Berkery Satisfied With Rangers Deal, Plans

Thomas Berkery made his contract late Monday evening. Now the Mississippi State shortstop has been given his ticket and assigned to his first destination as a professional ballplayer and the newest member of the Texas Rangers organization.

Berkery said Tuesday afternoon he will begin his pro career at Spokan, Wash., in short-season ‘A' ball. "They're going to send me to Arizona two days, just like a mini-camp. Then I'll play my first game on June 19th in Spokane." That will be two weeks after Berkery's college career ended in the wee hours of June 5th as Mississippi State lost out of the Clemson Regional.

In fact, minutes after the final out Berkery was being asked what would be his next step. The June Major League draft began today, Tuesday, but Berkery already had something in the works. A year ago he was drafted by Texas, in the 46th of 50 rounds. Berkery turned down that low selection to come back for a senior season and try to improve his pro potential.

That did not mean waiting for another draft, though. The Rangers retained his right up to the stroke of midnight Monday and the club had kept track all year. With the clock and draft-calendar winding down, and his college eligibility finished, Berkery was able to let agent and former MSU baseball manager Bo McKinnis take over negotiating. "I actually never talked to the Rangers, Bo did all that, Berkery said.

"He did most of the work, the Rangers contacted him at like 10:30 Monday morning." Which was just fine with the player himself, as the Bulldogs were just then departing Clemson for the return to Starkville. Berkery knew that by coming back for a senior season he would lose most bargaining power with the Rangers, but he'd also likely have less with whoever drafted him this week.

McKinnis was able to keep Berkery updated with the dealing with Texas. "He was getting the numbers to me. We met in the middle," Berkery explained. "We looked at the guys picked last year, saw the money they got, and took a middle number."

Two facts did help Berkery's case with Texas. First, by coming back he played a fourth different college position, adding shortstop to his MSU resume after stints at second, third, and catcher the previous three seasons. That certainly proved his versatility as an athlete and ballplayer. Maybe more importantly, Berkery finished the regular season as the SEC batting leader and barring a late charge by an Alabama player he should win State's first league hitting title since 1984.

"I had another good year," he said. Actually, it was his best year; after hitting .269, .291, and .302 in the previous three years, Berkery hit .384 as a senior in a strong-pitching conference. He also had hitting streaks of 30 games (a MSU season record) and 15 games.

All parties came to agreement at about 10:00 Monday night to beat the draft-rights deadline. Though, Berkery was told by the club it would be midnight Eastern Time; whether the Rangers were being entirely accurate didn't matter, though.

"It's one of those things, if you go back in the draft you never know, you may end up getting $1,000 to go play for the Devil Rays. I'm satisfied."

Given his varied career Berkery could be looked at for all sorts of positions. His best college job was probably catching, though he had to play shortstop this 2006 season and played it well enough to show arm-strength and range. "As far as I've heard they're going to play me at shortstop, and as an every-day infielder. After that it will depend on where I play. I'm fine, as long as I'm hitting day-to-day. We'll play at short and see if it works out."

With his own immediate post-college plans secured, Berkery is hoping to be joined by several teammates. "Now I'm pulling for their situations to work out." He is mostly concerned for his fellow seniors, such as hometown boy Brad Jones as well as outfielders Jeff Butts and Joseph Hunter, and pitchers Brett Cleveland and Brooks Dunn. As far as underclass comrades, second baseman Jeffrey Rea is hoping to get a good draft position this week, but Berkery reports that the junior isn't exactly hanging on the phone or perched by the computer tracking the draft.

"He's out there playing golf right now," the shortstop reported. "I'm a terrible golfer."

Maybe, but Berkery is happy to know where he stands and where he's heading now, even if he's never been to either Arizona or Washington. At least that business is settled, and so is the other important part of his post-college life—the wedding this fall to Jana Golson.

"Our plans are exactly the same, for her to stay here and me go play. The wedding is still November 11."

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