After not being drafted, Darien's Burke makes pro baseball debut
Updated 5:29 pm, Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Sitting through 40 rounds of the MLB draft takes a long time. Three days to be exact.
And when you're waiting to hear your name called, as Darien's Devin Burke was, it probably feels like an eternity.
Having just completed a stellar season for Virginia Tech (11-3, 3.11 ERA) the 6'1", 210-pound starting pitcher was hopeful that his phone would ring on draft day, but the call never came.
"I knew I wasn't going to go the first day, but I was happy to see people I know go," Burke said. "I thought I had good season, so maybe I deserved to be drafted, but it didn't happen. I thought someone would give me a chance the third day. When that didn't happen, it was a mixture of frustration, disappointment and being a little angry."
Virginia Tech head coach Pete Hughes indicated that he too felt Burke would -- and should -- be drafted.
"Absolutely, we thought he would be drafted and that he 100 percent should have been drafted. We are thrilled that he was able to sign with the Rockies and live his childhood dream," Hughes said. "You never know what scouts are looking at or for, but in Devin's case, they clearly missed an opportunity to draft a player who performed at the highest level in the best conference in the country."
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While he admitted to being "frustrated" after being passed over and over by all 30 Major League clubs, the right-hander fully intends to use the setback as motivation.
"I get to take it out on every team that passed on me," Burke said. "It definitely motivates me."
After not being drafted, Burke reported to the Cape League where he played for each of the last two summers, but this time he never threw a pitch.
Instead, he received a call from the Colorado Rockies and was informed that they were picking him up and assigning him to their farm league rookie team, the Grand Junction Rockies.
"I got to the (Cape Cod League) game, got my uniform, got all set up, went there for the game and had several missed calls during the game from a guy with the Rockies that I had talked with before and after the draft," Burke said. "He said we might have an opening and asked what was the soonest I could leave by. I gave him a call, and he said `You're our guy. Can you fly out to Grand Junction tomorrow evening?'"
After a brief stop in Darien, Burke was on his way to LaGuardia Airport to fly to Denver.
Sunday night marked Burke's pro baseball debut, and he logged a quality start by tossing six innings of two-run ball while striking out five, yielding six hits and walking one to pick up the win in his team's 6-5 victory over the Orem Owls.
"I didn't really feel any nerves because I was thought I deserved to be here. I was eager to get on the mound and get the game going," Burke said. "The seams on the ball are smaller, so breaking pitches break a lot less. Nothing was moving in the bullpen so I said, `Oh boy, here we go.' But after the first batter, judging on how my ball was moving, I wasn't worried about it."
Burke attended Duke as a freshman, but after a tough first season of college ball which included an 8.13 ERA, he opted to transfer to Virginia Tech. After sitting out a season due to NCAA transfer rules, Burke appeared in 11 games in 2012 and logged a 4.12 ERA.
In his final season as a Hokie, Burke continued to improve, so much so that he was one of 46 semifinalists for the Gregg Olson award, given annually to college baseball's breakout player.
"People at Virginia Tech played hard and it was lot of fun," Burke said. "It's thanks to my teammates and coaches there who made that environment possible."
In Burke's final start at Virginia Tech, he earned the victory by tossing a complete game while surrendering just one run and striking out two in a win-or-go-home game against Coastal Carolina in the NCAA regional.
"He even wanted the ball the next day against UConn," Virginia Tech assistant coach Pat Mason said. "He is a big a competitor as there is."
"He had made name for himself and I knew all about him when taking the job, but I didn't see him throw until the first day of pitchers and catchers, and he blew me away," Scott said. "In high school he was more of a power guy. He tried to blow it by hitters, but senior year he learned a little more how to pitch. Teams were always ready for the fastball, and then they were surprised by something else."
Scott also believed his former ace would be drafted.
"I was surprised they didn't take a chance on him in the draft. He had a tremendous year in one of the best conferences in the country," Scott said. "I had a couple conversations with him after the draft, and I'm happy he found a spot."
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