West De Pere grad Jason Berken knows how to grind. He did it all the way from the mound in Northeast Wisconsin to the big leagues in Baltimore and Chicago.
Along the way there were plenty of memorable moments, but nothing tops that first trip to the big leagues.
“Having played for 12 years, there’s a lot of great memories but your debut is something you’ll definitely never forget. The support you have from your family and friends. Even from back here you see video of some of the local establishments full of people watching your games. That just means so much,” said Jason Berken.
Berken went on to put together a pro career that spanned more than a decade, from the minors to stints with the Orioles and Cubs.
Throughout the support from De Pere and the surrounding area never wavered, which was key with so much time away from home.
“I was sick of being gone, but having gone through it, you kind of have that mindset now that hard work does pay off,” said Berken.
After last season, Berken decided to hang up the glove for good, but he’s not walking away from the game completely. When it came time to figure out what followed his baseball career, the decision to open his own academy in his hometown was the obvious answer.
“No matter where I was. No matter where I played, where I lived, this was always kind of home for me. So, for me to be able to come back and give back, connect with the community, and give these kids an opportunity to learn from myself and my staff is extremely exciting, extremely humbling,” said Berken.
Allowing Berken to perhaps help pave the way for the next northeast Wisconsin kid with big league dreams.
“Now is my time to give back and give these kids a chance to be something to be a part of full time. We want to make sure these kids are part of something special,” said Berken.