In a small ceremony at the Maple Ridge secondary gymnasium on Thursday afternoon, Bobbi Berkey gathered with her family and her fastball coach, and signed to play ball on scholarship in Texas.
The talented pitcher has been hearing from U.S. schools since Grade 10, and she finally chose one – Blinn College in Brenham.
Kim Brooks was her coach with the U-18 Pride team. Berkey was one of five girls on the regional team to get a U.S. scholarship, but the only one from the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows area. They put in a lot of hours to make it happen.
“What makes her good is her drop ball, and how hard she works,” said Brooks.
Brooks says that fall-off-a-table drop ball is the best in B.C. among Berkey’s peers, and she complements it with a 64 mph fastball and other pitches.
Brooks has been her mentor on the mound for the past five years, and Berkey played on her team for the past three.
“She’s like my daughter,” said the proud coach.
Brooks said Berkey is already at the next level, but expects to see her game take off.
“Once she gets there and plays every day, it’ll make a big difference.”
There were 10 different schools that gave Berkey scholarship offers.
“I started getting attention in Grade 10. I started having bigger schools look at me,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to go to Texas, so when the offer came, I knew I was going.”
Part of the attraction was former Canadian national team coach Rick Church, who runs the Buccaneers bench. She knows his pitching philosophy well, because she’s been hearing it for the past five years – Church also coached Brooks during her playing days.
“He’s had a lot of success – a lot of his freshmen end up being All Americans,” she said.
“I get a lot of the same advice because he taught my coach. He’s big on the drop ball, which is my best pitch.”
Berkey still has lots to work on – she throws a rise ball, curveball, screwball and a changeup.
Her goal is to shine at the juco, and move on to NCAA Texas A&M.
“I thought it would be a better experience to go smaller school and then end up going to a bigger school,”
She comes by her athleticism honestly, and her father Bob Berkey was a lacrosse and junior B hockey player. He’s also her catcher a couple times a week, as Bobbi likes to throw about every other day – with Brooks or with Dad.
The highlight of her career so far was winning the Western Canadian Championships in 2011.
This year she was having a good season, but rolled her ankle while pitching and had to shut it down. Her team missed the national championships.
She hasn’t decided what she will study in Texas, but enjoys English and History.
“We’ll figure it out sooner or later. I think sports journalism would be interesting.”
She has been to Texas a few times, and in December travelled to Blinn there to meet the coaching staff, before she signed.
She said it’s a great place to be an athlete. Sports are a big part of the college campus scene.
“It’s huge – they’re all about sports, which is nice,” she said. “I’m excited.”