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His number is barely a number. Quintin Berry’s Mud Hen uniform has “0” on the back. There’s a story behind it.
Berry played in 105 games for Detroit last season, starting with a major league debut in late May and ending in the World Series. His finish wasn’t as strong as his start — he hit .299 in 42 games before the All-Star break — but he was solid throughout, his speed on the bases producing runs and his slick outfield glove preventing runs.
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He wasn’t taking anything for granted, especially with the Tigers’ off-season addition of outfielder Torii Hunter, but not many people, including Berry, expected him to start the 2013 season in Toledo.
Yet he was one of the last position players trimmed by the Tigers and he will admit he was equal parts angry and disappointed. He got away for a while with his family, then reported to the Hens.
And they asked him what number he wanted.
“I just didn’t want to pick one,” Berry said Sunday, before singling twice in Toledo’s 2-1 loss to Louisville. “I feel like my number is 52, but I got it in the big leagues. So this is kind of a constant reminder that I have to earn back my number.”
When the Tigers took No. 52 away, he was “angry, emotional. I didn’t want anybody to see me pouting. I didn’t want to be bitter.”
Before the day was out, Berry phoned Hens manager Phil Nevin.
“I knew he was extremely disappointed, but he told me he’d show up with a positive attitude and he’d go about his business like a professional,” Nevin said. “Just like today at batting practice.”
BP was optional on Sunday and Nevin is not one of those skippers who announces optional and means mandatory. If you show up, fine. If not, fine.
Berry was the first guy on the field, the last guy off. When it was over, according to Nevin, Berry thanked every pitcher who showed up to shag balls in the outfield.
“That’s part of being a leader,” Nevin said. “Q gets it. He’s been in the big leagues and he knows there are 12 guys on this roster who haven’t and every one of them is watching everything he does. He’s been where they want to be.”
And it is where he again wants to be.
To that end, Berry is starting to shake off a slow start. He was hitting just .167 before stroking three hits and driving in a pair of runs Saturday. His average jumped 60 points in one night.
“It always helps mentally to get some knocks,” Berry said. “You can’t really judge the numbers this early in the season. You have to realize that two or three good games and you can jump up among the league leaders pretty quickly.
“My focus this time of year is good at-bats. You can’t always control if they result in hits.”
Berry knows the distance from Detroit down to Toledo is the same as that from Toledo up to Detroit. For now, though, he’s trying to ignore the proximity.
“The best thing about being so close to Detroit, the thing that has helped, is the support of Tigers fans,” Berry said. “I hear them. I appreciate all the support. They help provide that push to get back up there and play for them again.”
Back up to where No. 52 is waiting.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.