ST. LOUIS- Jake Burger was in the stands at Busch Stadium back in 2011 when David Freese hit the home run that sent the Cardinals to a Game 6 World Series win for Tony LaRussa en route to a World Championship the following night.
Ten years later in a major league career that seems almost as improbable given the obstacles he’s had to overcome, Burger, playing in his 9th big league came since being promoted from AAA Charlotte to the White Sox, hit a home run for LaRussa in Chicago’s 10-1 home win over Houston.
He left no doubt. The blast off Houston reliever Austin Pruitt went an estimated 456 feet.
“Right when I hit it I’m like, Oh…that’s gone,” Burger said after the game. “That’s when I cracked a smile….You think about that growing up, you know, when you’re little, hitting a big league home run and stuff and nothing’s like it though, that experience is awesome, coming into the dugout, seeing everybody so happy for me.”
He described the experience as “floating around those bases,” while still being mindful to touch every bag.
Burger’s moment came with family and friends from St. Louis in town to witness his first home games for the White Sox. He was promoted July 1, a moment few could have seen coming over the years. The 2017 first round draft pick tore his left Achilles in spring training in 2018, then re-tore it weeks later.
Last spring he opened up about how the situation had taken a mental toll.
Burger’s perseverance ultimately led him to getting at-bats in during the CarShield Collegiate League hosted by the O’Fallon Hoots last summer, and later an invitation to Chicago’s Alternate training site in 2020.
Saturday night after the game, Burger told reporters that just Friday, a teammate asked him rhetorically in the batting cage if he was glad he hadn’t walked away from the game. “Looking back at the whole three years and the multiple times I said I wanted to quit, there’s no words that can describe what I’m feeling,” he said, thankful that he’s been able to “repay that trust” placed in him by family, friends, and the White Sox organization.
Speaking of repayment, Burger said he did get the home run ball back from the fan who caught it, in exchange for an autographed ball and bat.
It will stay with his parents for now.