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College  | Story  | 11/18/2022

The PG Path: Chase Burns

Craig Cozart     
Photo: Chase Burns (Perfect Game)
Perfect Game's Craig Cozart recently caught up with Tennessee's Chase Burns, a Freshman All-American last year with the Volunteers, about his career leading up to college and his time with the Vols.

PG: What is your first memory involving the game of baseball?

Burns: My first memory would probably be when I was around 8 years old, playing out in the field and getting a popup hit my way. Not only did I miss the popup, but it hit me right in the nose. It didn’t break my nose, but I bled all over the place and I distinctly remember hating the game of baseball for a while after that!

Based on that difficult start to your career, how did you fall in love with the game of baseball?

Burns: It really came down to my friends since I had so many that were playing the game. They kept me going and the relationships I had with them and the fun we started having really grew my love for the game.

Who were the most influential people in your baseball career as you were growing up?

Burns: I would say my dad, David, he introduced me to the game of baseball and was always there for me. Even though he never coached one of my teams, he spent a lot of time helping me refine my game and get better on a daily basis.

When did you start playing travel ball and what organization did you play with for most of your career?

Burns: I started playing travel ball when I was 10 years old for the DeSoto Dodgers, a small organization out of Southaven, Mississippi. Once I started high school I played for Rawlings Southeast and then finished my career playing with the Canes.

Your father, David, played college football at North Greenville. Tell us a little bit about your family.

Burns: My mom and dad met while they were both serving in the United States Navy. So, I come from a little bit of a military family, and I feel like it helped me along the way having that background. They taught me the value of being hard and dedicated in everyday life and that has helped get me to where I am today.

What other sports did you play growing up and do you think it’s important for young athletes not to specialize too soon?

Burns: I played a little bit of football, some soccer and basketball for a long time. But as my baseball career began to really take off, I ended up focusing exclusively on that once I got later into my high school career. I think it’s good for young athletes to play a variety of sports growing up, so they don’t get burned out focusing too soon on one game. Plus, there are different skills and demands required for other sports and that will only help you on the ball field long term.

When you hear the words, Perfect Game Baseball, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

Burns: Summertime, traveling and simply having fun. Being able to experience different places and just walking into a complex and seeing that PG on a banner and knowing that it’s going to be a good tournament.

What is your all-time favorite PG venue and why?

Burns: It has to be the Perfect Game All-American event when it was at the Dodgers' Triple-A ballpark in Oklahoma City. To be on that field surrounded by all that talent, to be around a bunch of former Big Leaguers and to be rewarded for a lot of hard work was just a lot of fun. It’s amazing to look back and see how many of those players were drafted and are now in pro ball or are playing D-I baseball.

Do you feel like Perfect Game as an organization had an impact on your career, your opportunity to be recruited and be considered for the MLB Draft?

Burns: Definitely, they have created the largest platform for youth baseball players in the world. PG helps so many players get exposure and get their name out there, and it really accelerates the process in a big way.

Being a Perfect Game All-American, what does that mean to you to this day?

Burns: To me, I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to experience that event and it was a confirmation of all the hard work I had invested to that point in my life.

You were both heavily recruited out of high school and drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 20th round. So, what advice would you have for younger players when it comes to the recruiting process and weighing the option between college and the MLB Draft?

Burns: From a recruiting standpoint, I know it can be difficult at times, but just have fun with it. Pressure is when you are not being recruited and are trying to get your game to a level where you are garnering interest from colleges. You need to find a way to relax, trust your ability and rely on those closest to you like your parents. When it comes to making the decision between signing a professional contract and going to college, you need to be able to realistically evaluate what is best for you as an individual. You must ask yourself if you are truly ready mentally and physically to become a professional or would you be more prepared if you spend a few years in a college program.

What is your favorite MLB team and why?

Burns: I guess I would say the Yankees because of their history and tradition.

Who do you try to model your game after in the MLB?

Burns: I would say Jack Flaherty with the St. Louis Cardinals. I really like his style, the way he goes about his business on the mound, and I think our deliveries are similar.

What do you think the game of baseball could do to attract the next generation of players?

Burns: Just let the kids play, let the young players be who they are and letting the next generation player see how much fun we have on the diamond. When you are young, you start playing the game because it is fun, so let’s keep it that way.

You play collegiately at the University of Tennessee; what made you decide to be a Vol?

Burns: The background and vision that coach Tony Vitello had for me as a player and for the program as a whole was something that really resonated with me. Plus, the way the team carries themselves and the fun brand of baseball that they were playing really fit my personality. Beyond that, it was a bonus to be so close to home so my family can see me play.

What is the best part about being a member of the Tennessee baseball team and how have you grown as an individual?

