January 7, 2011 4:44:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- I caught up with former Mississippi State infielder and Boo Ferriss Trophy winner Thomas Berkery at the site for his new baseball/softball training facility on Industrial Road.
Berkery spent three seasons playing minor league ball after a standout career as an infielder at MSU.
Some players don''t want to get away from the game after hanging up their spikes.
Berkery is one of them.
Like former teammates Matthew Maniscalco and Steve Gendron, Berkery will enter the baseball training business with the launch of "The Swing," a 9,000-square foot, high-ceiling building where local players can take lessons from Berkery and rent batting cages and pitching mounds.
Berkery hopes to pour all of his knowledge from being general manager at Knoxville, Tenn.-based training facility "The Yard" and working with former MSU teammates Maniscalco and Gendron at Excel Baseball Academy in Alabama into his first business.
Berkery''s solo project puts all of the worries about overhead and facility upkeep and establishing trust in the community on his shoulders.
It''s a challenge he''s ready for.
"I''m confident in the fact that if I get soembody in front of me and give their kid a lesson, they''re going to see it''s worth the time and money," Berkery said. "I''ve handled the books and the accounting before, so I''m not worried about that.
"The big thing is I want the kids to see the benefit and fall in love with the sport. I want kids to set goals and get to them. These kids don''t know what their ceiling is yet until they get some good instruction and start putting it into play."
Berkery is a good example of making the most of his talent; The Sarasota, Fla. native had just two scholarship offers coming out of high school before choosing MSU.
He redshirted his first year on campus and hit .260 as a freshman. In his final season (2006), he hit close to .400 and earned the Ferriss Trophy as the top collegiate player in Mississippi.
Watching kids respond to challenging workouts while working at Excel showed Berkery kids just need a place to practice and learn.
"I think you got to have a good relationship with kids and be a good role model, first and foremost," Berkery said. "Those kids really look up to Matthew and Steve. I''ve never seen kids work as hard as they did in their place.
"That''s the main thing I''m going to try and get across to these kids. Somebody will always out-work you, whether it''s for a spot on the JV team or for a scholarship."
Berkery hopes to open the facility on Jan. 15 and have the grand opening at 6 p.m., Jan. 28. Former MSU teammates Mitch Moreland, Ed Easley and Jeffrey Rea, and pro player Marcus Thames will sign autographs on Jan. 28.
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5. Mississippi players help MSU grow softball in state COLLEGE SPORTS