06/08/2004 3:04 PM ET
Mets select Jim Burt
Son of ex-Giant will play first for Brooklyn Cyclones
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Jim Burt knows a thing or two about playing in New York and what it entails. He knows about the pressures that can be put on a professional athlete in the Big Apple but the 19th player chosen by the Mets in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft isn't fazed.
|Being Jim Burt's son has its privileges, as this photo of the Super Bowl XXI celebration proves. (Reed Saxon/AP)
That's because growing up in northern New Jersey, in the shadow of New York City, Burt watched his father handle life as a star athlete every day. Burt's father, Jim, was an All-Pro defensive lineman with the New York Giants, playing eight of his 11 NFL seasons with Big Blue.
So when the younger Burt, currently a senior at the University of Miami, joins the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones sometime later this month, he says he won't be fazed by the spotlight or what should be an initial flurry of media attention.
"I was part of it the whole time growing up," Burt told MLB.com. "New York fans are the best fans in the world but they are also the hardest to please. You see some guys go to New York and hit their stride but some guys fall apart. You have to have a strong mind to play in New York. I think I know what to expect and I'm ready for it."
Burt, a first baseman/outfielder, certainly seems capable of handling the Big Apple. He's already handled playing for a high-profile program in Miami and was a two-sport star at New Jersey high school power Bergen Catholic.
"He wanted to be picked by one of the local teams so this worked out perfectly," the elder Burt said. "Playing in New York is the best. This is exactly where you want to be. But you have to produce. The fans here appreciate a good hard day's work. They want to see you hustle down to first base or dive for the ball. That's New York. They respect guys who play that way.
"My son is definitely going to grind it out. They will appreciate him in New York. He knows the area, so this couldn't have worked out more perfect. This is almost like a dream. This is perfect."
Burt is hitting .374 through 58 games this season with 14 homers and 71 RBIs. He also has a .692 slugging percentage heading into Saturday's NCAA Tournament Super Regional game against Florida. He has 36 homers and 172 RBIs in his four years at Miami and is the only Hurricane to play in all 121 games over the last two seasons.
"I was kind of hoping I'd get drafted by the Mets because I wanted to play close to home," said Burt, who admitted he was a Yankees fan growing up. "I had no idea, though. I've been a Yankees fan for 23 years, though. Don Mattingly was my favorite baseball player growing up, of course.
"I just wanted a chance to play professional ball and now I'm happy to be a Met. I knew they had the Single-A team in Brooklyn, so I was hoping to get picked up by them. Now my family can come watch me play."
While the elder Burt made a name for himself in the Big Apple as a football player, he excelled in all sports while growing up in Buffalo. Initially, he figured he'd be playing hockey, following the likes of former Sabre great Gilbert Perrault. But when he continued to grow, football became his calling.
The younger Burt, at 5-10, 230, never experienced the growth spurt his father did. So, by the time he reached his senior year of high school, he knew football probably wasn't going to be a serious option. He was a linebacker in high school but couldn't compete at the position at the collegiate level because of his size and lack of speed.
As a result, the elder Burt turned into one of the best baseball coaches his son could have ever had.
"He didn't grow into that 6-3, 6-4 guy so baseball was a natural for him," Burt said. "I played in New York in the era of Keith Hernandez and Don Mattingly. I shared an agent with [former Mets pitcher] Randy Myers so I would always go to the park. I learned about hitting and fielding from the people who played.
"When I went to San Francisco, after awhile the equipment guy left to take a job with the Cleveland Indians. I'd go to the ballpark then and talk to David Justice, Jim Thome and Richie Sexson just to pick their brains. I wanted to hear the perspective of everyone who played the game so when I was coaching my kid I could say 'This is how you do it.' You get in their heads and you gain a lot of knowledge."
The younger Burt has been a team captain at Miami for three seasons. Because of that, he says he has the respect of his teammates and also knows how to respect them. It's all part of a complete package, one that could turn out to be a 19th-round steal for New York.
"I've won Super Bowls and all that but you don't smell the roses until you're done," Burt said. "But when your kid does it, it's a thousand times over more exciting. It's so satisfying because he's worked his tail off to get where he is and he's finally getting the respect he probably deserved a few years ago."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.