08/18/2010 1:11 PM ET
Justin Berg: Lucky No. 1,290
Hard work and perseverance pay off for Cubs reliever
I can't say with complete certainty that there aren't any other 43rd-round picks in the clubhouse right now, but I'm pretty sure I'm the lowest pick here. I think Randy Wells is the closest. He was taken in the 38th round.
I never thought I would get drafted in the first place, so that day back in June 2003 was very exciting for me. I was just a young kid with a decent arm. It was pretty cool.
I was drafted during my freshman year of college by the Yankees. They called to say they liked me as a player, but they didn't think I was ready to sign yet. They thought I would benefit from an extra year of school, developing my game and honing my pitches. They said we would talk after that year.
I used that year to work on everything I could, and at the end of the season I got another call from the Yankees. This time they told me they'd been tracking me and decided they liked me enough to sign me.
My first day at Spring Training was a little intimidating. I was surrounded by a bunch of first-, second- and third-round picks. I wasn't sure I belonged there. I felt kind of out of place there. As time went on, though, I gained more and more confidence.
Going in, I didn't know what to expect from the draft process and the Minor League system. I just knew I wanted to play baseball. I didn't know how the system worked or how many levels there were. But it's been a really cool experience so far.
It was pretty wild when I got called up for the first time last year, even if it was only for 40 days or so. I was nervous and excited at the same time. It was surreal -- almost as if my life was flashing before my eyes. It makes you reflect on the time you spent working toward this goal. There were good times, bad times, easy times and hard times. That one call takes all the weight off your shoulders. It was fun.
My career path shows that with hard work and perseverance you can do anything. As soon as you sign that contract, everyone has to produce, no matter who they are. I was fortunate to put things together and work my way up.
Cubs right-hander Justin Berg defied the odds to make his big league debut last year and posted a 0.75 ERA in 11 relief appearances. This year he's appeared in 32 games and has a 0-1 record and a 4.78 ERA over 32 innings pitched.