Marshal Burgess wants to play college baseball in the United States one day, and the Brandonite taken what he believes is an important first step in making that dream come true.
The 16-year-old Vincent Massey student, who was named the most valuable player in the provincial high school championship in Brandon on the weekend, has committed to join the Okotoks (Alta.) Dawgs Baseball Academy in January.
"I never really thought about it until the Dawgs’ coach came up and talked to me (in September), and they had nothing but good things to say. And when I saw their academy out there, it’s pretty tough to say no when they play like they do and have facilities like that," the Burgess student said. "I’ve been talking to them for the last year and it just made my decision easier the more I talked to them."
While joining the Dawgs that late in the season may not be optimal, Burgess feels its the perfect situation. The Grade 11 student needs three more credits to graduate high school and will get those in the fall in Brandon, which allows him to graduate with his friends. He will then join a program that can get him a little more exposure than he currently has, which is quite a bit.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound right-handed pitcher/outfielder was on the Manitoba team that finished seventh at the Canada Games last summer in Sherbrooke, Que., and he’s trying out for the provincial team that will compete in the Baseball Canada Cup this summer.
Because he’ll be a late arrival in Okotoks, Burgess has decided to focus on being an outfielder there, but he’s not giving up on his pitching just yet.
"Because I’m there for a short time I just want to focus on one position," said Burgess, who threw a complete-game five-hitter with eight strikeouts in the provincial high school final on Saturday at Andrews Field. "Since I won’t be going to school out there, I’ll have a lot of time to work on stuff. On my off days I’ll probably work as a pitcher. With team work, I’ll be an outfielder now."
Burgess isn’t worried about leaving home either. Although he’ll be 17 when he heads out for the southern Alberta community, he admits it may not be a bad thing to move out that early.
He’s already experienced a little bit of what it’s like to be on his own through his time with Team Manitoba and the two tournaments that he’s already played with the Dawgs. He feels going to Okotoks for the baseball academy will also help him adjust to his new life faster than if he was trying to learn living on his own in his first year of college.
While he’s not scared to move away, Burgess wants to make the most of his final summer of baseball in Brandon. He has already helped Vincent Massey win its first-ever provincial high school crown and will try to help the Vikings repeat as Prairie West High School Baseball League champions on Friday.
Brandon’s midget team will feature a lot of the players from the Vikings this summer. Burgess is looking forward to having a few more months of playing with them and is targetting another provincial championship.
"It’s a special group of guys and they just make playing ball fun," he said. "When we win, we win and when we lose, we lose as a team. Being with these guys is always fun no matter how far we make it, but we all have a little fire in our stomachs so we want to win."