They say that baseball is a little kids game, and there is one player in the American Association who embraces that philsophy better than anyone. While taking a very professional approach to his game and the way that he helps his team to win, the St. Paul Saints David Bergin is clearly a player who is playing the game of baseball because he is truly having fun. There is rarely a time when you do not see the first baseman smiling, and his enthusiasm and love for the game is one of the things that has made him very popular with his teammates wherever he has played.
A Switch in Position Opens the Door
David Bergin first became interested in baseball watching his cousin play. He wanted to model his own childhood after his idol, and this led to him wanting more than anything to be on the diamond as much as possible.
David loved the game and excelled in it almost from the moment he could put on a glove. In high school he continued to draw the attention of coaches and opponents, but it was not for the enormous power that he is known for today. Instead, David was starring on the mound.
Attending Plant High School (Tampa, FL), he was dominant. In his senior year he had a monster season, going 6-2 in 7-starts with a 2.31 ERA. He had a miniscule .184 opponent batting average and his performance garnered attention from college scouts who looked to give the high school senior a chance to continue his career on the mound.
In college, his bat began to garner a lot more attention. He soon realized that if he was going to continue into the pros that it was going to be as a hitter, and so he made a much more concerted effort to become an everyday player.
“I rode my wing for a long time and then later on I started hitting, and from then I transferred from a pitcher to nothing but a hitter and a position player. I was having a lot of success and realized that was my best chance at continuing on in the sport.”
At the end of his junior season, David was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 30th round of the MLB draft. David was going to be a professional baseball player and all the confidence he had in his own abilities was about to come to fruition.
“Since the day I was little until this day there was never a single day where I didn’t think that I can work hard enough to get to where I wanted to be. That is still my dream; that is always going to be my dream. I am never giving up on my dream. I have always felt like there is that opportunity that could possibly present itself someday in my life.”
While sure of his abilities to perform at the professional level, the first baseman was still taken aback a little by the awesome chance that he had been given. A chance that millions of kids wish that they could achieve each year.
“It’s that awesome experience of being a selected guy out of millions of ballplayers throughout the United States and throughout the world. Getting drafted is a blessing in itself. It’s a feeling that just can’t be described.”
Taking Advantage of His Opportunities
The Cardinals also recognized that David’s best chances of being an impact player were in the field. In the summer of 2011, the organization assigned him to Johnson City (Rookie) where he hit .284 in 19-games with a homer and 10-RBI.
The next season, he would split time between Batavia (Low-A) and Quad Cities (Mid-A). He played in 23 combined games, hitting .316 in the two stops with 5-homers and 19-RBI. Most impressive of all was that he actually did better at the higher-A level than he had in the lower. (.344 to .298.)
Despite the impressive performance, the organization decided to release David following the 2012 season. Many players would have been a bit miffed by the fact that they had been released after showing success the prior year, even if it was in limited action. Not David Bergin. In fact, he was most grateful for the opportunity that the Cardinals had given him.
“I enjoyed my time with the Cardinals. They taught me a lot. They actually were the building blocks for me moving from a pitcher to being a position player. I started out in the outfield when they drafted me. It wasn’t that great of a fit because I wasn’t a position player guy when I was in college or high school, because I was a pitcher. However, I could really swing the bat and that was one thing that they really liked. So they asked me what I thought about playing first, and they went ahead and threw me at first base and worked with me for a couple of years. They helped me to get comfortable with first base. I got to meet a lot of great guys; guys that I played with there are in the big leagues now. So it’s great to see those guys out there doing their thing.”
In 2013, he opted to play for Fort Worth in the United League to continue his professional career. At Fort Worth he put up huge numbers, hitting .310 in 73-games with 19-homers and 66-RBI. He also posted an impressive .395 on-base percentage as well as a .946 OPS.
Those numbers caught the attention of the Colorado Rockies organization, who purchased his contract and sent him to Asheville (Mid-A) at the end of the 2013 season. There the first baseman hit .367 in 8-games. He scored 5-runs and five of his 11-hits were doubles.
The next season he would split time in three different levels, including Tri-City (Low-A), Modesto (High-A), and Tulsa (AA). David hit very well at Tri-City, batting .371 in 10-games, but struggled a bit at Modesto. However, in Tulsa, he showed some promise in 12-games, hitting .241. In Modesto, he did show the power the organization was hoping for, blasting 9-homers in 137-AB. Those numbers were not enough to keep him around and he was given his release at the end of the season.
In 2015, David was back on the market and looking for a new team but he, once again, was embracing the opportunities that his previous organization had given him to not only improve his skills, but also to become a better ballplayer in general.
“I had another opportunity when I signed with the Rockies. I felt like they had high expectations for me and it was a fun time there. Being in one of the top facilities in minor league baseball in Scottsdale, Arizona was really great. They showed me a lot about how to be a better ballplayer, how to be a better man. It’s not just about ability because it’s really a lot more about the mental part of it too. You start to see that more especially as you get older. I picked that up through those opportunities, not only trying to be a better ballplayer but to be a smarter ballplayer.”
In 2015, David joined the Sioux Falls Canaries in the American Association. It took very little time for him to establish himself as one of the best hitters in the league. In 93-games, Bergin hit .331 with 15-homers and 65-RBI. He also clubbed 23-doubles and hit 4-triples, giving him 42-extra-base hits, plus he posted a .427 OBP. He also led the league with 17-HBP.
