For N.H. Minor Leaguer, Chasing Dream Means Long Road Trips, Personal Sacrifices

Apr 15, 2016

Jon Berti, second baseman for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats
Credit Michael Brindley/NHPR

For minor league baseball players working toward making it to the big leagues, life isn’t always so glamorous.

Jon Berti is a 26-year-old second baseman for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and is one of many players chasing that dream.

Berti has been with the Toronto Blue Jays organization since being drafted in 2011. He’s played everywhere from Vancouver, to Lansing, Mich., to Dunedin, Fla.

He’s been with New Hampshire since 2014, though spent some time with the Blue Jays’ triple-A affiliate Buffalo last season.

Berti spoke to NHPR’s Morning Edition at the ballpark in Manchester Thursday about what it’s like playing in the minor leagues.

For minor leaguers, long road trips on the bus are just part of the grind. In some cases, Berti says you can be on a bus for 12 hours and have to play that night.

“Right when I signed, someone had said if you can plan a full minor league season, you can play a full major league season,” he said. “Even though we play 20 less games, we have less days off and the travel is obviously a little tougher on us.”

There’s also the uncertainty of where you’re going to play and when you may be called up to the next level.

Friends will often ask Berti if he’s going to be called up if he’s been on a hot streak, but he says that’s not how it works.

“You don’t hear any of that. They don’t tell you whether you’re getting sent up or sent down until the moment it happens,” he said. “It can be tough as a minor leaguer just moving around.”

Berti says he’s single, so it’s not as hard for him as it is for players with families.

“They have to pick up on a dime and just go. That can be a challenge that I think a lot of people really understand,” he said.

"They understand and know that I'm chasing a dream and doing what I love. You can only play baseball for so long, so I want to give it as much as I can."

Berti has a passion for the game – his father also played minor league baseball in the Detroit Tigers organization – but says it has to be all consuming to be able to compete at this level.

“It takes up all my time for the most part. You sacrifice some things, time you could be spending with family or friends or a social life,” he said.

Berti says he’s fortunate to have friends and family who understand why he’s not as available as they may like.

“They understand and know that I’m chasing a dream and doing what I love,” he said. “You can only play baseball for so long, so I want to give it as much as I can.”

Berti is living with a family friend in Merrimack during this season, but says finding affordable housing can be a challenge for players who aren’t making big-league salaries.

“That’s probably one of the biggest misconceptions for the casual fan who doesn’t know a whole lot about minor league baseball. We don’t make anything nearly close to that, so not only are we trying to find (housing) in a good area, or close to the field, but also something that is relatively priced.”

Berti says his goal for the season is to stay focused solely on the task at hand, and not get caught up in things he can’t control.

“Too many times in this game, especially when you’re in the minor leagues and you want so badly to be up in the big leagues, you can lose focus on the little details you need to take care of on a daily basis,” he said. “If you don’t take care of those little things, there’s no way you’re getting up there and playing with those guys. They’re just too good.”