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Home for the Holidays: Burnette brothers chasing baseball dreams
Both Buford grads early in minor league careers
Buford grad Chase Burnette swings at a pitch during minor league spring training last season with the Cleveland Indians. - photo by For The Times

Chase Burnette and his younger brother Jake are busy climbing the ladder to becoming major league baseball players.

Both Buford grads are currently in the lower levels of the minor leagues - Chase with the Cleveland Indians, and Jake with the Pittsburgh Pirates - but still have a solid footing in the door, which is something few are talented or blessed enough to achieve.

"I get to play the game I love every day," said Jake Burnette, who spent the latter part of the summer playing Rookie League ball with the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla. "It's just so much fun."

"God has blessed me and my brother with a rare opportunity," Chase said.

Currently, both Burnette brothers are back home in Buford for the holidays, which is where they graduated from high school.

Chase graduated from Buford in 2007 before going on to play three successful seasons at Georgia Tech, and Jake, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher, led the Wolves to a Class AA state championship in 2011.

After being drafted in the seventh-round in June by the Pirates, Jake opted to pass on a scholarship at Georgia Tech and turn pro immediately.

Their days during the Christmas holidays are spent working out together at a local gym in Buford, and Chase is working with the family's insurance business in town.

Chase, 23, may be a bit more grounded than other players his age, considering he's about to celebrate his two-year anniversary with his wife, Caitlin, and just found out they're expecting their first child in late July.

"During the season, that's my anchor to have my family to come home to at night," Chase said. "It really helps me out to be married."

Chase and Jake are enjoying the time to hang out again and be brothers. With both pursuing pro careers and separated by many miles most of the time, text messaging is usually their main form of communication.

Still, that didn't keep Chase from getting constant updates on his little brother when Jake was helping pitch the Wolves to the state championship in May.

"I was so happy and proud of him winning that state championship," Chase said. "That's something my teams were never able to do when I played at Buford."

In his first full season of minor league ball, Chase, an 18th round pick as an outfielder out of Georgia Tech, spent part of the season within the Indians' high Class-A affiliate Kinston (N.C.), then was sent down to finish out the year with Low-A Lake County (Ohio).

Even though it was a demotion, the older of the Burnette brothers, who is now playing first base, looks at it as a chance to focus on improving on his infield skills.

Meanwhile, Jake signed his pro contract on Aug. 1 after deciding to forego college.

He felt like he was ready to take the next step, even though he was excited about the opportunity to play college ball with the Yellow Jackets.

His older brother said he filled him in on all the pros and cons of playing college baseball, but in the end it was Jake's decision.

"I'm so proud of Jake and what he's doing," Chase said.

Since he signed later in the summer, Jake, who tops out at 93 miles per hour with his fast ball, hasn't really experienced the full taste of minor league life yet with the all-night road trips and hopping from stadium to stadium and city to city.

After pitching just one game in Rookie League, Jake went back in the fall for a Rookie Instructional League in Florida and got to pitch about every fifth day during the six-week schedule against other squads in the Central Florida area, which wrapped up just two months ago.

"The biggest thing I've noticed is that it's a lot harder than high school baseball and all the guys can play," Jake said.

Of course, Chase Burnette has one advantage most minor league pitchers don't have: He's got a brother that's hitting four times a game and can give him the perspective of what the batter is thinking at the plate.

The biggest piece of advice that Chase has given his younger brother about pitching is not to get locked into the mindset that you can win with a fastball just because you're ahead in the count.

Adding to that, he's told his younger brother never to give in to a hitter.

"As a pitcher, he's not going to be able to just throw it by people anymore like in high school," Chase said. "He's got to have an idea what he's going to do to the hitter on every pitch.

"I always try to give him as much advice as possible about hitters to help him become the best pitcher he can become."

After an extended off-season break from throwing, Jake is just waiting for word from his pitching coach on when to get back throwing again and waiting to receive his pitching template to follow as he prepares to head back
to Florida for minor league spring training in February.

"Right now, I'm just trying to keep up with the pace and show up to spring training ready to work," Jake said.


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