Whole new ballgame for Burnett
Free safety spends time as bat boy for Detroit Tigers
Whether the site of competition is Albion's Sprankle-Sprandel Stadium or the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park, Devin Burnett is used to hitting.
A starting free safety for Albion’s football team, Burnett is in his fourth season working at Comerica Park as a bat boy in the visitors’ dugout.
The bat boy title is misleading as Burnett’s day at the park starts hours before the first pitch is delivered. On dates when games start at 7:05 p.m., Burnett clocks in at 3 and begins moving equipment – batting helmets, catchers’ equipment, towels, Gatorade and chewing gum – to the dugout and to the bullpen.
For Division III athletes who need to keep in shape and earn money, the job couldn’t be more perfect.
“Carrying catchers’ gear and chests full of ice and water up and down the flights of stairs between the clubhouse and the dugout is quite a workout,” Burnett said. “I work up quite a sweat.”
Burnett has 2 ½ hours to deliver equipment and supplies before heading back to the clubhouse to change into the visitors’ uniform for batting practice. The BP routine usually calls for him to deliver buckets of balls around the field.
When batting practice ends at 6:20, Burnett has time to change into the visitors’ uniform for the game and then prepare to concentrate on the game.
“The first time being on the field was nerve wracking,” Burnett admitted. “It is easy to get caught up watching the crowd.”
Burnett was quick to point out the job’s benefits, including having one of the best seats in the stadium and having the fans’ attention when he retrieves a ball in foul territory.
A product of University of Detroit Jesuit High School, Burnett didn’t follow baseball closely, but working at Comerica Park runs in the family. His uncle is the clubhouse manager and a cousin also works as a bat boy.
“A lot of the guys I work with tease me because I don’t know most of the players’ names,” Burnett said.
Now a veteran in the clubhouse, Burnett said visiting players recognize him and some have offered advice with drills for working out and improving footwork. For his part, Burnett said he is focusing on hand-eye coordination after he failed to collect an interception despite finishing sixth on the Britons’ tackles ladder last season.
“[Cardinals’ outfielder] Adron Chambers played football at Mississippi State and he gave me drills for backpedaling,” Burnett said of the World Series champions’ visit to Detroit in June. “Guys show you how to cut on the field.”
Burnett, an economics & management major at Albion, has also been impressed by the work ethic displayed by the athletes even though they’ve reached the Majors. Through the experience, Burnett has learned “that hard work will take you wherever you want to go.”
Burnett’s season at Comerica Park will end Aug. 9 when the Tigers complete a series with the Yankees. Then he’ll return to campus as Albion prepares to defend the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association it won in 2011.