With Baseball Players Always Looking for a Difference Maker, Brian Burgamy May Have Found It in Australia
Except for the relatively few who come into Independent Baseball with a superb professional resume, players always try to look for an edge, some type of door-opener that will help them get recognized as better than run-of-the-mill talent so they can elevate their career. The major leagues almost always are the goal.
Brian Burgamy is an above average professional player who earns praise that “he’s better every year”, but despite the fact he can play several positions and always seems to produce he still must deal with the fact he is 31, stands only 5-foot-10, is not a dynamic middle infielder who does not need to exhibit great power and has not advanced beyond Class AA in the decade since he was Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year at Wichita (KS) State.
So looking for his “edge”, the Lawton, OK product paid his own way to Australia for the winter league season last fall.
“It was my first year in winter ball, and I was looking for the opportunity to get picked up (by a major league organization) or better myself (which sometimes means a big paycheck in a place like Taiwan),” the ultra-friendly Burgamy told me.
What a hit he was, too, leading the Australian Baseball League in batting at a lofty .409 as well as pacing the three-month, four-games-a-week league in hits (67), total bases (111), runs (41), walks (34), on-base percentage (.510), OPS (1.187) and ranking in the top three in slugging (.677), home runs (12) and games played (45).
Now, he is working on his fourth consecutive full season with Camden, NJ (he had a brief stint with Newark, NJ, before that, in 2008), trying to help the Riversharks squeeze their way into the Atlantic League playoffs.
“They (Canberra Cavalry) want me back,” he explained. The final offer has not yet come through for a season that would start in early November, and he would only very mildly hint that other opportunities may rest somewhere on the horizon.
This much is certain, he said: “(Australia) made me more sure of myself, and I am trying to repeat it here.” He is doing a good job, too, since the Atlantic League is considered superior (“Triple-A”, Burgamy calls it). The switch hitter is at .303, seventh best in the league, even though the average has dropped about 20 points since he fouled a ball off his right ankle during at game in Sugar Land, TX in late July and he missed six days. Burgamy leads the Riversharks with 15 home runs, has 60 RBI (eight in the last five games), has walked an impressive 62 times and been hit by pitches another nine in his 90 appearances which help account for his .429 on-base percentage.
“His expectations are high,” explains Manager Jeff Scott, who praised his current first baseman as “getting better every year.”
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National Media Catching on to Colabello’s Big RBI Season
Some among the national media are paying attention, so if the parent Minnesota Twins are on board longtime Independent first baseman Chris Colabello may get a sniff of major league life when rosters expand next month or at least for spring training in 2013.
Colabello continues to pace the Eastern League in runs batted in with 87 in 115 games (his nearest competitor has 83) which led USA TODAY SPORTS WEEKLY to highlight the 28-year-old Massachusetts native in its Minor League Watch section. Already tabbed last fall as Independent Player of the Year by Baseball America, Colabello’s first affiliated season after seven summers in the Can-Am League has seen his average at Double-A New Britain, CT move up to .287 after a 10-game stretch in which he has hit at a .371 clip. He also leads the league in doubles (34) and has hit 18 home runs.
‘Spaceman’ Assures North American League Attention
Anyone who thought Bill (Spaceman) Lee’s professional career might be over is going to be proven wrong because the 65-year-old southpaw has agreed to start a game in one week (August 23) for the San Rafael (CA) Pacifics of the North American League, according to the hometown Marin Independent Journal.
Lee went 5.1 innings for Brockton, MA (Can-Am League) two years ago which is believed to have made him the oldest person to win a professional game, but the onetime major league star (119-90) is said to have told reporters he was taken out before he could use all of his pitches. “I was hoping to break out my Juan Marichal screwball,” Lee said, according to The Independent Journal.
(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball. Fans may subscribe for 2012 at reduced rates at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy his blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, or comment to RWirz@aol.com. The author has 16 years of major league baseball public relations experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)