Clemson Baseball Notebook


by - Correspondent -
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Cleaning out Ye Olde Notebook while pacing back and forth like a nervous first time father-to-be:

- Why am I pacing? Nervous energy. Anticipation. General skittishness.

As I write this I had planned to be in the radio booth at Doug Kingsmore Stadium for the 2008 season opener. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas.

For me, it was like a kid waking up Christmas morning and running downstairs at top speed, only to be told that the time for opening gifts was moved back one day to Dec. 26.

Ahh, but this too shall pass. Saturday brings sunshine and an Ernie Banks special.

Hope to see you there.

***

- Speaking of Clemson baseball, I got to spend some time with former Tiger Jason Berken Friday afternoon.

Berkie, back in town for the first time in over a year, had been visiting friends and throwing a bullpen session or two over at DKS. Saturday he'll be on the road to Sarasota, Fla. for minor league spring training with the Baltimore Orioles.

He officially doesn't report until March 1 but he told me he'll take some time to visit family, as well as former Clemson pitching coach and current Florida head man Kevin O'Sullivan.

Berken will start the season at the Orioles' Class AA team in Bowie, Md., after jumping from rookie ball to the club's High Class A team last year. When I asked him what his biggest adjustment in the pro game has been to this point, he said it was getting accustomed to pitching every fifth day.

And as for his arm? The surgically repaired elbow (Tommy John surgery) that caused him to miss a year at Clemson is holding up just fine. Berken started 27 games last year and pitched approximately 160 innings, easily more than any other season in his career.

And the velocity is still there, too. He's getting it up there consistently between 92-94 mph, and has added a sinking, two-seam fastball to his assortment of pitches.

Why? Well, he told me that the two-seamer has much better movement and doesn't get hit as hard if he misses his spot in the strike zone. The four-seamer, he said, gets racked for doubles if he's off by even a few inches.

Seems to be a good lesson learned. Berken said he finished the season with six consecutive victories in 2007.

Class AA will be the test. That's the level that normally separates the contenders from the pretenders.

If he succeeds in Maryland, that's almost a sure ticket to Baltimore.

And with the Orioles off on yet another youth movement, that could come sooner rather than later.

***

- We'll be taking emails on the broadcasts again this year on both WCCP and the Clemson Network. It's a fantastic way to connect with the fans.

Oh, and before I forget, all of you who have erected some sort of apparatus beyond the outfield fence for viewing the games, be sure to email us your site name so we can add you to our shout-out list early in each broadcast.

See you at the ball park.

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