By IAN WILSON
If you can’t find Josh Burgmann at the ballpark, check the casinos because he is dealing this season.
The 6-foot tall, 205-pound sophomore pitcher from British Columbia has put together a stellar campaign thus far for the University of Washington Huskies of the Pac-12 Conference.
Over seven starts, the righthander has hurled 46.2 innings, racked up 59 strikeouts, picked up three wins and posted an earned-run average of just 1.54. Not a bad stat line for the graduate of the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball, who recently recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts against Oregon State.
Burgmann was kind enough to make time for Alberta Dugout Stories recently. Here’s what he had to say in our question-and-answer exchange:
Q: You’re from Nanaimo, B.C. but you went to Vauxhall Academy of Baseball. How did you end up there, and why did you choose Vauxhall, Alberta?
A: I was playing summer ball in Nanaimo for the Nanaimo Junior Pirates at the time and I was coached by Kevin Inch. Kevin’s brother, Steven Inch, had attended Vauxhall and was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies out of high school.
Kevin had a conversation with (Vauxhall coach) Les McTavish and recommended me as a player and said that I might be a good fit for the program. I was initially blindsided by the recommendation, as I had never really heard of the program before. But one of my friends, Justin Clarkson, was also attending at that time for his final year of high school in Grade 12. I started talking with Justin and his family about Justin’s experience there and how he enjoyed it and they had nothing but great things to say about the program. Once my family had made some serious inquiries the process started to pick up with phone calls with coach McTavish and the possibility of making a trip to Vauxhall to visit the academy and tour the facilities. But I knew after a few calls with him that this was the place I wanted to be to further develop as a player and a person.
Q: Tell us about your time in Vauxhall. What was that experience like and how did it help prepare you for life at the University of Washington and beyond?
A: Going to Vauxhall was easily one of the best decisions I have made in my life. It is an obvious no-brainer, from a baseball standpoint, because they do an amazing job at developing players and moving them on to the next level. This is a real testament to how incredible the coaching staff is, including Les McTavish, Jim Kotkas and Joel Blake. The other element of attending the academy that I wasn’t expecting was how connected I became with the community and the core values of the program, that being “Better Person, Better Player.” I truly believe the academy and all the people involved with the program and the community helped me in my journey, not only in becoming a better baseball player, but in helping me become a better person. One day, after hopefully a long professional baseball career, I would love to return and take over Coach McTavish’s job.
Q: You’re having a terrific season so far with the Huskies. What is clicking for you and working so well right now?
A: I think being healthy and in probably the best shape of my life is helping a lot. I worked extremely hard this last offseason to get my body and my arm to where I feel the strongest now that I ever have. It’s really starting to pay off. I take a lot of pride in that. I also feel confident in myself on the mound right now and extremely confident in the defence that is playing behind me.
Q: I was reading in a recent story that since you’ve been back from arm surgery you have experienced a more consistent uptick in velocity and you also added a curveball to your repertoire, which gives you five pitches to choose from. When opposing batters face you, how are you attacking them?
A: For me personally, it’s all about attacking the zone early in the count and establishing the fastball. As long as I can do that, and command all quadrants of the zone, then the curveball and slider are really going to be tough to hit.
Q: You recently participated in the Seattle Baseball Showcase, where you pitched well once again, going seven innings, striking out five hitters and yielding just one run in the win. Did you feel any added pressure playing in that tourney or was it just business as usual?
A: I felt like for me, it was just business as usual. We struggled a bit offensively at the beginning of the tournament but we had a feeling the bats were going to come through in that third game. I just felt I needed to go out there and compete and attack the zone to give my team the best opportunity to win. It was especially nice to pitch with a three-run cushion after the first inning.
Q: The Huskies have their own ballpark, but being that you play for UW, had you pitched at T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field) before? What’s it like pitching at an MLB ballpark?
A: It was great. I have had the opportunity to pitch at a few other big league ballparks because of my past experience with Team Canada, the Tournament 12 and the 2016 MLB Draft. It is always an awesome and surreal experience stepping on the same mound of current and former big leaguers that I have admired and looked up to.
Q: Another player we have interest in – former Okotoks Dawg Matt Lloyd – also played well at the Seattle Baseball Showcase, bashing two home runs and picking up a save against you guys. Had you played against Lloyd before and what did you think of his performance in Seattle?
A: In my first year at Vauxhall, Matt was in his final year at Okotoks, so I was able to play against him just for the one year. He had a great weekend in Seattle. He has always been a really good hitter, balanced at the plate, he uses the whole field well and if you make a mistake pitching to him he is going to make you pay for it. I always knew he pitched, but I had never seen him pitch live, so that was a first for me. He had a great presence on the mound, something you like to see in a closer. He threw pretty hard, with an excellent slider – he was very good.
Q: The Huskies went to the College World Series last year – do you like your odds of returning again this season?
A: Absolutely. We have a lot of guys returning from last year’s team that got a taste of what it feels like to play in Omaha and we all want to be back there. We know what it is going to take to get back there this year and we are excited for that challenge.
Q: You’ve been through the draft process before when the Cards selected you in 2016. What are your personal goals for this season and what’s your approach to the MLB draft this season?
A: In high school I put a lot of expectations on myself in terms of the draft and when I didn’t go obviously as high as I hoped, I was pretty disappointed with myself. This time around I am taking a more balanced approach with it, taking everything in stride and have fun with the process, instead of worrying about it all the time.
Q: I noticed that you are pursuing a career in sports journalism. Should we put you to work writing stories for us?!
A: I changed my major to an education major. They just haven’t updated our website with the latest information. Originally my plan was to come to school and study sports journalism, but I decided to go down a different path. Now I am an education major, specifically focusing on Early Childhood and Family Studies (ECFS), with the hope of becoming an elementary school counsellor and the possibility of becoming a baseball coach, as well.