Jim Burt grew up with dreams of going to Omaha, Neb. to play in the College
World Series. Burt also grew up with dreams of one day playing for the University of Miami, where his father attended school and played football.
Both of those dreams came true as Burt earned a national championship ring during his freshman year. That year, Burt served as a defensive replacement for the 2001 Miami Hurricanes and became the team’s best defensive outfielder by the end of the season.
Since that 2001 season, Burt’s role on the ‘Canes has changed for the better. Instead of being the utility outfielder on a team of talented veterans, Burt takes over the role of gritty veteran trying to lead his young team with his powerful bat and steady glove.
“We have such a new team this year,” Burt said. “We’re young and we’re making a lot of mental mistakes out there.”
Head coach Jim Morris said the team needs Burt’s leadership and skill to compensate for the loss of several starters to graduation and the MLB draft.
“Jim is a returning vet and his leadership will be very important to this team,” Morris said.
Burt may have a leadership role on the Hurricanes, but the junior’s success stems more from hard work than from anything else. Burt spends almost all of his free time either practicing on the diamond or doing schoolwork in order to graduate this spring with a degree in finance. After graduation, Burt does have one year of eligibility remaining, but he hasn’t made a decision on his future.
“It depends on how this season goes,” Burt said. I’ve always wanted to play in the pros so if I get drafted high enough I will probably go.”
Burt certainly has the genes in his family to play professional sports. His father played for both the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. But despite his father’s successes, Burt said he was always allowed to make his own decisions.
“My dad was actually my baseball coach,” Burt said. “He always let me play what I wanted to play. I’ve been a Miami fan my whole life so it was easy to decide where to go to school.”
Burt exploded onto the scene in 2002, becoming a regular starter both in the outfield and at first base. Burt also finished in the top five in all of Miami’s major hitting categories.
The high point of Burt’s season came in the final game of the NCAA Gainesville Regional against the Florida Gators. With the ‘Canes trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the ninth, Burt stepped to the plate and ripped a two-strike, two-out double into left center field to score the tying and winning runs, sending the ‘Canes to the Super Regionals.
This season, Burt will make the move from the outfield to first base on a permanent basis, where his defensive skill will help a solid infield. From his new position, Burt will try to help the ‘Canes improve on last season’s disappointing finish.
“Last year we couldn’t put it together until the end,” Burt said. “The key to this season will be getting off to a good start.”
You can reach Nate Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org