College baseball recruiting is often a harsh mistress. In any one year, staffs have to recruit parts of up to three classes, prognosticating which of their own players will leave early for the Major League Draft, which freshmen and sophomores – 14- and 15-year olds -- project into Division I players and what a team will need over the next three years – not just the upcoming season.
After signing what – by all accounts – may be one of the top 25 classes in the nation this past cycle, and losing just one recruit to the pros, California received its first commitment for the 2015 class – a class which won't hit the field until the 2016 season – 10 days ago in Vacaville (Calif.) Will C. Wood shortstop Jeremiah Burks.
Burks is rated as the No. 30 player in the state of California for the 2015 class, and is the No. 176 player in the nation, playing all over the diamond.
"At Cal, I just feel like that's the spot for me, because the coaches, I feel like I can really fit in well with that coaching staff," Burks said. "It feels like a good program, with what they're trying to do."
Burks made his commitment on July 10 after an unofficial visit to the campus with his father. Following his walk around campus, Burks – like Mitchell Kranson before him – came into the baseball offices and told head coach David Esquer that he wanted to be a Bear.
"My dad was there with me, and we talked and we agreed on it," Burks said. "I just love it there. I've always liked the school, and when I went to their camp, I just felt, ‘Man, it's nice here.' When I found out that my brother's going there, that was it."
The first commit of the 2015 class follows his ‘brother' -- teammate Trevin Haseltine -- to Berkeley, after Haseltine signed with the Bears this past November. Upon news of Burks' commitment, Haseltine was overjoyed, and for good reason.
"That's one of my brothers," Burks said. "Definitely my brother from another mother. I grew up with that guy. He actually called me before I even got a chance to call him. He was hyped."
Last season, Burks hit .303 with 16 runs scored and a .384 on-base percentage, with six doubles and two triples. He also pitched in 11 games, allowing just three earned runs for a sparkling 1.91 ERA.
The commitment of Burks continues the trend of the Bears bringing in athletes, rather than players who have just one position. In the 2013 class, pitching coach Mike Neu brought in two-way stud Lucas Erceg late in the game, while also signing infielder/right-handed pitcher Alex Martinez and outfielder/right-handed pitcher Andrew Buckley.
In addition to playing both ways, Burks also plays varsity basketball for the Wildcats, averaging 7.5 points per game last season in 29 games as a 6-foot-1 guard. He said that his father was a band member at San Jose State, so he gets his athleticism from his mother.
"I've always played basketball since I was young," Burks said. "It helps because it helps be that much more athletic, being able to make unusual plays, jumping and having to stretch for a ball. I feel like it gives me different reflexes."
Burks was being courted by several other Pac-12 programs, including Arizona State, as well as Santa Clara, Long Beach State and San Diego. He was invited to prospect camps for UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Washington and Stanford, among others.
Burks – who made the Reebok Nor Cal World Series All-Underclass team this past year -- primarily pitches and plays shortstop, but is also working in the outfield, where he can utilize his speed.
"They want me at shortstop, but they want me at outfield, too, because I can play that, also," Burks said. "I just really want to play. I'll play anywhere."
Burks runs a 6.67-second 60-yard dash (the equivalent to a 4.4 40 in football), but has plus lateral quickness.
"I want to get better everywhere – infield and outfield – because I never know when I'm going to play either one," Burks said. "I want to keep everything really even."
This summer, Burks is playing for Nor Cal Baseball, the same program which Neu played for in his prep days, and the same program which has produced former Cal standouts Brandon Morrow (Toronto Blue Jays), Xavier Nady, Erik Johnson (Triple-A, Chicago White Sox), Dwight Tanaka, Mark Canha (Double-A, Miami Marlins), Tyson Ross (Triple-A, San Diego Padres), Jeff Kobernus (Triple-A, Washington Nationals), Brett Jackson (Triple-A, Chicago Cubs) and former first-round pick David Cooper.
Burks and Nor Cal Baseball are currently in Georgia for the CABA World Series. He finished this past school year with a 3.1 GPA. While he did not grow up coming to Evans Diamond, he's well aware of some of the top names of the program's recent past, including Nady, St. Louis Cardinals All-Star Allen Craig and 2012 second-round draft pick Tony Renda.
Burks said that the strongest part of his game is his work ethic, and his love for the sport.
"I just can't wait to go out there and get to play baseball every day," Burks said. "I just go out there and try to go as hard as I can, really – running the bases, running things out. Even if it's a pop fly, I always try to be at second when the pop fly lands. I try to bring energy."
The Bears are expecting to get another few commitments in the coming weeks, and already have three commits for the 2014 class, as well, in Moraga (Calif.) Campolindo duo Matt Ladrech (LHP) and infielder/right-handed pitcher Denis Karas, as well as top-100 catching prospect Brett Cumberland out of Turlock (Calif.) High School.
Burks Talks Cal Baseball Commitment
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