Antigo native Justin Berg uses past lessons to launch baseball camp
Antigo native and former major league pitcher Justin Berg is looking to groom the next group of big leaguers from his hometown.
"I look at the field right now and I think that this was my high school field, and you know I got to play at Wrigley and Miller Park."
Berg climbed to the top of the baseball mountain. From Antigo High School, to a three year major league career from 2009-2011 with the Cubs.
"It's still the same game,” says Berg. “Just with the big leagues there's another deck on top."
A 43rd round draft pick by the Yankees in 2003, Berg had to overcome long odds.
"In my first year of rookie ball with the Yankees, I remember there were 30 of us sitting around taking a knee around one of our coaches,” Berg explains. “The first thing out of his mouth, my first day of camp was 'there's 30 of you here right now, you'll be lucky if one of you makes it to the big leagues.'"
Berg retired from baseball after 2016. He spent last year as a pitching coach with the Kenosha Kingfish of the Northwoods League. Now he's using those experiences to launch a one-day baseball camp in Antigo on June 1st, in hopes he can spring the next big leaguer from his hometown.
Berg says: "Being that it is my hometown and where I grew up and played and stuff like that I wanted to make sure that it was the first priority as far as getting the word out
One of the biggest things that drew Justin to coaching was finding a new purpose. After playing professional baseball for more than a decade, it was hard for him to find a new calling once he stepped off the mound for good.
"That (retiring) really honestly has been one of the hardest things ever,” says Berg. “When you do something for so long it just becomes a part of you, and it's a lifestyle and I just missed it so much."
Coaching has filled that void for Berg.
He explains: "The joy that I get out of coaching is watching when you know something that works, and you're explaining it and it just doesn't quite work. And then you find out another form, like maybe a video and you find out that they're a visual learner. Then all of a sudden you see the light bulb go off and it just clicks, and they just smile or something, or they look like a deer in headlights for a second and you're just like 'they got it.'"
Berg already has the wheels in motion for more camps and clinics across Northern Wisconsin soon, but for now he's focused on giving back to the town that gave so much to him.
"There's a lot of talented players up here that I think deserve to get noticed."