DETROIT — Not long ago, Quintin Berry almost gave up on baseball and searched for a “real job.”
Instead, he stuck with his dream and is headed to the World Series with the Detroit Tigers.
“I’m just trying to take this in,” Berry said. “It is all a little hard for me to believe.”
This past offseason, the outfielder was released by his fourth team in six years, leading him to wonder whether it was time to find a new career.
But Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila knew about Berry because some of the team’s scouts had recommended him for organizational depth.
“Al worked extremely hard in getting him on board because we wanted to add speed in the organization, because we just didn’t have a lot of speed,” Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said of Berry. “He was at the top of our list of trying to get to sign.
“He was coming out of Double-A last year, so you have to tip your cap to the guys that recommended him, too.”
After an injury to center fielder Austin Jackson, the Tigers called Berry up from Triple-A Toledo. He made his major-league debut on May 23 in Cleveland at the age of 27.
Berry’s first couple of months in the majors were so hot — he batted .333 in May and .293 in June and stole 12 bases total in those two months — that when Jackson returned from injury, the Tigers kept Berry on the big-league club.
That’s when Berry stopped commuting from Toledo, Ohio, and moved his wife, Priscilla, and their 11-month-old son, Kameron, to the Detroit suburbs.
Berry became a fan favorite for his speed and his exuberance. Fans enjoy the way he enthusiastically claps when he gets on base or, as if often the case, steals one. Berry’s a perfect 21 of 21 in stolen-base attempts.
Dombrowski recalls an anecdote that speaks to Berry’s popularity.
The story goes that during one of his son’s Little League games, Dombrowski engaged in small talk with the mother of a boy from the other team. She informed Dombrowski that all the kids on their team requested No. 52 because “they all wanted to be Quintin Berry’s number.”
“That’s the popularity aspect of it,” Dombrowski said. “The team could all relate to this young guy coming up and overachieving this year — from his past history.
“I think fans absolutely love him. It’s a great story.”
Berry was overwhelmed when the souvenir shops at Comerica Park began stocking T-shirts with his number on it. He said Priscilla immediately went and bought a bunch to send to family and friends.
“It was a dream,” Priscilla Berry said. “It was amazing. I can’t even explain what we felt, him working so hard for so many years, and to actually finally get called up and do everything that he’s been working so hard for is just great.”
The whole experience has been a dream for Berry, so you can imagine what reaching the World Series is like for him.
“This is unbelievable,” Berry said. “I never would have thought anything like this would happen. I’m just happy that my family’s here with me to be able to experience it with me.”
Berry carried Kameron onto the Comerica Park field after the Tigers finished their sweep of the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, taking it all in while Priscilla snapped pictures.
“The other day, we finished the game, I wanted to just keep playing because I wanted us to get here,” Berry said. “We’re finally here, so we’re going to let it soak in and enjoy every minute of it.”
Berry and Priscilla started dating when they were 15-year-old high school students in San Diego and married after 10 years of dating.
Despite all the ups and downs of life in the minor leagues, being released by teams and having to move wherever baseball took them, Priscilla said she always had faith her husband would reach the majors.
“I never had a doubt,” Priscilla Berry said. “I believed in him 100 percent. I knew he would make it. It was just a matter of time.”
Although Berry had confidence in his ability, he wasn’t sure he would get the opportunity to show it. He had to take other jobs in the offseason to make ends meet, including working the front desk at a 24-Hour Fitness.
Berry wanted something better than that for his family.
“There were times when he got down,” Priscilla Berry said. “There were times when he wanted to just stop baseball and continue with school and get a job, especially when I was pregnant with Kameron.
“For him, it was more about taking care of us as a family, taking care of me as his wife. He just wanted something more stable for us. So he kind of was ready to throw in the towel.”
Berry will see a lot of towels as Tigers fans madly twirl them when their team takes the field in the World Series. During Tigers home games, Berry, a left-handed hitter, will likely platoon in one of the corner outfield spots with right-handed rookie Avisail Garcia. With no designated hitter in the National League park, Berry will probably come off the bench.
“I’m just so proud and so happy for everything that he’s done,” Priscilla Berry said. “It just seems like everything that he’s worked for is finally paying off, and everyone gets to see it.
“My family, his family, all of our friends, everyone is so happy.”