Bay Port graduate Berg fitting in with Booyah
By Greg Bates
ASHWAUBENON – Injuries and the coronavirus made for a bad combination during Jake Berg’s freshman year of college.
The former Bay Port catcher couldn’t get on track in his first season playing on the Jacksonville University baseball team, but Berg is trying to make up for lost time this summer.
He’s playing back home for the Green Bay Booyah, where he said he feels more comfortable on the diamond.
Through his first 27 games this season, Berg is hitting .232.
He’s cooled down after a hot 10-game stretch from June 24-July 8 in which he went 17-for-37 (.459) that included four home runs and 13 RBI.
At Jacksonville, Berg started 11 games – all behind the plate – and hit just .205 (8-for-39).
“This is the player I am,” Berg said. “I’ve been in a bad stretch here, but other than that, this is the player I am. COVID didn’t help that.”
Before the start of Jacksonville’s season, Berg hurt his knee when another player dove into it, forcing him to miss six weeks.
He also took an elbow to the face later in the season and lost a front tooth.
Berg said he believes the biggest difference why he’s hitting better in Northwoods League games compared to college ball is because he’s playing regularly.
He’s been able to get into a rhythm at the plate.
“Seeing more pitches, getting more at-bats and getting more comfortable in the box,” Berg said. “In college, I was hitting like once a week, and I had two different injuries set me back.”
First-year field manager Tristan Toorie is also impressed by Berg.
“He’s a good player, and sometimes it takes good players more games,” Toorie said.
It doesn’t hurt, too, that Berg is close to home this summer and able to stay at his parents’ house.
Berg said that familiarity helps his mental approach at the ballpark.
“It’s nice to see my family,” he said. “I don’t get to see my friends a ton because we’re on the road, but it’s nice to see my family because I haven’t seen them in almost a year.”
With the Booyah, Berg is tied for third on the team in home runs (5) and tied for fourth in RBI (22).
“He doesn’t swing at bad pitches,” Toorie said. “The last couple of games before the all-star break, he was throwing down. To think he would keep up his pace when he was hitting 1 or 2 and hitting a grand slam every other night would be ridiculous. He’s swinging at good pitches. He’s not letting a bad call take him out of his at-bats, and he’s racking up the RBIs.”
When Berg came to the Booyah this summer, Toorie said he knew he was getting a good player. The coach has gotten what he expected preseason out of Berg.
“He’s a solid defensive catcher and a left-handed bat that can provide some pop,” Toorie said. “He’s young – just finishing up his freshman year in college and soaking up coaching and working with our guys.”
This summer, Berg has been on a three-person rotation at catcher.
When he isn’t behind the dish, he’s been playing first base – a position he’s gotten to know well – or being the designated hitter.
Berg tweaked his knee recently, so Toorie is trying to keep him from the crouching position.
Getting back to being a full-time catcher is Berg’s goal – especially at the college level.
“I’m trying to keep everybody’s legs fresh,” Toorie said. “I know Jake had a knee issue throughout the season, so less is more for him as far as rehab and getting back to full strength. He’s still getting his reps back there, and everybody’s fitting in that mold.”
Even though he had a rough first season playing collegiate baseball, it was a learning experience for Berg.
He’s quick to point out he got better as a player in several areas.
“My hitting and approach at the plate,” Berg said. “Defensive-wise too, catching lots better pitching.”
With the playoffs right around the corner in mid-August, Berg has some goals for the rest of this summer.
“I want to get back and swing the bat better and have some fun,” Berg said. “That’s what the summer is about.
Toorie said he has confidence in his catcher.
“I’m hoping he can do more what he’s been doing,” Toorie said. “I hope he gets us hot late and continues to push through so we can get some wins and make a playoff push, all the while staying healthy and helping lead our staff.”
If Berg can continue to hit, it should be a confidence booster when he goes back to the Jacksonville baseball team in the fall.
“It gives me confidence and shows me I can compete with anyone,” Berg said.