PHOENIX, Arizona — Delmar’s Jeremiah Burke is already stepping into his professional baseball career on the right foot, and it has nothing to do with his statistics.
Burke, a 6-foot 2-inch pitcher was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 17th round in last month’s amateur draft. The White Sox moved him to its rookie-level squad in Arizona as a prospective starting pitcher.
“It’s all very exciting,” said Burke, who quickly learned the fast-paced business of pro baseball. Two hours after he was picked, he said he received a phone call from his area scout ushering him to report. “How does a flight out Friday sound?” he recalled being asked. “It’s Wednesday. Do you mean next Friday?” he asked. “No. I said this Friday.”
Burke is following a dream that first started at age 10 while playing Little League baseball at Magee Park in Delmar. The league proudly posted an announcement of its former player’s accolade on social media last week. His amateur career includes time with the Albany Dutchmen in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, South Troy Dodgers and LaSalle Institute, where he attended high school.
Jesse Braverman, LaSalle’s varsity baseball coach, described his former player as a “great kid with a great arm, and great control.” Though the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame coach said he’d like to think he helped him “a little,” he added, “believe me, he was good when I met him.”
Burke was captain of the baseball team in his senior year at LaSalle. Years later, he said, there’s a fable that still “kicks him” from his time playing for the private school in Troy. It was there Braverman had asked him and his fellow players to each choose a teammate they would want on the other end of the rope if they found themselves dangling from the proverbial side of a cliff. It was a test, of which he said, they all failed.
“Until each of you can say, ‘It doesn’t matter who’s on the other end of the rope,’ you’re not actually going to have a team,” Burke remembered.
Burke’s collegiate career had an inauspicious start out of Georgetown’s bullpen his freshman year. According to southsidesox.com, he had difficulty getting hitters out while registering an ERA above 10.00. He turned things around the following season once the Hoyas began using him as a starter. His last season in Washington, D.C., however, was a breakout year. With a four-pitch repertoire, the righthander struck out 86 hitters over a team-high 85 innings. He was often called upon to be the starting pitcher each Friday night; a role reserved for the club’s ace.
Georgetown finished fourth in the Big East standings with a 22-34 record. Despite the lackluster results, Burke was one of four Georgetown pitchers to be selected in this year’s draft. The staff was coached by former New York Mets prospect Eric Niesen, who Burke credits for giving him lasting advice as he sets off to his own professional career.
“Basically, you just run through the motions that you’ve been doing since you were 10 years old,” said Burke. Instead of worrying about doing a good job or focusing on producing statistics that will entice a promotion up the farm chain, the pitcher said he’s staying within himself. Words every athlete has heard at one time or another.
“If you try to get caught up in stuff down the road, things that are out of your control, you’re going to be in quite the mental state.” As his thought wanes, searching for what next to say, Burke rears back and delivers a tried and true offering. “I’m just trying to focus on taking it day by day, do my best and hopefully, down the road, achieve my goal.”
In Burke’s first start as a professional, he left the game with the White Sox ahead 2-0 after three innings. He yielded two hits and hit a batter while striking out three and allowing no runs against the Dodgers’ affiliate. The Dodgers later scored seven runs over the last three innings of the game to win, 7-3.
Burke didn’t earn a decision. That was out of his control. But, of the 19 pitches he threw on the day, 17 were for strikes.