Baseball is simply a part of the Berberich family.
Kyle and Vicki Berberich of Osakis had three sons. Brady was the youngest after Lane and Todd. The brothers had to get creative, but a makeshift diamond of their own at home was just the start of what would be a life filled with memories throwing the ball around.
“Baseball meant everything to (Brady), and Todd and I,” Lane said. “We grew up with a deer fence, and that would be our outfield. We made a mound out there and batter’s boxes. We’d be out there playing every single day, pitching to each other. I spent a lot of time with Brady pitching to me. It’s everything to us. My dad played with us, pitched to us in little league, coached us in little league.”
That’s why the baseball field is exactly where Lane wanted to be on Sunday afternoon in what has been an incredibly difficult week for the Berberich family and the Osakis community. Doctors found an inoperable brain tumor in Brady during the summer of 2019. On Wednesday this past week, he died at his home in Osakis surrounded by his family at the age of 21.
“Everyone is heartbroken, but we have a great community,” Osakis Hawks’ player/manager and family friend Doug Zimmel said. “We have their backs all the time, but it’s been pretty hard.”
Brady was a huge part of Osakis baseball as a sure-handed infielder. He was a fixture in the Osakis Silverstreaks high school lineup from early in his career, and finished that run as a shortstop named as the team’s MVP as a senior in 2017.
Brady also got his start with the Osakis Hawks amateur team in the Resorters Baseball League years ago. His Hawks teammates wore his No. 11 patch on the sleeve of their jerseys on Sunday afternoon. They then went out and won a 10-3 game against the Carlos Cougars on their way to a 2-0 start to the shortened summer season.
“We have a great time, and I thought we played well,” Zimmel said. “We brought in some high schoolers now who didn’t have a season, and they want to play. We have four good ball players out of them. They fit in well too. We’ve grown up together playing baseball our whole lives, so we have that connection.”
Osakis jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the third inning after Lane crossed home plate on a wild pitch. The Cougars kept it close at 4-2 through seven innings, but the Hawks blew things open in the eighth.
Brandon Giesler cracked an RBI double that inning to get the scoring started. Luke Imdieke, Colter Fortenberry, Lane Berberich and Drew Fearing all added an RBI to take complete control.
This is an Osakis team that has high hopes of making it through the regional tournament to earn a spot at state. Young players often have to head to college right around playoff time in amateur baseball, and the Hawks have been bit by that bug in the past.
“I’m competitive, and I know we have the talent to make a run,” Lane said. “We need to be able to stick together as a team. That’s the tough thing is when we have people and then we lose them at the end of the year. Last year, losing Brady sucked. Here too, if we lose those guys, our team just completely changes. I still think we have enough talented guys that we can make a run no matter what.”
The young players on Osakis’ roster this summer add to this team’s pitching depth. Carter Rost went four innings and allowed just one unearned run against Carlos. Hunter Infanger ended the game with two solid frames around Zimmel throwing three innings. Both Rost and Infanger are recently-graduated seniors.
Throughout the entire game, the Osakis players played like they often do. Clean and competitive, but with frequent laughter. This is a tight-knit group that likes to have fun with each other while on the field. Lane was surrounded by friends on Sunday, and has felt the support of the entire Osakis community since Brady’s diagnosis.
“Everybody has been awesome,” Lane said. “There’s so many people who have stepped up and helped out me and my family through it all. Everybody has been amazing.”
The community will say goodbye to Brady early this week on the field where he made so many memories. A visitation will be held on Monday from 4-8 p.m. at the LeRoy Mackove Athletic Complex baseball field in Osakis. Funeral services will be Tuesday at 11 a.m. back at the field. Those who attend are encouraged to wear sports jerseys.
In the midst of a difficult week, Brady’s love for baseball is a way friends and family can celebrate his life. For a few hours on Sunday, it offered a brother and former teammates a chance to laugh together while playing the game they loved playing with him.
“I feel like Brady is still with me and us,” Lane said. “Hopefully we can keep playing hard for him. He wanted everything for it to be gone so he could be out here with us. I know everybody feels that too, and we’re going to just keep playing hard for him.”