Seventeen-year-olds rarely have life-altering decisions to make like the one Brock Burke faced last month. The University of Oregon signee, who won’t turn 18 until Aug. 4, was drafted in the third round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Does one go to college and get that degree or go straight to work as a professional baseball player? Tampa Bay made the decision easy for him.
The Rays signed Burke to a $900,000 signing bonus on June 18, reportedly more than $350,000 higher than the 96th overall selection was slotted to make. He was assigned to the club’s Gulf Coast League rookie team in Port Charlotte, Fla.
It was definitely a tough decision, Burke said. He said the whole college life of being a baseball player at Oregon would’ve been an honor, but he told himself that he wouldn’t have any regrets turning that down for a chance to go pro. And once the Rays offered to pay for his college education after his baseball career is over, the decision was a no-brainer.
“It was definitely a family decision. We sat down and talked about it,” Burke said. “There are not too many kids who get to play professional baseball right out of high school.”
The 6-foot-4, 180-pound left-hander hasn’t pitched in a game yet, mostly because he’s had a lot of time off since Evergreen High ended its season in May, but he’s expected to start for the Gulf Coast Rays this week, potentially July 11-12 against the Gulf Coast Orioles.
One thing Burke has noticed, however, about his pitching in bullpen sessions thus far is that the ball doesn’t come out as hard in the Florida humidity as it did in Colorado.
“But, also, (players) can’t hit the crap out of the ball like they do in Colorado,” Burke was quick to note.
Burke’s also got some family support nearby. His grandmother, two uncles and an aunt live within 10 minutes of where he’s staying.
“Baseball is definitely the focus right now,” Burke said, noting that the season runs through Sept. 1. “I’ll come back for a little bit, but then it’s back here three weeks later for instructional league, working out and getting in shape for spring training.”
Contact Michael Hicks at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.