Ben Berg was the kid every parent dreamed of having.
“Ben graduated with above a 4.0 grade point average. He had taken so many advanced placement and dual credit classes that when he graduated high school he already had a semester’s worth of college credits,” says Ben’s mom, Carrie. “Ben loved baseball. He started playing when he was six years old and he was so happy to be playing baseball at Bismarck State College.”
Carrie’s pride is evident as she talks about her son’s academic and athletic achievements. But she beams a little more when she talks about Ben’s personality.
“Ben was a people person. He was happier when he was around people,” she explains. “He never met anyone he didn’t like. I was always thankful that he could make friends easy. I’m not an only child, but Ben was an only child and I can imagine that could be really lonely.”
A hunting accident last fall brought Ben’s life to a tragic end. He was only 18. The outpouring of support from the community showed Carrie and Ben’s dad, Jim, just how much Ben was loved.
“You would not believe the amount of cards that came in the mail everyday. Stacks and stacks to go through,” recalls Carrie. “We’re just everyday people—we both work, we live in a ranch style house, we drive regular cars. We’re nothing special. Why God picked us to have this happen to, I don’t know.”
But what she does know, and continues to witness every day, is the number of lives Ben touched during his 18 years. Bostin Svihovec was Ben’s best friend from middle school on.
“Every weekend we hung out, typically at his place. He was always perfectly fine with having people at his place, even if it was two nights in a row or every weekend for a month,” says Bostin. “Every time the weekend rolled around, we didn’t ask one another what each other was doing, it was rather ‘what are we doing.’ It was just automatic that we were going to hang out.”
Bostin and Ben pushed each other to be better. Ben dreamed of being a pharmacist; Bostin is studying to be a doctor. They also challenged each other to try new things. As seniors, they joined the tennis team at Century High School.
“We both pushed each other to do something we had never previously thought we would ever do,” says Bostin.
But baseball was Ben’s first love.
“I think part of the reason he liked baseball so much is because he could entertain. For Ben, if it could be funny, it was better,” Carrie explains with a smile. “In baseball, there’s one person up to bat, the rest of the team is in the dugout. I think that was a real reason why baseball became his favorite. He could really bond with those boys. Some of those boys were pallbearers at his funeral. We are still friends with them now. We love when they come to the house, but it’s really hard when they leave.”
The friendships Ben built have helped Jim and Carrie through the most difficult time in their lives.
“Some of his friends’ parents are some of our best friends; they are our baseball family,” says Carrie. “We spent so much time with them when Ben was playing baseball and we really got to know those families. I consider that a huge gift. Without them, this would have been a lot different to go through.
“I guess you never imagine that this is something you have to do. It’s in the wrong order; to find out what kind of person he was and to us he’s just our kid.”
Ben had saved money from mowing lawns and working at a gas station to pay for college. He even started his own 401K when he was 16 years old. Carrie and Jim decided to use that money to help others.
“That’s what Ben would have wanted.”
They set up a scholarship through the North Dakota Community Foundation. That will be given to a Century baseball player. The Bergs also donated to the Sanford Power Baseball Academy—a portion of that money will be used for equipment and the rest will go toward a scholarship to help a young athlete cover the expense of going to Power.
“Hopefully we can help kids at several different levels this way. Ben was very dedicated to his workouts at Power,” says Carrie. “He loved baseball, but working out at Power was also another chance to be with his friends.”
Friends whose lives Ben is still touching.
“Ben is without a doubt still making an impact. The scholarships and everything the BSC Mystics baseball team has done to honor him it is truly amazing,” says Bostin. “It is clear that Ben’s impact on our community is something worth sharing. He is watching over everybody and still affecting every one of us. I miss him and he is a big piece missing in a lot of people’s lives, including mine.”
“I’ve started telling people to ‘live like Ben,’” says Carrie. “I wrote that in some thank you notes and I just keep saying it. Live like Ben. Love everyone. Ben was so accepting. He never asked for anything and he always had a smile.”