Catching prospects have a more daunting task in front of them than many other young players. Not only do they have to develop as hitters and defensive players, but they also have to become adept at handling pitching staffs and calling an effective game. Cincinnati Reds’ minor leaguer Chris Berset has put in the hard work behind the plate, honed his overall game and is now knocking on the door of the majors.
The 26-year-old switch hitter was a stand-out athlete at The Heights School in Potomac, Maryland, playing both baseball and basketball. Following graduation, he enrolled at the University of Michigan and embarked on a noteworthy career, playing all four years. In total, he appeared in 167 games, hitting .317 with 12 home runs and 107 RBIs. Not only was he a team co-captain by his senior year in 2010, he also took home a number of awards and honors, such as the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award and All-Big Ten Second Team.
The Reds drafted Berset in the 20th round in 2010 and have moved him slowly but steadily. Coming into the 2014 season, he had never played in more than 59 games in any professional season, and seen inconsistent offensive production, but showed excellent receiver skills.
So far this year, he is having the best season of his career, splitting time between High Single-A and Double-A. In a combined 24 games, he is hitting .291 with two home runs and 14 RBIs while throwing out a career-high 43 percent of runners.
In five professional seasons, Berset has hit .232 with 14 home runs and 83 RBIs. He has also nabbed 32 percent of would-be base stealers. More information on his statistics is available at BaseballReference.com.
I had an opportunity to interview Berset following the 2012 season. Keep reading to find out more about the up-and-coming Reds farmhand.
Chris Berset Interview:
Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: I loved all pretty much all and any switch hitting catchers when I was growing up. For example, Jason Varitek and Jorge Posada - two strong players. I also liked Brian Schneider for his defense, and respected him a lot since he wasn't highly recruited during the draft, yet was a great player.
What was your college experience like at Michigan?: My time at Michigan was amazing and the best four years of my life. Ann Arbor is a phenomenal town where the camaraderie is just awesome, plus I had the opportunity to form some of the best life-long friendships. Playing under Coach Rich Maloney, who was like a father figure to me, only made my experience at Michigan that much better.
Can you describe what your 2010 draft day experience was like?: My dad came up from our home in Virginia to be with me. I knew I didn't want to watch the draft on the internet, so we went and played some golf at a course in Michigan. Right when we got finished and back to my house in Michigan, I got a call from the Reds that I went in the 20th. I couldn't have been happier knowing I had achieved one of my life long goals, and was thrilled for my future with the Reds!
What was something extravagant you did for yourself or your friends/family after you signed?: After driving the same car all throughout high school I was able to upgrade by getting a new car. I was pretty excited to go from an old used Honda to a BMW.
What do you think you have improved on most since being drafted?: I think I've improved mostly on my pitch calling. Being able to really get to know my American vs. Hispanic pitchers is extremely important because of their different mentalities and ways to attack hitters. Because of the diversity of the pitchers I have experienced so far in the minors, I've been able to strengthen my ability to call the most suitable pitches.
What is one thing you would change about your professional career if you could go back in time?: I can't say there's anything I would change. I have been exceptionally blessed by God so far in my professional career. I've really enjoyed every second!
What is the most difficult part of calling a game as a catcher?: Getting on the same page as the pitcher. Obviously pitchers usually want to go with their own choice of pitch since they are the one with the ERA, but it's important to make sure the pitcher also trusts my pitch calling ability to attack the hitter. My plan is always to attack the hitter with the pitchers’ strengths, so being on the same page is essential.
How much interaction have you had with guys from the big league team?: I had my first few experiences with the big league guys this past spring training. I played around five games with the big league club and talked to several of the guys, trying to get as much advice as I could. They are all great guys and I look forward to hopefully playing next to them in the future!
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