There is no shortage of big names on the Detroit Tigers. Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander may grab the headlines on one of the most polarizing teams in the league, but what about the other guys?
The other guys whose names do not litter the media; the players with the not so glamorous roles of base stealing, sac bunting, and quick footed pinch runners, like Quintin Berry. Manager Jim Leyland once referred to these players as “Dirtbags”, the little guys who do not have reporters anxiously waiting for an interview or to snap a photo of their victory smiles. The ones that stand in the shadows of their celebrity teammates, but play hard and make a difference for their team. Dirtbags are the underdogs. With the cameras, lights, and articles swirling around the hype of the All Star starts and MVP awards, the media overlooks players like Berry.
Berry has something that a lot of other players do not have or else they just keep it buried deep within them. He has an affection for baseball that is pure and raw, the feeling that every baseball fan and probably every player gets when it is the start of the season. I am not sure why some other players do not show this emotion. Perhaps, it is because they are nervous of it being seen as weak, or that it will overshadow their ability as a ballplayer. All I know is that Berry wears his heart on his sleeve and he does not hold back.
On May 23, 2012 Berry made his Major League debut with the Tigers at Cleveland where he went 1-5 with 1 Run. He came onto the field bright-eyed and with the unbridled enthusiasm of a little leaguer. His first hit in a Tiger’s uniform resulted in a double… on a bunt. It was an unconventional bunt double, but nonetheless, his speed was proven. His quick feet and boundless energy caught the attention of the team and the fans. It is guys like Berry that help make a team thrive. The outfielder’s spark was infectious with every move he made. Even watching from the dugout his facial expressions showed it all. He put the child-like excitement back into the game.
He may not have had the most appealing slash line at .258/.330/.354 but it was the entertaining factor and of course his hustle, that was simply invaluable. Baseball needs more than just those big hitters. They need a team to work together. The animated Tiger proved himself over the season to be a hard working replacement for the injured Austin Jackson. It was Berry’s dirtbag quality and timely plays that kept him on the roster even after the veteran starting center fielder returned.
Berry had 44 Runs and 29 RBIs after the Tigers called him up last season. But the magnitude of stolen bases might be what lands Berry a spot on the 25 man roster in 2013. Last season, he swiped 21 bags out of 21 attempts, leading the major leagues in stolen base percentage with 100%. The next Tiger with the most steals in 2012 was Austin Jackson, with 12. However, Jackson’s injury definitely decreased his numbers last season; he finished with 22 in 2011.
With little hitting power, this speedy outfielder has a Spring Training invite to battle for a coveted spot on the active roster. I agree that Berry has some work to do to prove he deserves that place. Passion can only go so far, but there is more to Berry than being a cheerleader and he is dying for every opportunity to prove it. He will be competing with outfielders Don Kelly and Brennan Boesch who, along with Berry, are left handed hitters. Boesch may be the stronger hitter, and Kelly may be more versatile, but no one has the speed and energy of Berry.
While no one can ignore a Triple Crown or a Home Run Derby winner, nor should they, Berry may just be that gritty player that gives the Tigers an edge. He gives hope for every underrated career minor leaguer who just wants a chance in the bigs. This season, Comerica Park might once again be filled with the echoing chants of “Berry, Berry”. However, the 28 year old would be happy to fly under the radar and be lost in the shadows of the star studded Detroit Tigers. He just wants to be a part of the team. Every club should have a player like Quintin Berry, a guy with an honorable title of: Dirtbag.