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Transition to the pros has been a little tough for Ems' Burgamy.

Byline: BOB CLARK The Register-Guard

Brian Burgamy didn't expect the Northwest League would be quite like college, and unfortunately for his early batting average, the Ems' second baseman had that figured right.

`Everybody on the mound (in the Northwest League) has a good arm and can put the ball where they want it,' Burgamy said. `In college, you don't face a guy every night who can throw like that. You've just got to get better and better as a hitter to handle that.'

He has done that, if a few percentage points at a time. After a 1-for-10 start to his professional career, Burgamy had worked his average up to .207 entering Thursday's game as the Ems return home tonight for a three-game series against Everett.

That still leaves Burgamy a long hitting streak shy of matching what he did this spring at Wichita State, where his .400 average earned him all-American honors and selection as the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year, not to mention inclusion in an elite group of hitters.

Think about how a hitter gets to .400. That's 2-for-5, every game, for a season. When Burgamy went 1-for-3, his average fell. A hitless game meant he probably needed four hits the next game to stay on pace to hit .400.

`I actually imagined myself hitting better,' Burgamy said. `I got into a little slump at the end of the year, but during (NCAA) regionals I got myself back into it and saved myself from going under, but it was close.'

Some slump. His average dropped to .392 before that late surge back to .400.

`I'd say I hit the ball with the barrel a good percentage of the time,' Burgamy said. `There were some cheesy hits that I got, but if you hit .400, you're hitting the ball well.'

That was then, and now the swings are taken with a wooden bat instead of aluminum. Burgamy is hardly the first hitter to find that that difference can be responsible for dropping an average, and he'll give metal its due for helping attain his gaudy college average.

`It's totally different than somebody who hits .400 with wood,' Burgamy said. `That's extraordinary, and not many people can do it, and not many people have done it. Hitting over .300 with a wood bat is a good accomplishment.'

Burgamy said the primary difference he's found in switching bats is `you don't have any room for error (with wood). You're not going to hit the ball well unless your swing is right and you get (the ball) on the barrel. With the metal bat, you can hit a ball halfway decently and not put a good swing on it.'

Jeff Gardner, the Ems manager, said much of the problem for players switching bats relates to approach at the plate. When using the wooden bat, against stronger and more experienced pitchers, a hitter needs to be ready earlier so he can start a swing sooner, Gardner explained.

`They can make up for a lot of swing flaws with an aluminum bat,' Gardner said. `You just get it there somehow and (the ball) jumps off it.'

On the other hand - and Burgamy is a switch hitter - that .400 average this spring can't be totally credited to the metal bat because it came while playing on a college team as good as Wichita State, which plays in a league as strong in baseball as the Missouri Valley Conference.

`With those kind of numbers, the guy is obviously gifted,' Gardner said. `From what I've seen, he's going to have to make the adjustment of getting ready sooner, but a guy like that, I think he'll be able to do it.

`He's hitterish, he's got the gift to swing the bat. Maybe his swing is not perfect at this point, but I would think he'll get it.'

If all that adjustment isn't enough to challenge Burgamy, there's also the matter of still being in his first year as a full-time second baseman. He had been mostly an outfielder until he arrived at Wichita State, but his coaches there wanted him to try the infield.

He began his freshman year as a shortstop. `I had a tough time ... and went back to center field,' Burgamy said.

He was a third baseman as a sophomore. `I struggled there,' Burgamy said. `It's a tough position for me and I just wasn't comfortable over there. My throwing was, uh, erratic at times.'

What next? At 5-foot-10 and up to 190 pounds, Burgamy didn't exactly have the reach of a first baseman. There was still second base, where he's been since the start of his college season last winter.

`I found a home and got better and better as the season went on,' Burgamy said. `I'm just more comfortable on that side ... a lot of scouts said that's where they would see me playing (in professional baseball), but I know it's going to take me a while to get better.

`It's like everything else. People who have played the position all their lives know it better than I do.'

The parent San Diego Padres will allow for some on-the-job training after using a ninth-round draft pick on Burgamy. A pick that early speaks of potential, though Burgamy thought he was going even earlier in the selection process.

`I was happy to be drafted, don't get me wrong, it was an awesome feeling,' Burgamy said. `It's just that I was expecting the fifth or sixth round and I slid.'

Burgamy said he `contemplated' a return to Wichita State for his senior year. `That's why it took me so long to get (signed),' he said. `It took me a little bit to think about what was actually important to me, and this is the only thing I really wanted to do with my life so far, so I decided I might as well get started as early as I can.'

THURSDAY

Eugene 9, Boise 1

TODAY

Everett at Eugene 7:05

CAPTION(S):

Brian Burgamy was a .400 hitter at Wichita State, but he's struggling early in his first pro season.
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Title Annotation:NWL: Adjustment to wooden bats, challenge of better pitching have limited his early success.; Sports
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 28, 2002
Words:1020
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