It’s been a wild year for Jake Burger, from the CarShield Collegiate League, to the Schaumburg alternate site, to Triple-A, to hitting his first big-league homer, and then back to Charlotte.
All Sox fans have been having a blast following Jake this year, including yours truly. But when steely3000 made an innocent comment:
following Jake’s first home run, it gave me pause.
I assumed he was in part referencing some reporting I did on Jake back in 2019. I had always assumed that Jake took it all in good fun, but steely’s comment had me concerned. We all know the rough road that Jake traversed to make it here, and I worried that I had somehow added to his pain.
So I reached out, to offer Jake an apology. It turns out that no apology was needed, but what transpired was certainly not what I, or any Sox fan, would expect.
What follows is a transcription of part of the wild, meandering conversation that I had with Jake last week.
Right Size Wrong Shape: Hey Jake, thanks for taking the time for a quick Zoom meeting with me today, and congrats on your first home run and successful debut with the White Sox!
Jake Burger: Sure, no problem.
I was just reminiscing about my coverage of your comeback back in 2019, and I wanted to apologize if reading that caused you any distress.
No, no, not at all. My buddies and I enjoyed it.
I’m glad to hear that. I read about your conversation with Danny Mendick, when he asked you, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t quit?” That really resonated with me.
Jake, you OK?
Yeah, sure. You just have no idea how much those words meant to me.
What do you mean?
Mendick got me thinking about not giving up on my dreams, no matter what obstacles present themselves.
Right, and now you’ve achieved them! You made it to the majors, contributing to a first-place club, and playing really well. But I’ve got to say, you don’t seem that excited.
I’ve achieved some dreams, all right. The dreams of my coaches, my mom, my sister. The dreams of White Sox fans. But what most people don’t realize is that I gave up on my dreams 14 years ago.
What are you talking about?
I dream of space, Right Size. I dream of space.
[At this point, Jake started reminiscing about his experiences in fifth grade, and his true dream — to become an astronaut. At first I thought he was pulling my leg, but as the details spilled forth it was clear that Jake had never been more serious. He shared of love of space with his father, who named him after payload specialist Jake Garn. Jake’s childhood bedroom was not adorned with posters of Ozzie Smith and Tommy Herr, but with model Space Shuttles, technical manuals and historical texts detailing the failure of the Challenger launch. In his fifth-grade yearbook he was honored with three superlatives: “Most Likely to Hear Bad Fast Food Jokes About His Name,” “Cutest Couple” (with eighth-grader Angela Smith), and most importantly, “Most Likely to be an Astronaut.” But that was when everything came crashing down.]
I was so proud of that yearbook. I had a bit of a crush on my teacher, Mrs. Wilcox, so I asked her to sign it. And she did. “Dear Jake. Astronaut? More like astro-NOT!” Stick to baseball, and work on those multiplication tables over the summer. Mrs. Wilcox.” And that was it. With those words, my dream died.
Wow. That’s just awful. So what are you going to do?
Well, the way I figure it, Mendick is right. I’m not a quitter. I’ve achieved everything I wanted to achieve in baseball. So at the conclusion of the season I’m going to pursue my true love.
Well, yes. But also, I want to join the space program!
Wow! I don’t know what to say.
Mars is only 7,000 miles away, Right Size! It’s so close, I can taste it! That’s only like driving from Chicago to Cleveland and back 10 times.
I don’t think that’s right at all …
I’ll check my calculations later.
Listen, Jake, this sounds like quite a commitment.
Oh yeah, it definitely is. That’s why I’ll be retiring at the conclusion of the season. OH, COME ON LARRY!
Retiring? And who’s Larry?
It’s Sheets’ cat. I’m watching him while Gavin is in Chicago. But the stupid cat just spilled my Tangquila Sunrise all over the davenport.
Wait, Gavin Sheets named his cat after his … did you say Tangquila?
Listen man, I’ll be right back. I’ve got to clean this up.
[At this point, I knew I had to act fast. Love of space or no, I felt like Jake was on the verge of making a big mistake. When he came back, we spoke at length about his decision. I got him to remember all of the wonderful memories that baseball has given him, and how I truly believed that even better memories were waiting to be made. Eventually, I was able to talk him out of it. Jake agreed that it was probably too late for him to make such a drastic career change, and that he was happy playing baseball for a living. Crisis averted …]
OK, Jake, I’m glad that this is all settled. I’m sure Sox fans will be relieved as well.
Yeah, thanks for talking this out with me, Size. Besides, not going into the space program will leave me plenty of time to pursue another one of my passions.
Jake, wait …
I’ll tell you about it next time. I’ve gotta go. Burger out!