DE PERE - As the West De Pere Phantoms look ahead to the conference titlegame against Hortonville, assistant coach Sean Gibbons is lookingback 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 ableto 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 autographedOrioles 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 inDe Pere.
"It's really been an emotional 72 hours," Berken's aunt KrisBerken told FOX 11. She said the family found out on Sunday thatBerken was going to pitch. About a dozen friends and family membersmade the trip to Baltimore. The rest, found a spot to watch thegame.
"It's amazing because we've seen Jason since he was this littlewith the talent and a lot of people in the area just said, thisskinny little kid for West De Pere? What can he do?" Kris Berkensaid.
Today they found out. That skinny little kid, is now a bigleaguer. Those who knew him way back when have big hopes forhim.
"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 greatman. It was a pleasure to coach him."
As for the game, Berken let up two runs in five innings. He gothis first career victory as the Orioles beat the Blue Jays 7-2.
According to baseball almanac.com, Berken is the second personfrom De Pere to play in the big leagues. Gale Staley played sevengames for the Chicago Cubs back in 1925.
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