COLUMBIA — It has the makings of a No. 1 hit single.
“Takin’ … balls off my shin guards, dentin’ all the chrome,
I try to get on back there but the runner’s comin’ home … ”
It needs work, but even The Beatles' “Yesterday” started off titled “Scrambled Eggs.”
Luke Berryhill, South Carolina’s country-singing catcher, said he hadn’t thought of writing a song about the Gamecocks’ baseball season but admitted the year did have a lot of country elements. There was a sad tone over the entire season, due to a .500 record and numerous injuries, and not having a happy ending fits in a country songwriting wheelhouse like Berryhill's team-high 49 runs batted in did in USC's lineup.
Berryhill became as known for his skills on the mic this year as his ability behind the plate. A Jan. 29 performance at halftime of a USC basketball game brought a standing ovation, and he has a couple of videos out on his YouTube music channel.
Packing up his apartment, loading the truck and about to head home for a few weeks of R and R promised an opportunity. A four-hour drive to Canton, Ga., (just 15 minutes northwest of yes, Woodstock) left Berryhill a lot of time to think, and write if he was so inclined.
“That is a great idea,” he said. “Ideas come to me, and with baseball being so hectic, I really hadn’t had time to put any major thoughts down. With it being hot, it’s the perfect summer season for writing country songs.”
Baseball and country are mixed in his blood. The son of professional singer Larry Berryhill (stage name: Larry Dean) grew up surrounded by tunes. Just singing along with the radio sounded so good that Larry began teaching Luke the intricacies of singing, to use his voice as a unique instrument, instead of mimicking others.
As a power-hitting catcher (Berryhill cracked 12 home runs this year), baseball takes most of his time ... although he can mix the two, like when he reported for the high-school talent show directly from a game, and proceeded to win first prize. He has a couple of nibbles from the Cape Cod summer league, but after starting every game for the Gamecocks, he wanted to rest at home for a few weeks first.
Then there’s the Major League Baseball Draft that began Monday. Berryhill is expected to get a call Wednesday and then he’ll have to make a decision.
“I have no idea where or what they’re going to offer me or anything. I’ve heard from probably most of the teams in MLB,” he said. “But I’ve loved USC since I’ve been here and definitely wouldn’t mind coming back for another year.”
In the meantime, he’ll pursue his “hobby.” Johnboat, the lake, his fishing pole and his guitar.
“I got a couple of half-songs written up. It’s hard to do with being a student and playing ball,” Berryhill said. “I’ll keep working around with it and if I do make it to pro ball, there’s lots of long bus rides and stuff where I can write.”
He started at Georgia Southern and suffered a season-ending injury after three games. Berryhill transferred to Walters State (Tenn.) Community College, where he was part of a JUCO World Series team.
He and pitcher Hayden Lehman were each recruited to USC and Berryhill won the starting catcher role, hitting .300 before a late-season slump dropped him to .271. He’s a redshirt sophomore, so he has two years of eligibility left.
Pro baseball will happen eventually, and after that, country music. Moving to Nashville someday has crossed his mind, as has giving Open Mic Night a try throughout his travels.
“What I was thinking is if I go play summer ball, I’ll try to play gigs at restaurants around town,” Berryhill said. “If I’m back here next fall, I’ll try to play around the city.”
His guitar strap is studded with USC logos and his social media spotlight increased tenfold after that night at Colonial Life Arena. He always got a hand when he came up to bat (his walkup music: Brooks and Dunn’s “Hillbilly Deluxe”) and there was the thought of maybe having him sing the national anthem for a game.
“They told me they’d done that before (former outfielder Evan Marzilli once played the anthem on his electric guitar) but since we weren’t winning a whole lot, they didn’t want to bring out any sideshows or anything,” Berryhill said.
If that isn't a country song ending, what is?