There was a chance that Lake Zurich star infielder Joey DeBernardis would play all of his games at Antioch High School. That is if his family didn't make the move to Lake Zurich when he was in eighth grade.
So by the time DeBernardis was ready to graduate from in 2008, he paid a visit to Antioch for a nonconference game with the Sequoits. And he showed that team what kind of a player had moved away.
In the first inning of that contest, he cracked a two-run homer. And then the visiting Bears decided batting in that first inning was fun. Lake Zurich kept on batting and soon enough it was DeBernardis' turn to hit again in the first inning.
He didn't miss his opportunity. He came up with the sacks loaded and cracked another homer, this time a grand slam. Two at-bats and he had six RBIs.
"After that, he didn't see a strike the rest of the game,'' recalled Lake Zurich baseball coach Gary Simon.
DeBernardis, drafted by the Florida Marlins baseball team in 2008, has completed his playing days at Penn State University. That move-in to Lake Zurich made life miserable for opposing pitchers from the North Suburban Conference.
"I've never had a hitter who was was consistently that good for four years,'' Simon said. "Mechanically, he was most flawless hitter I've had."
Growing up in Lake Villa, DeBernardis had plenty of help from his older siblings. Actually there were six children in the family older than him.
"I'm the youngest of seven,'' DeBernardis said. "I had the six siblings to motivate me."
Baseball also motivated him and his traveling baseball career ignited in Lake Villa. And strangely enough, he would meet up with the Simon family.
"He was my youngest son's (Brock) best friend,'' Simon said. "He was at my house. We went off to Cooperstown and had a blast. Joey was on that team."
Simon knew full well what kind of player he had moving to his school.
"I already knew coach Simon from the Illinois North Stars,'' DeBernardis said.
Of course decisions were to be made regarding the young star. What position would he play?
"Coach Simon moved me up to the varsity,'' he said. "And that was a pretty cool feeling. Third base was my natural spot. But I really wanted to hit."
Simon knew full well bringing up a young player to varsity would cause some problems.
"He would work and work on it,'' Simon said. "He was the top dog. Clearly when he was a freshman, we moved him to the sophomore team and he was as good as half the varsity team. But we caught all kinds of grief."
With his bat doing the talking, DeBernardis made a big impression on the varsity team.
"I felt like a leader as a sophomore,'' he said. "And my numbers improved."
He began to hit the weight room and his numbers got even better. By the time his senior season arrived, he was already signed up at Penn State. In the meantime, there were high school records to break. One of the nine records was the 13 homers. He drove in 56 runs. His batting average was ridiculous at .542. And that hitting helped the Bears win a conference title with an excellent 17-2 mark.
And here are his career records at Lake Zurich:
- Most homers in a career (28)
- Most hits (161)
- Most RBIs (147)
- Most games (133)
- Longest hitting streak (27)
- Most homers in an inning (2) at Antioch
- Most RBIs in an inning (6) at Antioch
And despite dominating on the baseball fields, DeBernardis has some regrets.
"I got drafted out of high school,'' he said. "I wish I had played more sports in high school. When the Florida Marlins drafted me, it was very, very stressful. I remember when I got drafted. I couldn't thank everyone enough."
Flash forward to May 18, 2012. It's the top of the ninth inning and the game with visiting Michigan State is knotted at 5-5. The Spartans brought in their closer to face Penn State's DeBernardis. And DeBernardis went deep off this pitcher who had not allowed a single homer that season. Penn State won this game, 6-5.
"I will have my Penn State degree,'' he said. "I owe a lot to that school there. My new chapter begins. I'm not 100 percent sure what I want to do but something in the medical sales area."
And he's in the Penn State records for hitting as well. It was those 25 doubles in 2011 that put him in that school's record book.