By: Jay Blue
Jays From Away
When I first started following the Blue Jays’ minor leagues, I was intrigued by a speedster who was well regarded by his teammates and coaches, playing great defense and scampering around the bases. Jon Berti has become much more than just a second baseman and is using his versatility to propel himself to the top of the Blue Jays’ organization, despite an injury that limited his action in 2016.
Drafted in the 18th round of the 2011 draft out of Bowling Green State University, Berti spent only his draft year in short-season ball, playing in Lansing and Dunedin in 2012 and then spending the entire season in Dunedin in 2013, with a stint in the Australian Baseball League that winter. He excelled in New Hampshire in 2014, playing in the Arizona Fall League and has flirted with Double-A and Triple-A levels in the two years since. We talked to Jon about his journeys through the Jays’ minor leagues.
Blue Jays from Away: What were some of the highlights of the 2016 season?
Jon Berti: 2016 had a lot of fun moments. One of my favorites was actually the day I got called up to AAA. We had a 1 pm game and I flew into Buffalo that morning and went straight to the field from the airport. I didn’t start the game but I pinch ran in the ninth inning of a tied game. I was able to steal second base with one out. Then Dom Brown was able to drive me in to walk it off!
BJfA: You had an injury during the season that caused you to miss almost two months of action. What was the nature of the injury? What challenges did you face in the rehab process? Did you take any positives from the experience?
JB: I missed those two months with a concussion. I got hit in the head with a pitch during a game in early June. It definitely was a frustrating time. With a concussion it’s tough because you wake up every day not feeling well, not feeling like yourself. It can really take a toll on you.
The Jays did a great job bringing me along slowly though and making sure I was 100% before allowing me back onto the field. The struggle I went through has made me more grateful for good health and for being able to put a jersey on every day. You have to enjoy the process and not take anything for granted in this game.
BJfA: I know that versatile players like you are always willing to play wherever you’re asked but do you have a favourite position? How do you prepare for having to play vastly different positions from day to day?
JB: I really do enjoy playing a lot of different positions. It’s allowed me to learn more about the game. If I had to pick one favorite, it would probably be shortstop. I grew up playing the position and I have a lot of fun being the leader out on the field.
The more I play each position, the more confidence I have. The biggest thing is getting that experience. I do try to recreate game like situations in my early work and during batting practice. Making sure I get my reps in to stay sharp.
BJfA: As a veteran minor leaguer, how has your perspective changed from your first few years as a pro? What are some of the things that you have learned from your experience that you can share with our readers?
JB: The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you have to stick to the process. By that I mean control the things you can control. You can’t worry about getting a hit every at bat or worry about trying to get called up. Those thing are out of my control.
I can control my attitude and effort. So I come to the ballpark every day with a good positive mindset. Then I work hard to prepare myself to help my team win on a daily basis. If you get too caught up with things you can’t control, you lose focus on the task at hand.
BJfA: How do you spend your offseason? When do you start preparing for the next season? How do you go about that preparation?
JB: I take about two weeks off at the end of each season. This allows me to recharge my mind and body. After that, I get back into the gym four or five days a week. Getting my body in shape for the season. Usually late November is when I start baseball activity again. I’ll start hitting, throwing, and defensive work.
BJfA: With the change in front office in Toronto, what tangible differences are there with the new regime? How have you been able to benefit from the new “High Performance” department?
JB: I’ve enjoyed the changes I’ve seen over the past year and a half or so. It seems like there is a higher attention to detail.
The high-performance department has been great. They have come in and helped refine what we have been doing. From our diets, to workouts, to the mental aspect of competing at a high level. I think it has and will continue to benefit the Blue Jays organization.
BJfA: What’s the most memorable moment of your career so far?
JB: One of the most memorable moments of my career so far would have to be winning the 2011 NWL championship. I was fortunate to play with a lot of great guys. The city of Vancouver treated us great. It was a season that I’ll never forget.
BJfA: Anything else you’d like to share with Blue Jays fans?
JB: The last thing I would like to share is how awesome it is to play for an organization that represents a whole country! The fans in Canada have been a lot of fun to play for. The support has been phenomenal to see!