In 2016, David returned to the Canaries, and was having another All-Star caliber season, hitting .262 with 15-homers and 58-RBI in 79-games. With his team out of the playoff race, the Canaries opted to trade the slugger to the Saints on August 23.
A Much Needed Injection of Power
On the day the trade was made, the St. Paul Saints were in the midst of their most challenging point in the season. They had just lost four of five games in Winnipeg, and then had been swept three straight in Fargo-Moorhead. That had moved the Winnipeg Goldeyes from 9.5-games out just two weeks prior to that point to just 3.5 out. The acquisition was a big boost for the Saints and tt was a shot in the arm for Bergin as well.
“No player likes to be losing. We are all competitors, and we all want to win, and when your team isn’t winning it can be very tough. It is even tougher when you feel like you are doing all you can, but it is not doing anything to change the position your team is in. While failure is a part of the game, that is one part you never get used to.”
Since joining the Saints the team has been winning a little bit more. St. Paul clinched their second straight North Division title last week and, on the last day of the season, they clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That will give David his first taste of playoff baseball since joining the American Association.
He has also swung the bat well for the Saints. In 11-games, Bergin has hit .279 with 4-homers and 13-RBI. That includes a career high 6-RBI performance against Wichita in his second game with the team.
His insertion into the No. 4 spot in the lineup has allowed Saints Manager George Tsamis to move guys around, and this lineup has the potential to be the best of the four teams in the playoffs.
“He has such a big bat,” the Saints Manager explained following the trade. “We needed a guy like that and he will make us a lot more dangerous. I know I sure didn’t like facing him, so it will be great to have him in this dugout.”
A Much Needed Injection of Enthusiasm
While the Saints have not been the same juggernaut that fans had been used to over the first 60 games of the season, it is clear that the attitude of the team has changed dramatically. With the addition of David Bergin and last season’s American Association MVP, Vinny DiFazio, there is a feeling that this team is the class of the league once again. The two additions are making it so that the team is having fun once again.
It is easy to see why. The only time that David doesn’t have a smile on his face is when he steps to the plate. Then he is all business, focused on the opposing pitcher with a concentration level that would win a battle over the most ardent of stare contest masters.
This is the part of his game that David has had to improve over the years. He has had to embrace the fact that he is playing a game where failure is by far more common than success.
“Thirty percent success in this sport makes you a Hall of Famer. That means that at the end of the day 70 percent of the time you are getting a negative result. That is what is the biggest challenge in this game – the mental part. The key is always trying to stay positive with yourself. Trying to find the positivity in yourself to be able to see that it’s going to be okay, that you can get another one. There’s a reason that you get 400 or 500 at-bats a season. There’s a reason why we play hundred games a year. Failure is expected, but it’s about whether you’re able to get out of that and find the positive out of it. That’s when you move on to the next level; that’s when you become that much better of a ballplayer.”
At just 26-years-old, those are wise words coming from someone who is still so young in the sport, but it has come from learning from those veterans who took the time to show a younger David Bergin how a player truly becomes successful in the sport. They have taught him to be much more mentally tough in his approach to the game and to accept that he is going to fail, but it is how he handles that failure that makes all the difference in the world.
“That’s one thing that I’m still learning to this day. I mean, it’s still one thing that I have the guys on the team backing me up, helping me to become a better mental guy. I care so much for the team and for every team I played on that I try not to let any game slip by me. So, when we lose or I do not produce for the team when the team needs it, it becomes very frustrating for me, because I expect so much from myself. So, to improve in the mental aspect of it, I understand that I need to flush those kind of bad outings out, where I may not be 100 percent of where I need to be. Where I need to go back out there and rethink it so that I can go at it 100 percent again. Where you just can’t dwell on it.”
While a great philosophy for a baseball player, David actually finds that this approach is helpful in the way that he approaches life as well.
“The way you got to look at it is that if you just think of the failure you are never going to succeed. It’s a great lesson for life, too, because if you dwell on things in life you’re going to struggle to succeed as well. See, you just have to learn to go on to the next at-bat, to the next pitch, to the next game. It’s one thing that I’ve learned. In life, when you make a mistake you have to go on to the next thing, doing what you can not to make the same mistake. Baseball teaches you a lot about life for sure. ”
These are life lessons that he is embracing and incorporating into his own game more every day. He is also taking this opportunity to help the younger players to grow and mature the way that others did that for him along the way.
“A lot of it is just letting them play. Just giving them the positivity, because positivity is huge in this game. If you don’t have the positivity that you try to bring to younger guys then they start doubting themselves. A lot of times they start doubting themselves and don’t even realize it. If you can give them the positivity that they can do it and you believe in them, then that person is going to believe in themselves and they are going to go out and produce. Then they are going to be more effective than they even thought that they could be.”
David Bergin has been a lot more than effective since the first day he put on a glove. As the St. Paul Saints head north to Canada Wednesday to take on the Winnipeg Goldeyes, they are counting on their newly acquired first baseman to help lead them to the organization’s fifth championship. The way he is swinging the bat and bringing energy to this team the odds are looking a lot better that this is exactly what will happen. Then, one can only wonder, if that patented smile will be replaced with tears of joy.
St. Paul Saints Images of David Bergin Courtesy of Betsy Bissen/St. Paul Saints
By Robert Pannier
Member of IBWAA