For all those who doubt Michael Bertram's baseball ability, he has a message.
Doubters are his secret elixir.
"Every day I play I try to use the fuel that's inside of me — proving everybody else wrong," Bertram said. "Proving everybody wrong that says I wasn't good enough to play at 'this level' in college, said I wasn't good enough to play professionally."
So far, Bertram has been making his point.
Along with fellow Lexington-based minor-leaguers Ben Revere, Chaz Roe, Robbie Ross and John Shelby III, Bertram was on hand Thursday for the final stop on the Lexington Legends Winter Caravan. Former big-leaguers Jeff Parrett and John Shelby Jr., now a coach with the Baltimore Orioles, turned out. So did ex-University of Kentucky coach Keith Madison and last year's state high school coach of the year, Lexington Catholic's Kevin Clary.
The Legends drummed up interest for the coming season while saluting some local legends.
Bertram, out of Lafayette High School, surprised some folks by becoming the starting third baseman on the University of Kentucky's first Southeastern Conference championship team.
More doubters surfaced when the Detroit Tigers took him in the 2006 draft, albeit in the 39th round.
Yet, he has made a steady climb through the organization.
A third baseman, he played 82 games for High-A Lakeland (Fla.) last season, hitting .281 with 10 homers and 47 RBI. Promoted to Double-A Erie (Pa.), he moved to first base and, in only 33 games, hit .285 with eight homers and 30 RBI.
Better numbers at a higher level are due to "a confidence thing," he said. "I'd been at the same level for a year-and-a-half. It was kind of getting to me a little bit.
"I felt like I belonged at the next level and, once I finally got the call, I just wanted to prove to everyone that they were right in sending me up there."
His biggest improvement since playing for UK? A steady climb in power numbers.
"I think that's a tribute to me just figuring out my own swing and figuring out how to really hit," Bertram said. "I give a lot of credit to Larry Herndon. He was my hitting coach in Lakeland and he just really changed my swing and helped me understand what it took to hit with power. Because I know that if I'm going to play third base or first base in the Major Leagues, I'm going to have to hit with some power."
Minor-league ball is notorious for the daily grind and long bus trips.
Bertram agrees that the bus trips are tough, but they also provide a fun time to bond with teammates.
"The biggest (adversity) is 'how do you handle three bad games in a row?' Because there's going to be a fourth. We play 25 games in a row before we get a day off, so the biggest thing is how do you adjust from one day to the next, not get too up and not get too down."
At 25, Bertram is engaged to be married in October.
So, are he and his bride-to-be prepared to continue the pursuit of his big-league dream?
"I made up my mind a long time ago that I'm either going to make it to the big leagues or make it to the point where I find out that I just wasn't good enough," he said. "I feel good about my personal game now and I feel like I still have a big-time shot this coming year."
He could wind up back in Erie for a longer look at Double-A. He's hoping for Triple-A Toledo, though.
"Maybe even Detroit," he said, "if I get hot and they need a guy."
Go ahead, doubt him. You'll make his day.