Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

July 15, 2014

Versatility paying dividends for Burgess

PRINCETON — Carter Burgess knows that versatility is a good thing for a rookie infielder to display to the baseball powers that be.

In 16 games for the Princeton Rays, the 20-year-old Texan has played third base in 11 games and second base on six occasions.

“I’m pretty comfortable with being around the infield anywhere,” he said this week. “I don’t really have a favorite. They’re all fun.”

“They (the Tampa Bay organization) told me when I got signed that I’d was going to be playing everywhere, and just to be versatile. I think that’s going to help me in the long run, more than anything.”

At the break for the major league All-Star game, Burgess owns a .310 batting average, among the top 20 in the Appalachian League, and a .408 slugging percentage. He’s drawn six walks and struck out 12 times in 71 at-bats.

He chalked up his first professional home run on Saturday night at Hunnicutt Field against the Bluefield Blue Jays.

Burgess is a native of Houston. He was primarily a shortstop and did some pitching at Memorial High School. After a short stint at Rice University, he moved on to Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, “about an hour outside of Houston,” he said.

“I played shortstop my sophomore year, then in my junior year (this past spring), I moved over to third base.”

He said about his time with the Bearkats, “It taught me a lot about how to play the game correctly — really, moreso to play for the name on the front of the jersey than on the back, but also work ethic and everything like that, and energy levels.

“I’m really thankful for the coaching staff at Sam Houston, for everything they taught me.”

Then came last month’s Major League Baseball draft. Tampa Bay took him in the 28th round. He was watching the selections unfold while in his apartment at Sam Houston State.

“It was special,” he said. “Every kid dreams of having his name called. I was just sitting there watching my computer, and to have my name pop up on the screen was an unbelievable feeling.”

“I had talked to the scout earlier in that day, and he just sent me a quick text to ‘keep my eyes open and be ready,’ so I was just waiting.”

The response from family and friends was immediate.

He recalled, “I just had an outpouring of texts and phone calls. The first ones that I took were from my parents, of course, but I got to reach out to everybody. It was special. It was fun.”

He remembers the advice provided by his Bearkats baseball coaches.

“They basically told me just keep level-headed, don’t get too high and don’t get too low, and just play the game hard, every single day,” he said.

In quick succession, Burgess briefly visited home in Houston, spent about four days at the Rays spring training facility in Florida, and then was on his way to a new part of the country — West Virginia.

“This is a first for me,” he said. “The weather’s great up here. It’s a little hot in Texas, so the cooler weather has been nice.”

He also complimented the Princeton coaching staff.

“They’ve been great. They’ve been teaching me a lot,” he said. “There’s always something new to learn in baseball. Every single day, you’re going to find out something new to tinker with.”

He said about this year’s Rays players, “We’ve been having a lot of fun, just trying to go out each and every day and get a ‘W,’ whatever it takes. The team’s coming together, each and every day. It’s fun.”

He sounded ready to handle the rigors of daily professional baseball games.

“It’s just about keeping your body fresh, stretching a lot, not trying to do too much,” he said. “There are days where you’re going to go 0 for 4; there are days when you’re going to go 4 for 4. You’ve just got to keep yourself level-headed and come back the next day, ready to work.”

He said about the Tampa Bay organization, “They like to promote players from within. They don’t do a lot of big signings, so it’s encouraging. It’s a great organization to be in. I’m thrilled to be here.”

His uncle and grandfather played college football, but baseball became the rookie Ray’s favorite sport — and Craig Biggio, who spent a 20-year career with the Houston Astros, became a model for his baseball aspirations.

“Being from Houston, I was always a big Biggio fan,” Burgess said. “The guy was hard-nosed, played so hard. I try to model myself after that, every single day.”

Again returning to the versatility theme, Biggio broke into the major leagues as a catcher, then played all three outfield positions before settling in as the Astros’ second baseman.

Burgess said he isn’t concentrating on a timetable for moving through the minor leagues.

“I don’t really know too much about that,” he said. “I’m just going to go out and play as hard as I can, every single day, and whatever happens, happens. I’m blessed to be here.”

“They say it’s a job, but it’s really not. We’re playing baseball; we’re having fun every day.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com;

Twitter @BDTBone

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