Berry hopes for MLB gateway

Published 9:17 pm Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jermaine Berry, a Nansemond River High School graduate and Mount Olive College junior, gets a hit recently for the Staunton Braves in the Valley Baseball League. Berry hopes to get exposure to scouts from Major League Baseball while playing for the Braves.

By Titus Mohler

Correspondent

A former Nansemond River baseball player has made his presence known in the Valley Baseball League, a Virginia summer program that, for many players, has proven to be a gateway to the Majors.

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Jermaine Berry of Suffolk is playing for the Staunton Braves in the VBL while on break from attending and playing at Mount Olive College in North Carolina.

“I thought it was a pretty cool opportunity to go up there and polish my skills and get better for next season (at Mount) Olive,” he said.

Berry is a junior at Mount Olive, playing third baseman and studying for a degree in business management. He was recruited to play for the Braves at the same position based on the numbers he has put up in college ball.

The Braves (16-15) are a little more than midway through their 44-game season, and Berry’s performance earned him a spot in the VBL All-Star Game that was played this past Sunday.

Berry said the league recognition was due to both offensive and defensive consistency that has helped keep the Braves’ season alive.

“I was consistent with the bat for the first half of the season, and I had a really strong glove, and I guess I’m just helping my team out winning and scoring runs,” he said.

Berry currently leads the Braves with 24 runs scored and a .518 slugging percentage, and he is tied for the team lead with four home runs. He has a .342 batting average in 114 at-bats.

The VBL’s two divisions, North and South, played against each other in the all-star game. Though Berry’s team lost 2-1, he was named the South All-Stars’ MVP based on his performance in the game. His RBI-single gave the South their only lead of the game.

Berry credits his time as a Warrior at Nansemond River High School with shaping his career.

“It was a big impact, actually,” he said. “It’s basically where my baseball career kicked off from. Pretty much, I started playing competitive baseball there, and I that’s when things got really heavy, baseball-wise.”

He played for the Warriors’ junior varsity team in eighth and ninth grade and then on the varsity team for the rest of his time in high school.

That foundation he got there has helped him develop as a player in his collegiate career.

“I’ve grown a lot,” Berry said. “I believe that I (have become) more familiar with the game. I am way smarter. I can pretty much realize like, with hitting situations, what I have to do.”

The VBL calls itself the “gateway to the Majors” and has sent more than 1,000 players to play in Major League Baseball. Berry would be happy to go pro, but it is not everything to him.

“Majors would always be a nice situation,” he said. “If I do make it, then that’d be good, but I just really want a degree.”