Berk’s big decision: GJ catcher to play ball at Salt Lake Community College

Grand Junction High School’s Aaron Berk is the type of baseball player who is hard to miss.

At 6 feet 3 inches and weighing more than 200 pounds, Berk’s raw power at the plate is something college coaches covet.

Wednesday morning, Berk made one college coach very happy, signing his letter of intent to attend Salt Lake Community College.

“This flew by, and last night I was thinking, ‘Wow, I’m signing (Wednesday),’ ” Berk said. “I can’t believe it.”

Berk chose the Bruins over other junior college powers Iowa Western Community College and San Jacinto (Texas) College. Berk said his decision came down to a combination of location, and feeling comfortable with the coaching staff at Salt Lake.

“Salt Lake is closer than those two schools, and the coaches made the effort to speak to me,” Berk said. “The communication wasn’t one-sided. They made the effort, and we had a relationship I was comfortable with.”

Part of Berk’s comfort level might be from groundwork laid by 2005 Grand Junction graduate Ryan Bernal, who played two strong years at SLCC before moving on to Brigham Young University. Grand Junction coach Kyle Rush said the Bruins’ coaches are always looking at what the Tigers have to offer and jumped at the chance to get Berk.

“The coaches are excited,” Rush said. “They’ve looked at our players, respect our program and are taking our players.”

SLCC plays in the Scenic West Athletic Conference with the likes of Colorado Northwestern and Southern Idaho. It’s a wood bat league, which Berk said will help him transition to the next level.

“I’ll get used to playing with a wood bat,” Berk said. “The pros use a wood bat, and it will definitely help me get there.”

Berk didn’t rush his decision to sign before the start of his senior season at Grand Junction, but took the advice of former teammate and current Kansas City Royals prospect Geoff Baldwin. Baldwin signed his letter of intent to the University of Nebraska in the fall of 2008.

“I talked to Geoff and he said no matter where you go, it’s nice to get it off your shoulders,” Berk said. “It allows you to focus on the season and have fun. It’s not ‘I screwed up this game, what are my chances now?’ I have a place to play and it’ll make the season a lot easier.”

Berk will assume a catching role for the Bruins. He was the Tigers’ designated hitter for two seasons before taking over last season as the full-time catcher.

“He needs to continue to be a leader on the field,” Rush said. “It’s been a goal of his to play college baseball and he’s excited to get an opportunity to sign early, which is good for everyone involved coming into the spring season.”


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