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A former Los Alamos Hilltopper standout pitcher is taking the first step toward what he’s hoping is a career in pro baseball.
Scott Berkebile, a 2010 graduate of Los Alamos High School, has made it onto the roster of the Santa Fe Fuego, an expansion team in the Pecos League.
During his prep career, Berkebile was one of the most effective closers in 4A. Following his prep career, he tried out for the University of New Mexico baseball team, earning a spot, but left school before playing with the team.
Following that, Berkebile went to Phoenix hoping to further his baseball career when he heard about the Fuego’s tryout. Berkebile clocked 93 miles per hour on the radar gun during his tryout, which immediately cemented him a spot on the squad.
“I hadn’t played in a year before I threw that,” said Berkebile, who is currently working out with the Hilltopper baseball team. “I was surprised by 93. I was expecting in the mid-80s, and then sitting there (at the tryout) for three hours in 35-degree weather, I figured I’d be in the mid-80s.
The Fuego will begin Pecos League play in early May. Their home games will be at Fort Marcy Park.
The Pecos League is an independent league headquartered in Houston. Four of the league’s six teams, however, are located in New Mexico, and another in Trinidad, Colo., just a few miles away from New Mexico’s northern border. Other teams include the Roswell Invaders, Las Cruces Vaqueros and White Sands Pupfish.
The league boasts 63 players that have been promoted to higher leagues, including some that have Major League Baseball ties.
To get ready for the season – Santa Fe opens at home May 9 against Trinidad – Berkebile has begun throwing and lifting weights. He threw 200-plus pitches with the Hilltoppers last week and said his arm felt fine beyond normal soreness.
Late in his prep career, Berkebile had to deal with elbow pain, but had successful surgery on his right elbow. He can throw a regular schedule with no undue pain, he said.
The Pecos League has a spring training session coming up, but Berkebile was told by Fuego manager Bill Moore not to bother attending.
Berkebile said he isn’t sure what role the Fuego will want to put him in, but he said he’s fine with starting or coming out of the bullpen.
At Los Alamos, Berkebile helped the Hilltoppers nail down their first of three consecutive district titles in 2010, both with his bat and with his arm.
Along with his 90-plus fastball, Berkebile also showcases a curveball and a circle change-up. During his time with the Hilltoppers, he had also tried to develop a split-fingered fastball, but he said that may have contributed to his elbow problems and said if he uses the splitter again, it will be only a handful of times per appearance.
Berkebile said the coaches around Santa Fe think he has an excellent shot at promotion to a more prominent baseball league.
“You’ve got to start somewhere,” Berkebile said. “College didn’t work out for me. This is the very bottom of pro baseball. Really, the only thing you can do is go up.”