Burnette performs on field, in studio
* OF/recording artist Jamar Burnette (Toronto, Ont.) accompanied Team Canada to Italy and is now looking forward to the Ontario Blue Jays fall tour. Photo: Alexis Brudnicki ….
By Alexis Brudnicki
It’s tough to be 17.
Okay, well, it’s possible that there was a little hint of sarcasm in that sentence.
But for one 17-year-old in particular, life is beginning to become a greater challenge than he has ever experienced before.
Jamar Burnette is a successful and already accomplished recording artist, producer and performer. His musical talents are off the charts. But, he has to put that behind him in order to see how far he can get with his first true love, baseball.
“I kind of put music down until my baseball career is done,” Burnette said. “I’m more focused on one thing. School is going to be hard to manage this year as well because I’m going to be going away a lot, especially in the fall with Team Canada and with the Ontario Blue Jays.
“So I’m going to have a hard time balancing that and friends; I don’t really have time to hang out with friends anymore because I’m so busy. But I guess it’s the sacrifice that I have to make.”
The young outfielder is sacrificing his extra-curricular activities in order to better himself in the sport that he’s been playing for more than a decade, and so far it’s been working. He’s been on multiple trips with the junior national team and has made progress in his game.
“I’ve improved quite a bit but I still think there’s a lot more to do, of course,” Burnette said. “You can never be too good, so I’m just working.”
The Toronto native has done much of his work with the help of Adam Stern, since the former big leaguer stepped in to help coach Team Canada in the spring. Burnette has been making the two-hour trip to Centrefield Sports – Stern’s facility in London – at least once a week, to get help with his batting.
“I’ve been working with Adam, one of the coaches here,” Burnette said. “He’s been helping me a lot, hitting-wise. This fall, I’m going to be working with the Ontario Blue Jays and travelling a lot, so that’s what I’m doing to get better this year.”
Heading into his draft year, the young hitter believes that the wealth of knowledge and experience that Stern brings to the table have been able to help him with making great strides at the plate.
“Adam’s the greatest hitting coach I’ve ever had,” Burnette said. “He knows so much about the game and it’s easy for him to transfer it to another player because he’s been at the highest level.”
Stern is happy to be able to work with young players from north of the border like Burnette, and perhaps even to have a hand in their development along the way.
“It’s great to work with that kind of talent,” the native of London said earlier this season. “Obviously Canada’s got that kind, they need the help along. Whether you’re mentoring them or helping them with some hitting or throwing or fielding, it’s just special to be a part of because they guys are now getting something that was never around 15 years ago.
“It’s kind of cool. You see some of yourself in these kids and they’re just trying to get to where the big leaguers are; they want to play in the big leagues or play in college, and it’s good to see that kind of drive out of these guys.”
Stern has seen the future major league talent and college prospects that the junior team has to offer firsthand, and is proud to have been a part of the coaching staff of the fine young players.
“I enjoy helping out the junior team,” Stern said. “Greg is doing an unbelievable job. I never played on the junior team and I always heard about it, but then when you actually see what goes into it, it’s an impressive thing.
“These kids are so lucky to have that and to have Greg Hamilton doing what he’s doing behind the scenes. He doesn’t take any of the credit. It’s a special thing and all the senior guys know that this is a big deal; this is where the future’s coming from, so let’s help that along.”
While Burnette’s long-term future may be unsure, his immediate future is with Team Canada. Though he didn’t make the 20-man roster for the IBAF 18U World Championships in Seoul, Korea, he is fresh off of the trip to the Italian Baseball Week tournament. Heading into the trip, Burnette knew that there might be some obstacles along the way.
“My biggest challenge will be being out of my comfort zone and being in another country,” Burnette said. “I don’t know if the weather’s different over there but I guess I just have to adjust when I get there.”
Once the team is adjusted, Burnette believes they will be able to do big things at the world championships.
“Canada has a legit shot of winning it,” he said. “You’ve got to play together as a team and not play as individuals and work hard, never give up, it will go well.”