May 16, 2018 10:30:16 AM
Thomas Berkery is "hyped."
Baseball always has been part of the former Mississippi State standout's life for as long as he can remember. He coaches his son's travel ball team as part of the Swing Elite organization based in Starkville. Berkery also owns The Swing, a 10,000-square foot facility on Industrial Road in Starkville, where he and other instructors give lessons for baseball and softball.
On Monday, baseball became an even bigger part of Berkery's daily life when it was announced he will be the new baseball coach at Starkville Academy.
"This is an opportunity for me to invest in the community and the kids and do what I love," Berkery said Tuesday.
Berkery, who will replace Brooks Roberts as coach, said he also will coach Starkville Academy's fast-pitch softball team. He said it hasn't been determined what role he will play at the school during the morning and early afternoon. Berkery said he will perform other duties but that other personnel moves at the school will determine "how all of the pieces fit."
Berkery also said the recent uncertainty regarding the Columbus-Lowndes Visitor's Bureau and the status of Lowndes County's 2-percent county wide restaurant sales tax that provides the majority of the CVB's funding didn't really factor into his decision to leave his position as sports tourism director for the CVB and become a full-time coach.
Berkery said he will start June 1 at Starkville Academy and plans to begin practices June 5.
"I am taking the reigns of a program that has had great success and has great players coming back, so it is an opportunity for me to give back," Berkery said. "I have had some great coaches. I am not making this up. This is all information that has been provided to me through coaches, from watching swings be analyzed, from listening to high level hitting coaches. I am just excited to implement that and to let people take it and run with it."
Berkery has been a fixture in the area's youth sports scene for years. In 2010, he opened The Swing to sponsor multiple travel ball teams for baseball and softball. He took a job as an account manager with Pepsi in 2012 before working with the CVB. Berkery said Friday will be his last day in that job.
Berkery thanked CVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter for helping expose him to a new experience in which he had a chance to see how a city works. He said Carpenter is a "dynamic leader" with a work ethic that is "top of the line." Berkery said his time with the CVB was a "great experience" and that it will make him more versatile so he will be able to handle more situations and to be an even more valuable piece of the Starkville Academy family.
Berkery, who is from Sarasota, Florida, had two scholarship offers out of high school before he decided to sign with MSU. He redshirted his first year on campus and hit .260 as a freshman. In 2006, he won the regular-season batting title by hitting .393. He concluded his career in the NCAA tournament's Clemson Regional and hit a Southeastern Conference-best .383. He earned second-team Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger All-America honors and was a first-team All-SEC selection. Berkery also won the 2006 Ferriss Trophy as the top college baseball player in the state of Mississippi.
Berkery signed with Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers. He played three years in the Rangers' organization before retiring.
Following his baseball career, Berkery worked as general manager at the Knoxville, Tennessee-based training facility "The Yard." He also worked with former MSU teammates Matthew Maniscalco and Steve Gendron at Excel Baseball Academy in Alabama.
Starkville Academy went 23-9 this season and lost to Indianola Academy in the first round of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA playoffs.
Roberts said Tuesday he doesn't know what his next position will be, but that he and his wife are looking to return to the Jackson area to be closer to family. Roberts is from Canton. His wife is from Madison.
"I am grateful and thankful to Starkville Academy for the opportunity and the family atmosphere there," Roberts said. "But everything comes to an end, and I am excited wherever life takes us."
Roberts replaced Jarrod Parks as the school's baseball coach in September 2016 after Parks stepped down to take an assistant job at Mississippi Delta Community College in Moorhead.
Roberts served as an assistant baseball coach for the last three seasons. His first two seasons were under Jody Britt. His last season was under Parks, who played at MSU and in the Los Angeles Angels organization.
This past school year, Roberts, who was in charge of the school's social media, also worked as an assistant football coach.
Roberts said he might get back into coaching at some point, but he isn't sure where or when. He said he and his wife have been thinking about moving closer to home for a while. Roberts said he is going to miss the players and the people at the school.
"It is a great school and there are great people there," Roberts said. "It is just one of those things that comes your way and you have to go with it.
"The guys were fantastic. I couldn't have asked for a better group of guys to be around. They were all willing to do what asked of them. We had a lot of good times. We won a lot of baseball games. We won a district championship last year. We won 23 games this year. We won the first playoff baseball game at the school in at least over six years. There will be a lot of good memories.
"I am happy that the administration thought I was the guy that could make some stability happen (after Parks left), and I think we did provide stability and we won a lot of games and guys have gone on to the next level. I am extremely proud of that. All in all, I think I think we did what was asked of us."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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