Berry’s surprising season gets even better

DETROIT — It wasn’t that long ago that Tigers outfielder Quintin Berry was watching the playoffs from the front desk of a 24-Hour Fitness.

Now he’s on the eve of starting his first playoff game.

“I can’t even totally tell you how it feels, man,” Berry said Friday in the Tigers clubhouse. “It’s so crazy. It’s all happening so fast, and I just got here.

“It’s just something I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like (Saturday) when that game starts.”

At 27, Berry is older than most of the Oakland Athletics, including their starting rotation, which doesn’t feature a player older than 25. Yet, like many of the A’s, he’s a rookie.

Unlike many of the A’s, Berry never seemed destined to be here.

A fifth-round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2006 draft, Berry had never appeared in a major-league game until May 23 of this season.

Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson suffered an abdominal strain and the team called Berry up from Triple-A Toledo.

Berry had a double off Cleveland’s Zach McAllister for his first major-league hit in his first game.

Playing every day, Berry hit .300 and above for the first month and a half, falling off a bit once July came.

Manager Jim Leyland said late in the regular season that Berry had surpassed Brennan Boesch in terms of earning playing time. Since then, Berry has started in left field when the Tigers faced a right-handed starter.

Berry often bats second, ahead of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, giving the Tigers two players with speed at the top of the lineup.

“Definitely I’ll have a little bit of a swollen head hitting in front of those guys in a situation like this,” Berry said. “If that’s the case, that’s what happens. That’s what Jim wants, then I just gotta do my job.”

Batting second, Berry has hit .263 with four doubles, four triples, two home runs and 20 RBIs in 46 games.

He was also a perfect 21 for 21 in stolen bases this season, becoming the 13th Tigers rookie to steal 20 or more.

Berry has watched enough playoff baseball to know that while players like Cabrera and Fielder will get their hits, it’s often lesser-known guys who come up big in the postseason.

“That’s the time when anybody in the lineup can shine,” Berry said. “Anybody has an opportunity. It’s not always the big guys.”

It’s a far cry from those days after his minor-league season ended and Berry had to take other jobs.

“I’ve worked at gyms, stuff like that, did some camps and stuff like that,” Berry said. “… Just trying to scrape together some extra money.

“All the stuff that I had to get through in order to get here, of course, you’re never going to forget where you come from.”

Nor will Berry forget who’s been there all along. His wife, Priscilla, and 11-month-old son Kameron, are also enjoying this ride.

“It’s amazing for them,” Berry said. “They’re all excited. They can’t wait for the games to start. My wife’s flying around with us, with our son.

“For him to be able to be there when we clinched. They came into the locker room and I was able to walk around with my son. He didn’t really know what was going on, but just seeing him happy, seeing my wife happy, everything that she went through with me, man, it’s amazing for her to be able to be a part of it.”