Although he had a tough two games, defensively, against LSU where he committed three errors, one on a very questionable call by the official scorekeeper, his fielding percentage, .979, is still tops among second basemen in the SEC heading into NCAA Tournament play.
"That is my forte," said Berkery, who has helped this year's MSU defense become the best in school history, based on fielding percentage. "As a kid, I wasn't a big guy, so I had to make the plays, do the small stuff, be a skill guy. My dad and I worked a lot on ground balls. Everyday I took ground balls and it is paying off now."
How did Berkery, recruited as a catcher by Mississippi State, South Florida and Ole Miss out of high school, wind up at second base?
With redshirt freshman catcher Craig Tatum and sophomore J.B. Tucker handling the catching chores, catching was out for Berkery, but MSU head coach Ron Polk wanted to find a place for him in the lineup because of his defensive skills and his athleticism.
"He is our best athlete. He does some things that are just so natural," said MSU coach Ron Polk. "We had him at third last year when he was a redshirt. I kept saying this guy has great hands. He gets the ball in the air so quick. He is so accurate, because he is a catcher. I still think he is a catcher/third baseman/second basemen, but we need him at second base this year."
That was fine with Berkery, who played short, third and catcher in high school. As far as he is concerned, playing defense is defense no matter where you are on the field.
"I feel right at home anywhere on the infield," said Berkery, who not only played baseball but also quarterback for Sarasota (FL) High School's football team. "Fielding a ground ball is fielding a ground ball, whether it is at second, third or short."
While he is very confident in his defensive ability, his first year playing college ball was a learning experience on and off the field.
"I came in here last year and was blown away by it all," said Berkery of his redshirt year. "It is a big change coming from seeing high school pitching to SEC pitching."
Now, with a redshirt year under his belt, Berkery, who will be playing in his first NCAA Tournament action in Starkville this weekend, is facing SEC pitching full-time and not just in practice situations. Despite a game-winning home run against Ole Miss, his hitting is still not where he wants it to be. But with 58 games batting against some of the best pitchers in the nation, he now knows what he really needs to work on to improve his hitting.
"I need to learn how to hit curveballs and sliders and work on using the entire field," said Berkery, currently hitting .271 with 7 home runs and 32 RBI. "In high school you can get away with pulling everything. In college you have to be able to use the whole field."
Coach Polk has confidence that Berkery will become a good hitter before he leaves Mississippi State.
"He is going to become a good hitter," said Polk. "It is just going to take some time, but he's a tremendous athlete."
Obviously a great fielder and showing signs of becoming a good hitter, the next question is, will Berkery, who led his collegiate summer league in home runs last season, eventually hit with power on a consistent basis? What does Berkery think?
"I'm more of a doubles guy than a power guy, but every once in a while you can slip up and hit one out," said Berkery. "If I keep working hard in the weight room like I have been, I think it will come around."
With Mississippi State senior shortstop Matthew Maniscalco using up his eligibility at the conclusion of this season and junior third baseman Steve Gendron a strong possibility to be drafted high in this summer's Major League Baseball draft according to a few pro scouts that I have talked to, is there a possibility that Berkery may be moved to another position next season?
"A couple of the coaches have talked to me about playing third next year, but it doesn't matter to me," said Berkery. "Being in the lineup is being in the lineup. I just want to be in the lineup and play."
While it doesn't matter to Berkery where he plays in the field, it definitely does matter to him where he is playing college baseball.
"I couldn't think about playing anywhere else," said Berkery. "It is a great school. The fans are behind us, the coaching is great, the players are great, it is fun to be here."
With three more years still left in his career, Mississippi State fans will also have fun watching Berkery make great plays in the field and, maybe, hit a dramatic home run or two against Ole Miss.
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.