Toledo Mud Hens DH Matt den Dekker hits a home run in Saturday's game vs. Buffalo. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Jon Berti has been busy rounding up tickets for Mud Hens games the past few days.
That’s because the former Bowling Green State University baseball standout is playing at Fifth Third Field for the first time as he and his Buffalo teammates take on the Hens.
Berti and the Bisons used a four-run 12th-inning rally to beat Toledo 6-2 on Saturday.
“I’ve been able to accommodate everyone so far,” Berti said when asked about the ticket demands of family and friends. “But with each day, the requests are going higher and higher.
“It’s good to have family and friends watching you play. In professional ball, you don’t get many chances to play close to home.”
The 27-year-old native of Troy, Mich., spent three seasons at Bowling Green.
The son of former Tigers minor leaguer Tom Berti, Jon Berti earned All-Mid-American Conference first team honors as a sophomore and junior before he was selected by Toronto in the 18th round of the 2011 draft.
Berti played in 40 games for Buffalo, the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate in 2015, but none of those games were in Toledo. Last season, a midseason concussion cost him much of the season, and he played in just seven games for the Bisons.
This year, another concussion, this one coming near the end of spring training, delayed the start of his season by more than two months.
“It was frustrating,” Berti said of the injuries. “Any time you have an injury, you can look at the ‘what ifs,’ but I think that puts you in a negative state of mind.
“I try to look at the positives: I’m happy that I’m healthy again, and that I get a chance to contribute to this club.”
Berti played in the first two games of this series and, after going hitless on Thursday, he went 2-for-4 with a triple and two runs scored on Friday. The 5-10, 175-pound infielder has batted just .218 with three homers, 15 RBIs, and 18 stolen bases in 43 games with the Bisons.
The two hits Friday were impressive, but Berti impressed Mud Hens shortstop Brendan Ryan with a ground ball in the fifth inning.
“[Berti] hit a one-hopper hard to Omar [Infante], and I thought we were going to turn a double play,” Ryan said. “I got Omar’s throw fast, got rid of it fast, and got something on it — and [Berti] beat it easily. ...
“After that play, I started cheating it. I wasn’t staying on the cut of the grass for some of those guys, because you can’t just give them an easy hit by playing deep.”
Berti’s speed has resulted in 230 stolen bases in his career, including 56 with Hi-A Dunedin in the Florida State League in 2013, and 40 more for Double-A New Hampshire the following season.
Buffalo manager Bobby Meacham, who has managed Berti in each of the previous four seasons, said the former BG player’s contributions go beyond the numbers.
“He brings a lot of intensity — it’s hard to slack off when you see him out there working hard even before the game starts,” Meacham said. “It’s a good lesson for all of our players to learn: He puts in the work to get better every day.
“Once the game starts, he’s trying to stir things up. He’s what I call an ‘adder,’ because he adds to the team’s success even if he doesn’t get a hit.”
Berti’s speed played a role in the Bisons’ 12th-inning rally. With a runner on first and one out, Berti hit a grounder up the middle that Toledo’s Omar Infante mishandled in an attempt to retire the speedy infielder.
That put runners on first and second, and Kyle Ryan replaced Ruben Alaniz on the mound for the Hens. Ryan walked Roemon Fields to load the bases, and Christian Lopes doubled into the gap in right to score all three baserunners.
Lopes took third on a wild pitch, then scored on a single by Dwight Smith.
That capped a frustrating night for the Mud Hens, who outhit Buffalo 10-9 but stranded 15 runners by getting just one hit in 15 at-bats with a runner in scoring position.
That hit came in the second, when Matt den Dekker hit a two-run homer into the Roost down the right-field line after JaCoby Jones had walked, then moved to second on a bad throw on a pickoff attempt by Bisons pitcher Joe Biagini.
Buffalo tied the game off Toledo starter Buck Farmer in the fifth when Jason Leblebijian followed a walk to Danny Jansen with a long home run to left, his 11th this season.
NOTES: After Friday’s games the Tigers recalled OF Alex Presley from his rehab assignment. … To make room for Presley on the roster, Detroit optioned OF Jim Adduci to the Mud Hens. … Because he was on a major-league rehab assignment, Presley bought a spread from Beirut for his Toledo teammates. ... Saturday’s crowd of 11,200 was the Mud Hens 19th sellout this season.
Buffalo second baseman Jon Berti, a former Bowling Green State University standout, makes a play against Toledo in the second inning on Saturday at Fifth Third Field. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH