Exclusive: Jake Burger Overcame Adversity to Fulfill his Dreamby Jamie Gatlin January 20, 2022 0 comments
Over the last few years, the Chicago White Sox system has been on the rise. As Chicago has stockpiled young talent, they have become the team to beat in the AL Central. One prospect who will be key to their success is Jake Burger. The former first-round pick made his MLB debut last year and showcased his power. While Burger’s story is just getting started, his path to the majors has been full of adversity.
In three seasons at Missouri State University, Burger hit 47 home runs in 133 games. The St. Louis native was a threat in the middle of the order and never hit below .328. After three years with the Bears, he turned his attention to the MLB and had a draft day that he would never forget.
“It was a whirlwind,” said Burger. “We had played in the super regionals against TCU the two days before and lost in two games, and the next day was the draft. I was getting interviewed by the Red Sox front office. I had a party with my family, friends, and teammates from Missouri State. Everyone was waiting intently, and then my agent texted me, saying I was getting picked by the White Sox. I already knew, but it was cool to share with everyone there.”
Covid Allowed Burger to Reset
While Burger came to the White Sox with high expectations, his rise to the majors was delayed. During a Cactus league came on February 26, 2018, he ruptured his Achilles running to first. 10 weeks later, he went through the same injury while walking at home during his rehab. The extended absence was not easy, but the pandemic allowed Burger to reset.
“Covid hit and I went back with my family during quarantine,” said Burger. “That was probably the biggest thing that got me through, being able to be a human again and be part of something. It was cool to have some time with my family. I was also able to do non-baseball stuff like play tennis and go swimming which helped me in the long run. Those few months were huge.”
— Jamie Gatlin (@JamieGatlin17) January 19, 2022
Fulfilling his Dreams
Although the 2020 minor league season was canceled due to the pandemic, Burger still found ways to work on his game. The 2017 draftee played in the CarShield Collegiate League, made up of local college players. In 12 games, he hit .297 and showed that he was still a threat with the bat. He was then added to the White Sox 40-man roster. After 82 games in Triple-A, Burger received news that he had been working towards his entire career.
“It was really cool when I got the call, especially with what I had to overcome the last three years,” said Burger. “Wes Helms, our manager at the time, sat me down with the whole Triple-A coaching staff. He said, ‘Hey man, you earned this, you’re going up to the show.’ I didn’t fully believe him, and it was overwhelmed with emotions.”
After making his MLB debut, Burger wasted little time making an impact. In 15 games, he posted a .263 batting average and hit his first MLB home run. He also excelled defensively as the Missouri State product didn’t commit an error in 62 innings of work. While his first MLB stint was brief, Burger’s future in Chicago is bright, with a young core that is already forming a unique bond.
“I had guys like Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson taking me under their wing,” said Burger. They gave me advice and helped me calm my nerves a little bit. We are all really good friends, and the clubhouse is awesome. We are going to show our emotions and play as hard we can.” As the 25-year-old prepares for the 2022 campaign, he will be looking to build on last season’s success.
“Hitting-wise, I want to improve my pitch selection,” said Burger. “I always make really hard contact when I swing at the right pitches. Not letting the game get too quick on me will be big. I missed three years of baseball, so I am just trying to have fun and compete every day.”
Follow Jamie Gatlin On Twitter @JamieGatlin17
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images