Before he left for Chicago to attend a White Sox game and begin his professional baseball career, Chesterfield’s Jake Burger made one last stop in town.
The Missouri State third baseman went by CBC, where he starred as an athlete, to visit with coach Mason Horne and attend the Cadets’ baseball camp. He talked to the players, signed autographs and even took batting practice from Horne. The two had some time to catch up as well.
“I asked him about not having to go to back school and he said, ‘Yeah, I’m a professional baseball player and that’s my job.’ He told me it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Horne said.
The White Sox made Burger its first-round pick [No. 11 overall] in the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft. They signed him to a minor-league contract with a $3.7 million signing bonus.
Baseball draft picks are slotted for salaries so teams don’t overspend. The slot value at No. 11 is $4,199,200.
Burger, 21, batted .328 [81-247] with 22 home runs, 65 RBI, 69 runs scored, 43 walks, a .443 on-base percentage and .648 slugging percentage in 63 games for Missouri State in 2017. He ranked among the Division I leaders in runs scored and home runs.
“We are pleased to add Jake’s right-handed power bat to the organization,” said Rick Hahn, White Sox senior vice president and general manager in a news release. “He has a great mix of power and discipline at the plate, and he is a high-character guy who will fit nicely into the organization going forward.”
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Burger was named First Team All-America by Baseball America and the Joe Carter Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. He was a semifinalist for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award.
After helping to lead the Bears to a pair of Missouri Valley Conference titles and two NCAA Regional crowns in his three-year career, Burger becomes the Bears’ highest overall draftee since the Washington Nationals selected Ross Detwiler with the sixth overall pick of the 2007 draft. The No. 11 overall selection is the second-highest for a Missouri State player, trailing only Detwiler.
Burger was emotional after Missouri State was eliminated in the NCAA Super Regional by Texas Christian University. He knew he would be drafted by somebody, so the loss ended his career as a Bear. But he said, “Hearing my name called by the commissioner lifted so much weight off my shoulders.”
“I can’t even begin to thank Missouri State for all they have done for me. That is the best developmental program in the country,” Burger said. He also thanked his family, friends, coaches and teammates for “their constant and strong support and guidance throughout my life, and helping me reach this point of my career.”
“Playing professional baseball for the team I grew up rooting for is truly a dream come true,” Burger said. “I am extremely fortunate to wear the White Sox uniform.
Of course, Burger is also a Cardinals fan. But he has long liked the White Sox.
“It’s unbelievable. I grew up watching Paul Konerko and tried to emulate his game,” said Burger on a conference call, adding he didn’t get much grief from Cardinals fans as long as he wasn’t rooting for the Cubs. “I have loved the White Sox ever since I was a little kid, so this is an absolute dream come true.
“There are no words to describe how pumped I am and excited I am for this opportunity. There are just no words.”
Horne is happy for his former Cadet.
“Well, I’m just ecstatic for him,” Horne said. “I don’t know if I have the right words to describe my feeling toward him and his family and for all the success he is having. I can tell you I am very happy for him.”
He recalled the first time he saw Burger.
“Two things stick in my mind about Jake,” Horne said. “One was he hit the ball real hard. The other thing I remember was who he is as a person. He always has a smile on is face. He’s a great teammate.”
Horne said he followed Burger’s college career.
“You always keep track of your guys. Just because they graduate doesn’t mean they leave you,” Horne said. He believes Burger will do well with the transition from college ball to the minor leagues and expects to see him in a big league ballpark someday.
“I am a White Sox fan now,” he said.