Quintin Berry steals second base in the ALDS against the Rays. (Associated Press)
Detroit — After finally getting his first taste of big-league baseball in 2012, Quintin Berry, understandably, had high hopes for 2013.
But things never really got on track. In spring training, he seemingly spent more time wrapping an ailing knee than actually playing in games — opening the door for Matt Tuiasosopo to win the Tigers’ final outfield spot.
That sent Berry back to Triple-A Toledo, where he struggled mightily. And in early June, he was a goner, plucked off waivers by the Kansas City Royals. There, too, he was stuck in the minor leagues, making all those long bus trips.
It wasn’t the happiest of times.
“Thinking that everything’s going wrong, thinking that pretty much my career could be coming to an end,” Berry told The News by phone Friday afternoon.
“Then all of a sudden …”
Berry, 28, now is a world champion. Two days ago, his new team, the Boston Red Sox, beat the St. Louis Cardinals to clinch the World Series. On Saturday, Berry will join those new teammates for a parade through Boston.
From chump to champ he went.
Wait. Now, how did that happen?
In late August, Berry was in Des Moines, Iowa, wrapping up his season with Omaha — and worrying more about getting his things packed to take home for the offseason. But then his cell rang; on the other end was his agent. He had just been traded to the Red Sox.
Boston, preparing for a playoff run, wanted another guy in the mold of Dave Roberts, whose speed off the bench helped the Red Sox en route to the 2004 championship. And new Boston manager John Farrell and his bench coach, Torey Lovullo, had remembered this guy they saw the previous summer in Detroit, when they were on the Toronto staff.
In the 11th inning of an Aug. 23, 2012 game at Comerica Park, Berry entered as a pinch-runner, promptly stole second base, and came around to score the winning run. Little did he know that day, he, essentially, was being fitted for a World Series ring.
“My opportunity that I got last year,” Berry said of his time with the Tigers, “without that, I wouldn’t be here.”
It’s why, while Berry makes it clear he was disappointed how things played out with Detroit this year, he’ll always be grateful for the shot Jim Leyland and Co. gave him.
Prior to arriving with the Tigers last year, Berry had spent six years in the minor leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds — all without once sniffing a major-league call-up.
He finally got that call last May, and provided an immediate spark for a team that at first needed him to fill in for an ailing Austin Jackson, and then Andy Dirks. By the end of June, Berry was hitting .306; by season’s end, he had stolen 21 bases in 21 chances.
“I won’t ever forget how much it hurt what happened this year, that’s the reality of it. Things that happened, I wasn’t happy,” Berry said. “I didn’t think I had anything to worry about. But I’m not gonna act like I’m not grateful for what they did, the opportunity they gave me.”
Berry played in 13 games down the stretch for the Red Sox this year, and kept his perfect stolen-base record intact — with three more, in three attempts. In his bit role, he also brought that energy Tigers fans grew to love — particularly the Quintin Clap. In fact, his Red Sox teammates razzed him pretty good when he didn’t clap after a September walk.
Those legs of his earned him a spot on the postseason roster, where he knew his role. He wasn’t going to bat. He only was going to run. And run he did, stealing three more bases — in three attempts — one in all three rounds, including against the Tigers in the ALCS.
Mostly, though, he was a spectator, a witness to history. Which, by the way, was tougher than actually playing the game.
“I was stressed out a lot,” he said, laughing. “I spent a lot of time in the tunnel, pacing back and forth, watching a game you have no control over.
“It was a fun experience, but a stressful one.”
The stress suddenly subsided late Wednesday night at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox knocked off the Cardinals — and then celebrated wildly.
Berry did his part, too — though not as much as David Ortiz, who was photographed spraying and guzzling the rare, massive “Ace of Spades” bottle of champagne. That retails at more than $100,000, or more than Boston’s total commitment to Berry.
“Yeah,” said Berry, “I definitely wouldn’t have been pouring that on the floor.”
Berry will stay in Boston through Saturday, when the team will take part in the celebratory “Duck Boat” parade.
It could very well be his final party with this batch of teammates, who he described as his style: “comedians, high-energy, hard-nosed, everything you could put into one.” (Berry, though, didn’t participate in the beard fad for the simple reason he can’t grow one.)
Then he’ll be headed back to San Diego for family time and the offseason, unsure of what’s next — or where he’ll play next year.
Odds are, though, he won’t spent much time sweating about it this time. Just look what happened last time. Against all odds, he’ll soon be the proud owner of a World Series ring, something most of the current Tigers can’t say.
“Unbelievable,” Berry said. “I couldn’t have comprehended this three months ago, let alone four or five years ago.
“I got lucky. I’m blessed.”
And, now, a world champion.