Gary Burnham: "You have to shop around"

PART ONE OF A TWO-PART SERIES. Just about a month ago, Gary Burnham celebrated his 33rd birthday. For ball players, those numbers aren't always a reason to celebrate, but for a guy who has never gotten even a cup of coffee in the majors, it could be a daunting number. For Gary Burnham though, there's no reason to lose faith.

For Gary Burnham, this off-season is much like all the rest. He doesn't have a contract for the next season and could basically just throw a dart at a map and have as good of a chance of hitting where he'll play as he would guessing at where he'll play. And if the dart didn't hit a place where he might play, it could very well hit a place where he has played. That list includes places like: Batavia, Clearwater, Reading, Syracuse, Louisville, Memphis, Bridgeport, Scranton Wilkes-Barre and Ottawa; and those are just the home cities.

Such is the life of a career minor league player, who entered another off-season as a minor league free agent.

After putting up more impressive numbers and again picking up the nod as his team's Most Valuable Player, Burnham appears no closer to being a Major League player than after any other season. In fact, because of his age, he's likely been closer before than he might be now, but you don't sense any concern in Gary's voice when he talks about the future. "I know I can play, there aren't any doubts about my ability," said Burnham. "I'm still convinced that I'll get my shot and that the right opportunity just hasn't presented itself yet." For a guy with a career minor league batting average of .291 (not including the .320 average he put up in a little over a season of independent ball) Gary Burnham has never seen a day in the Majors and is hoping for a chance to even be a part of a big league spring training camp.

Instead of worrying, Burnham is preparing. Both for another season and for his annual Baseball Boot Camp that he runs in Hartford, Connecticut. "This is the third year that I'm doing it and I enjoy it. Our camp is pretty unique in that it doesn't just teach kids how to play the game, but it incorporates the physical and conditioning part of the game into the camp," explained Burnham. "I saw that a lot of kids were going to a conditioning camp or working with a trainer and then coming to a baseball camp and we just combined them into one. We measure the kids when they come in as far as how many sit-ups and push-ups they can do and then measure them after six weeks and they definitely show improvement." Burnham is genuinely excited when he talks about the camp and how it helps kids. "There is a real problem with childhood obesity because of video games and stuff and a lot of kids have a tough time keeping up with even a 15 minute jog," said Burnham. "We try to teach them about the importance of exercise and conditioning and show them how they can use conditioning to avoid injuries. Our camp is in Hartford, and obviously, it's cold there and a kid can hurt his arm or shoulder if he doesn't know the proper way of conditioning himself. We explain all of that and stress how important it is."

The camp runs from January 11th to February 15th, just before Burnham heads for Spring Training, and is for kids from ages 7 to 18. "The tough part is calling everybody. I hate to bug people and interrupt their dinner or something, but you have to hustle to get the kids in here," said Burnham of the toughest part of the camp for him.

So, since he's running a baseball camp, does it mean that the ten year minor league veteran is seeing the end of his career in the near future? "I'm going to keep playing as long as I'm healthy and as long as teams will hire me. I see a guy like Pedro Swann, who is 35 and in great shape. He doesn't miss a step," said Burnham. "I will say that coaching is always an option. I'll keep any door open that I can, but that's down the road."

With Burnham's agent heading to the Winter Meetings next week to find him a place to call home for next summer, is a return to the Phillies organization a possibility? "I wouldn't mind re-signing with the Phillies. They're not a bad organization at all, they just haven't given me an opportunity... yet," added Burnham.

Part Two of our interview with Gary Burnham will delve into why he hasn't gotten a chance in the majors and take a look at a potential landing spot for him.

For more information on Gary Burnham's Baseball Boot Camp, visit BaseballCityCT.com or call (860) 966-6058.



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