Updated: Tuesday, 26 May 2009, 9:53 PM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 26 May 2009, 9:49 PM CDT
DE PERE - As the West De Pere Phantoms look ahead to the conference title game against Hortonville, assistant coach Sean Gibbons is looking back about seven years, when Jason Berken was on the mound.
"He was was the pitcher that everybody knew about in the area," Gibbons told FOX 11. Gibbons coached Berken for four years. Now, his former player is in the big leagues.
"We're half hoping this game would be rained out so we'd be able to watch it," Gibbons said.
Todd Turriff has known Berken since he was born.
"If anybody deserves it Jason does. He's just a great kid," Turriff said. Turriff owns T & C Pub and Grill in West De Pere. That's where Berken held his wedding reception. An autographed Orioles jersey hangs on a wall here.
"Obviously everybody knows Jason. They've been pulling for him. This is gonna be big," Turriff said.
Big is an understatement, judging by the crowd at the Abbey in De Pere.
"It's really been an emotional 72 hours," Berken's aunt Kris Berken told FOX 11. She said the family found out on Sunday that Berken was going to pitch. About a dozen friends and family members made the trip to Baltimore. The rest, found a spot to watch the game.
"It's amazing because we've seen Jason since he was this little with the talent and a lot of people in the area just said, this skinny little kid for West De Pere? What can he do?" Kris Berken said.
Today they found out. That skinny little kid, is now a big leaguer. Those who knew him way back when have big hopes for him.
"This is just the beginning of what his whole life is about," Gibbons said. "You gotta love the guy, he's a great guy a great man. It was a pleasure to coach him."
As for the game, Berken let up two runs in five innings. He got his first career victory as the Orioles beat the Blue Jays 7-2.
According to baseball almanac.com, Berken is the second person from De Pere to play in the big leagues. Gale Staley played seven games for the Chicago Cubs back in 1925.