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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Getting his feet wet the PG way

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Every prospect turned big-leaguer with player profiles in the extensive Perfect Game data base had to get their feet wet at a PG showcase somewhere.

For four-time MLB All-Star Carl Crawford, it was at the 1998 PG World Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla. For 2010 National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto, it was at the 2001 Sunshine Showcase, also in Fort Myers. Buster Posey, the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year, first dipped his toes at the 2004 Perfect Game National Showcase in St. Petersburg, Fla.

And 2011 American League Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson, from Des Moines, Iowa, stayed a little closer to home for his first showcase experience. He attended what was then known simply as the Perfect Game Spring Showcase at Veterans Memorial Stadium here in Cedar Rapids back in 2003.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and that was the case Saturday for young Wyoming outfielder Drew Burman, making his PG showcase debut at the 2012 Spring Top Prospect Showcase at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“I’m just looking to play baseball and looking to get some exposure,” Burman said Saturday. “We have Legion baseball instead of high school baseball in Wyoming, so we’re not playing games right now. I just thought I’d come out here and play. It’s a great opportunity.”

Burman and his father, Tom, traveled just about as far as anyone to attend the PG Spring Top, with the possible exception of Jordan Zazulak, who came all the way from British Columbia, Canada and two other prospects who came down from Ontario, Canada. Tom Burman is the athletic director at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, and that’s where the Burmans call home.

Drew Burman is a 6-foot-3, 175-pound sophomore at Laramie High School (class of 2014) – he’ll celebrate his 16th birthday on April 26 – and this was his first opportunity to get out in front of PG scouts and crosscheckers. It was important to both father and son that they make the trip.

“We don’t have high school baseball in Wyoming and he’s very interested in trying to continue to play baseball,” Tom said. “I thought, ‘You know what, let’s go somewhere when it fits into your schedule and go through this experience once, and then go to another one when it’s really important. His Legion season is getting ready to start and we can’t really do too much in the summer because we don’t want him to miss too many games.”

Drew Burman took part in the Saturday morning workout sessions at PG Field and played his first showcase game Saturday night. He’ll get one more game opportunity on Sunday.

“I just want to get the experience,” he said. “This won’t be my last one, so I want to get this first one over with and just keep going.”

Both Tom and Drew were using this as a learning experience and neither came in with specific expectations.

“This is the first opportunity for him to understand how this all works and hopefully he’ll get the jitters out of the way,” Tom said. “That way, when it really matters, he’ll be a little bit more calm.

“I really had no idea what I was getting into,” he continued. “Obviously, the facilities here are great, the system seems very well organized and it seems like a good opportunity.”

Drew Burman is also a highly regarded football player – he played basketball up until this year, as well – but has decided to concentrate on baseball.

“For right now I’m going to balance the two, but baseball is my priority – that’s straight forward my priority,” he said. “Football, for now, will be even (with baseball) but I don’t have any ideas of what I’d like to do with football.”

If it were up to his father, Drew would be playing everything.

“I’d like him to play as many sports as possible,” Tom said, spoken like you would expect someone who is charge of a large NCAA Division I athletic program to speak. “Right now he’s playing football and baseball, but if it was up to me I’d have him play even more. I just think the more competitive situations you put yourself in the better you’re  going to be when you’re  in that competitive environment.”

In the here and now, it’s all baseball for Drew. Over the remainder of his high school career he’ll continue to pursue college opportunities – the U of Wyoming has only a club baseball program – through his attendance at Perfect Game events.

“I’m just going to keep going and keep doing these types of things,” he said. “The more of these I can do the better. I want to keep going for it because it helps me in my (Legion baseball) season, too, to do as much as I can do.”

His father offered an encouraging smile.

“We’re going to see how it goes,” Tom said. “We’re obviously very serious about school, too – he’s a 4.0 student, and he works hard at that.”

And it all has to start somewhere.

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