Burns: The fan base is insane! We had a scrimmage in Jackson last week and they packed the stadium for that. They love watching us and we feed off their energy and that inspires us to play at our highest level. I have matured a lot as a person and as a baseball player, understanding what it means to get better every day and developing as a leader within the team.

Tennessee was one of the elite SEC programs back in the 1990s and has taken the college baseball world by storm in the last few years. What are the reasons for the turnaround of the program and what is your favorite part of putting on the uniform?

Burns: The upperclassmen that were here before my class got on campus and really set the foundation and began to show what this program was about to become. But when it was all said and done, the staff has done a great job of recruiting and the level of talent they are bringing in is second to none and have a deep desire to win. The best part of putting on the jersey is just that, putting on the Vols jersey and to realize what a privilege and opportunity that really is.

You were the 2022 Freshman Pitcher of the Year by basically every publication out there. You were the Friday night starter in the SEC for much of the year. How was that and how did you handle that from a mental and physical standpoint?

Burns: Pitching in the rotation and being the Friday night starter was one of my goals coming into my freshman year. So, I feel like I was mentally prepared to do it because I had already envisioned it. It was an amazing opportunity to experience being a starter as a freshman and a major part of that was learning to take care of my body. It really comes down to rest and nutrition, I try to get at least eight hours of sleep per night and eat quality meals. Arm care is huge as well. Younger athletes don’t realize how much goes into maintaining your body and most specifically your arm at this level.

Frank Anderson, your pitching coach, is a legendary pitching mind and has a long history of success. How would you describe him and what are some of the things he has taught you that has gotten you to the next level?

Burns: Coach Anderson is extremely hard working and is always available to help us with our game. He constantly brings us good information and keeps us focused on the process moving forward. One of the things he is working with me mechanically right now is being directional down the mound. From the mental aspect, we focus on breathing and how that can relax us and free up our thought process.

The game is very analytics driven these days. What are the metrics that you find most interesting and helpful for you individually and how do you apply them to your craft?

Burns: I mostly focus on spin rate and get the feedback to help me know where I should be pitching with my fastball. This helps me know how to tunnel my off-speed pitches and generate swing-and-miss.

You have the prototypical pitchers build at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and are super athletic. What unique drill, routine or exercise do you do to develop your game? What is your favorite lift in the weight room and what would you tell young players is the most important lift for a baseball player specifically?

Burns: My primary focus is balance, someone with my length must maintain body control to prevent getting out of whack with the delivery. I do some work to create core stability and maintain balance throughout my delivery to be as consistent as I can during my outings. In the weight room, I really like deadlifts! I think it’s a fun movement and we always get hyped when we are moving big weight as a team. As far as what is most important for a baseball player, I really think it is very individual-based on how their body moves and what their deficiencies may be. Especially for pitchers, they need to understand how their body moves down the mound and figure out how to maximize their capabilities.

What has been the biggest challenge in your career thus far and what could young players learn from your experience?

Burns: The longer season, the longer games and the amount of volume throwing-wise that is required at this level was a challenge. It takes a big toll on your body, and you must learn to push through it.

What is your ultimate goal in life and when your baseball career comes to a close, what would you like to do?

Burns: My biggest goal is to make it to the Big Leagues and have a long career. After that I would like to open a player development facility and be able to spread the knowledge that I have gathered over the years in the game.

We live in a world where social media is prevalent. Do you spend much time on social media? If so, what is your favorite platform and what do you like to post?

Burns: I try not to spend much time on social media honestly. But if I had to pick a favorite, I guess it would be YouTube. I like videos that you can actually learn something from and occasionally having fun watching some goofy stuff that’s out there.

Most baseball players are very routine-oriented and have superstitions. Do you have any interesting routines, go-to pregame meals or superstitions you would be willing to share?

Burns: I really don’t have any superstitions to speak of other than wearing the same socks in games when things are going well. Nutritionally, I just try to crush a bunch of carbs and protein to keep myself ready to go.

What is your core philosophy in life and what is one sentence you think describes you best?

Burns: Stay positive and be happy! We have a new opportunity to live life each day, so don’t waste that by being angry or unhappy.

Last question here, now that you have had a wide array of baseball experience, what do you know now that you wish you would have known back when you were a younger player?

Burns: The game of baseball is harder than you think and it’s a game of failure. So, I wish I would have been able to slow things down and been less critical of myself at a younger age. Stay positive and know that struggle is just an opportunity for growth.

. . .

We hope you enjoyed getting to know Chase Burns a little better and were able to gain some valuable insight and perspective from our conversation. Be on the lookout for the next installment of the PG Path coming soon!