Mike Burgess has bounced around in the minors, from Hagerstown to Corpus Christi, for eight seasons. Burgess, a former first-round draft pick with big power and big promise that remains unfulfilled, might not ever make it to the top.
He’s 25 — and still blasting away in the low minors.
But even if Burgess doesn’t make it, he’ll always have one claim to fame.
He once beat Giancarlo Stanton in a Home Run Derby.
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“It ain’t no pride thing with me,” Burgess said, downplaying his feat. “I just had fun with it, putting on a show for the fans.”
While anticipation is building for Stanton’s trip to the All-Star Game and Monday’s Home Run Derby, Burgess is with his fourth organization, trying to work his way up from the minors. This season finds him with the Single A Frederick (Maryland) Keys in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system.
But in June of 2008, he and Stanton shared the spotlight on the same stage — and it was Burgess who shined brightest. Burgess bested Stanton and several other future stars, including Freddie Freeman, in the South Atlantic League’s Home Run Derby in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“They put on some show,” said Manny Colon, who was working in player development for the Marlins at the time and is now the team’s traveling secretary. “The place was sold out.”
Stanton that season was just starting to make a name for himself, hitting 39 home runs for Single A Greensboro. But Burgess, a left-handed hitter with a stocky build, possessed considerable pop of his own.
When they squared off in the Home Run Derby, Burgess began tagging balls over the right field wall while Stanton was going in the other direction.
“Guys were hitting balls pretty far,” Burgess recalled. “Stanton was going over the lights in left field and I was going over the netting, and onto the street, in right. It was something to remember.”
Said Colon: “You could tell that both of those guys were different just by the sound off both guys’ bats. It sounds different. Burgess beat him because he got into a rhythm. He was putting on a show, too. He was cranking.”
Despite hitting nine home runs during his round, Stanton failed to make it to the finals, where Burgess knocked off then-Yankees prospect Jesus Montero to win the Home Run Derby title.
These days, Stanton is crushing the ball in the big leagues. Folks are already buzzing about Stanton’s presence in the upcoming Derby.
ESPN baseball columnist Buster Olney said when he heard that Stanton had agreed to participate, “I felt like this was like George Washington in 1788 agreeing to be the first president of the United States. There should be bells going off all over New England, because if you're going to have a Home Run Derby in major-league baseball, this is the guy you want in there.”
Burgess, meanwhile, remains stuck in the minors, still chasing his dream.
“The last two years, I really haven’t had the seasons I wanted,” Burgess said. “But I just keep playing and trying to be consistent. I know I’ve got the tools to play in the big leagues with those guys. I know it’s there.”
Burgess won’t be watching when Stanton takes part in his first Home Run Derby since the two clashed in ’08. Burgess’ team, the Frederick Keys, are down to face the Potomac Nationals in Woodbridge, Virginia, that night.
But Burgess doesn’t think Stanton will lose this time.
“I don’t know if it’s going to happen again,” he said. “I don’t think [anybody’s] going to beat him. I’ve got him winning the Home Run Derby.”