Berti has extra motivation to succeed as Opening Day shortstop

February 21st, 2024

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Marlins were hoping to acquire a shortstop before the spring games started. In fact, according to The Athletic, the team made a contract offer to free agent Tim Anderson last week, but he is still free to sign with any big league club.

So, as of right now, Miami is looking at Jon Berti as the No. 1 guy at the position. Berti, 34, has been a utility extraordinaire ever since he joined the Marlins in 2019. He has played all three outfield spots, as well as every infield position except first base.

However, that moniker most likely will be gone during the 2024 season. Berti isn’t a natural shortstop; most of his Major League games have been played at third base.

Maybe manager Skip Schumaker said it best: “Berti is a baseball player. You can put him anywhere on the field, and the team will feel comfortable with what he is doing defensively.

“I want the guy that can field the ball the cleanest, make the play, turn the double play, make the routine play. That’s all I really care about,” Schumaker said. “Jon Berti is more than capable of doing that. Plus he provides so many other things.”

Another reason Miami is comfortable with Berti as the shortstop is because he is coming off one of his best seasons in the batter’s box, hitting .294 with a .344 on-base percentage. It helped that he improved his mechanics at the plate.

“I think it’s just gaining experience. I kind of figured myself out a little more at this level and know what it takes to be successful on a daily basis,” Berti said. “I made a few changes mechanically from an approach standpoint at the plate, and I think it helped out a lot.

“I was working on how my body works a little better. Getting a good load a little bit better and working [to hit the ball] through the middle of the field and to right center. With each pitcher, I’m trying to understand what each of them are doing to me and having a game plan.”

Berti has extra motivation to play well in ’24. On Feb. 2, his wife, Jill, gave birth to their first child, a baby girl named Gia. With Gia around, Berti’s perspective on life in general has changed.

“You figure out what’s important. Some things that may have bothered you in the past are no longer important,” Berti said. “What’s important is taking care of your family.”

Berti wants more than individual accomplishments. He wants to go to the postseason for the third time in his career. Last year, the Marlins surprised the baseball world by winning a Wild Card spot but lost to the Phillies in the National League Wild Card Series.

“[Most of us] were able to get a taste of what it was like [to be in the postseason]. It’s an awesome experience that you want to replicate again,” Berti said. “We are going to do everything we can this year to work hard and build on that -- get back to the dance and see what happens.”