Jesse Berardi had electrified fans across Long Island with his defensive plays even before he starred at Commack High School and then St. John’s. He made the tough plays look easy and the easy plays, too.
He had been drafted before, choosing college instead of the pros, but Tuesday night, he was ready for the call.
It came from the Cleveland Indians during Round 10.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to join a great organization and I hope in time we can come to an agreement and start my professional career,” Berardi said Saturday afternoon.
The infielder is likened by some to Craig Biggio, the Hall of Famer who played his high school ball at nearby Kings Park.
Berardi had turned down a chance to join the Philadelphia Phillies’ system three years earlier when he was chosen in his senior year at Commack High School as a 40th-rounder. Judging by his 30-round draft improvement, college was the right choice for him.
“I’ve always dreamed of playing professional baseball and I’ve had the support of my brothers and my parents on and off the field. I love the game and I have fun playing but they are responsible for helping me realize the dream.”
Berardi, 21, talked about his decision to play college ball.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “You play your whole life for this opportunity and you never know if it will come again . . . You can’t take any of these opportunities for granted.”
Although he has been on MLB scouts’ radar since high school, Berardi caught their eye this season by leading the Red Storm to the Clemson Regional. The 5-10, 185-pound shortstop reached base in 37 straight games, batted .356 with a team-leading 47 RBIs. He ranked nationally in batting average, on-base percentage and hits per game. He was an All-Big East first-team selection and a CoSIDA Academic All-America second-team choice.
From a young age, Berardi drew raves as a quality all-around player with the potential to play professionally. He earned that respect through his high regard for the game. And it wasn’t always the analytical, statistical comparisons that are commonly made. Berardi is your throwback kind of gritty player, a meat and potatoes guy. He’s filthy at the end of games, respectful of opponents, umpires, teammates and the game.
“As proud as we are of the way he has played on the diamond, we can’t shake the way people talk about him as a friend, teammate and a person,” said his mother, Patty Berardi. “He’s the youngest of four brothers and we continue to learn from him every day.”
Berardi is one of six ballplayers drafted out of Commack High School, adding his name for the second time to a list that includes former MLB standouts Pete Harnisch, drafted in 1987 by the Orioles. St. John’s has produced 16 major-leaguers, including former Mets pitchers John Franco and Frank Viola, along with current San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik.
In all, there were 10 Long Island players drafted last week, including two high school seniors who must make the college-or-pro decision. Ward Melville 6-6 righty Ben Brown was selected in the 33rd round by the Phillies, and is committed to play at Siena. And Shoreham-Wading River pitcher/shortstop Brian Morrell, taken by the Phils in the 35th round, is committed to Notre Dame.
(Round number in parentheses)
JESSE BERARDI Indians (10)
Shortstop from Commack H.S. and St. John’s U.
DYLAN STOCK Tigers (25)
Pitcher from Mepham H.S. and Binghamton U.
MATT SEELINGER Pirates (28)
Pitcher from Clarke H.S. and Farmingdale State
MICHAEL DONADIO Marlins (30)
Outfielder from Mount Sinai H.S. and St. John’s U.
DAN JAGIELLO Dodgers (34)
Pitcher from West Islip H.S. and LIU Post
RICKY NEGRON Braves (34)
Third baseman from Babylon H.S. and Auburn
BEN BROWN Phllies (33)
Pitcher from Ward Melville H.S.
BRIAN MORRELL Phillies (35)
Pitcher from Shoreham-Wading River H.S.
TERENCE CONNELLY Diamondbacks (40)
Shortstop from Chaminade
TYLER OSIK Pirates (40)
Third baseman from Shoreham-Wading River