It isn't often that a minor league baseball player gets to live in the house he grew up in while playing the game, but Thomas Berryhill of Aynor has that opportunity.
Life on the road became life at home Wednesday when Berryhill was promoted by the Atlanta Braves from low-A Rome to high-A Myrtle Beach, and spent Wednesday night at his parents' home in Aynor.
"I'm staying at home," Berryhill said. "I'm about 22 or 23 minutes away, I timed it today. It's not too far, just take [S.C.] 22 and I'm right there on it. It's nice to be back home and save a little money on this minor league salary."
Berryhill drove from Rome to Kinston, N.C., on Wednesday night to join the Pelicans, and he followed the team bus to Myrtle Beach. He was the most popular Pelican with autograph seekers and fans prior to Thursday night's 7-1 loss to the Potomac Nationals at BB&T Coastal Field.
"I had so many calls [Wednesday] of congratulations, it was pretty nice," Berryhill said. "I just couldn't get over it. It was pretty exciting to be coming back. I've seen a good many people from Aynor and around that area, so it's pretty nice to see familiar faces again.
"I've been in Georgia and Virginia, where you get one every once in a while, but it's nice to have fans other than the parents out there cheering for you."
The Braves drafted Berryhill, 22, in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball draft after his junior year at Newberry College. He played rookie ball in Danville, where he went 1-1 with an impressive 2.55 ERA and six saves in 16 appearances and helped Danville win a league title.
This season in Rome he was 3-1 with a 3.81 ERA, having converted five of six save opportunities. He hasn't allowed a home run this year and struck out 30 batters and walked 15 in 451/3 innings. Since the all-star break he's 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA.
"It's nice to be in high-A actually," Berryhill said. "It feels like I'm progressing up and it feels pretty good to keep moving up like I should."
Berryhill began 2010 as the closer in Rome but moved to middle relief when save opportunities became scarce. "We weren't winning a lot there," Berryhill said, "so they called me in after I got a couple saves and said, 'We're not winning a bunch so there's no reason to have a closer, we'll just do it by ear.' So they got me in a couple more innings of middle relief."
A four-seam fastball hitting 92 to 94 mph on the radar gun is Berryhill's primary pitch, his out pitch is often a slider and he also throws a changeup. "Command of the fastball is my big thing," he said. "I'm more of a spot-up guy. Mostly I rely on hitting my spots."
His role will likely be fluid for the remainder of the Pelicans' season and he is penciled in to follow starter Zeke Spruill tonight. "When they need me I'm going in, it's not set in stone," Berryhill said. "Closing or relief would be all right with me. ... Closing is not too hard. I guess you have to have the right mindset, but once you close and once you have it it's not as hard as it would be to just jump in there."
He plans to make the most of his time at home. "I'd love to get a championship here this year and maybe start out here next year in the same place," Berryhill said.
Berryhill didn't make an appearance Thursday in front of 6,383 spectators on a Thirsty Thursday that featured post-game fireworks.
The Pelicans were done in by a pair of three-run home runs to left field by Potomac first baseman and cleanup hitter Tyler Moore in consecutive innings in the sixth and seventh. He hit the first off starter J.J. Hoover (9-6) to help end his night early, and the second off reliever Luis Avilan, who had allowed just one run in the sixth after entering with no outs and the bases loaded.
The Pelicans (20-20 in the second half) managed just five hits, including an L.V. Ware homer, off former Texas Longhorn Adrian Alaniz (6-3) and reliever Justin Phillabaum, who entered in the ninth inning.
Former Pelicans toss no-no
Pelicans fans got to see the talents of starter Julio Teheran and reliever Ty'Relle Harris for much of this season, but the two pitchers saved their best effort for double-A. Teheran and Harris, who were promoted to Mississippi on July 23 and Aug. 1, respectively, combined to throw a no-hitter Monday night against the Mobile BayBears. It was the second no-hitter in Mississippi Braves history.
Teheran struck out seven over 52/3 innings and Harris struck out six in his 31/3, including Mobile's final four hitters of the game. Five Mobile batters reached base on three walks and two errors.