A dream fulfilled as Berry works out with Marlins

July 21st, 2022

MIAMI -- You'll have to excuse Jacob Berry if he seemed overwhelmed on Thursday morning at loanDepot park.

Four days after being selected sixth overall in the 2022 MLB Draft, Berry was in Marlins gear fielding grounders at third base alongside Brian Anderson and taking batting practice with All-Star Garrett Cooper. He hadn't gotten much sleep the night before out of excitement. It felt like the rush of the first day of school, receiving a crash course on the organization all while cameras followed his every move and his family looked on.

"It's all surreal," Berry said. "You dream about this moment as a kid. I've been dreaming about this since I first started playing baseball, being in a big league park, playing in a big league park."

Miami hopes Berry -- who agreed to a $6 million deal, slightly below the slot value of $6.03 million -- will do so sooner rather than later. Manager Don Mattingly jokingly told as much to general manager Kim Ng.

"'Stick him in Triple-A, let's see what goes on,'" Mattingly said.

Mattingly made a point to talk hitting with the 21-year-old Jacob and his father, Perry, who was an infielder at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette) in 1990 and spent four years as an Astros farmhand. Both Jacob and Perry called it a surreal experience. Mattingly credited Perry for Jacob's skill at the plate, which he showcased at Queen Creek High School, the University of Arizona, the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team and LSU.

The significance of the entire exchange wasn't lost on the Berry family. A decade ago, it would've seemed improbable.

Jacob quickly outgrew the Little League team in northern Arizona in a community called Page near Lake Powell. So Perry tried to get his son on a travel club down in the valley. Jacob would do well, then get cut on a weekly basis. The coaches and parents didn't like that Jacob couldn't make it to practices because of a six-hour-long drive, only showing up for weekend games.

"I was telling my wife the other day, it's kind of funny to see," Perry said. "We couldn't even find a team that would accept this kid, and now he's a first-round Draft pick."

Following the catchup, Jacob took hacks in the cage. In between rounds, Marlins players told him to enjoy the moment and take it all in. Jacob just wanted to make sure he didn't swing and miss and that he barreled the ball and got loose.

After batting right-handed, Jacob flipped over to the left side and hit a few over the fence, including on his last swing. Funnily enough, that's the side of the plate the switch-hitting Jacob didn't start taking seriously until the age of 14. When a big situation would come up in a game, Jacob would hit right-handed because he was struggling with his left-handed swing. That is, until his club coach, Jackie Tucker (father of Cole and Carson), pulled him aside after the game and gave him an earful.

"'You need to trust the process,'" Perry recalled Tucker saying. "'I don't care what happens, what the outcome is, trust the process,' and then he came over and gave me an earful as a dad. From that point on, he didn't worry about the outcome. Just working on getting better and trusting the process."

That's exactly what Jacob will try to do as he begins his professional career in Jupiter. How long it takes for him to make it to The Show depends on him.

"There's nothing like stepping on the field here, somewhere I hope to play a long time," Jacob said. "I'm just looking forward to the opportunity."