was listed by Baseball America as the 11th-best pitcher in Baltimore’s system.
Berken may not have the same long leash as some of the Orioles’ prized prospects that are beginning to trickle into the majors — the prospects who probably can struggle and still be given multiple chances.
For his part, Berken isn’t content with just getting to the big leagues. He went into Trembley’s office before his start on Tuesday and told the second-year manager just that.
Trembley in turn told his new pitcher he appreciated the words, and told him this wasn’t a tryout: Berken didn’t have to pitch the game of his life to stay up with the big club.
And that’s something that was pointed out on Venci’s preps blog earlier this week by Berken’s former American Legion manager.
“Let’s put it this way, the only people Jason needs to impress are the Orioles brass,” Lukes said.
“So many people who aren’t knowledgeable about the nuances of the game pass their opinions off, and it’s irritating to read. So I for one am just going to quit reading that stuff. He’s been written off how many times in his career: too small to pitch in Division I, he’s from Wisconsin, he won’t recover from Tommy John surgery, his stuff isn’t good enough for pro ball, etc. The list of things said by naysayers is endless.
“I do know this much: There are a lot of guys who are more talented than Jason who will never sniff a big-league mound because they don’t have his focus and work ethic. Those are the sorts of things baseball executives notice, but the average fan might not. The Orioles, or any pro team for that matter, just aren’t going to hand starts to a guy who isn’t in their long-term plans. He’s had two good outings, and myself and 99.8 percent of De Pere is very proud of him. For a guy who was never first-team all-conference in baseball in high school, I would say he’s done quite fine.”
From pitching for the West DePere Phantoms & DePere Legion Panthers to pitching for the Baltimore Orioles … not too shabby.