Watching the MLB Draft develop over two days, Jimmy Burnette saw the picks and players go by in a blur.
He had been in contact with teams through the spring and summer, and the teams expressed interest in potentially drafting the hard-throwing, left-handed pitcher.
But, for Burnette, he knew nothing was guaranteed, so all he could do was wait.
And then the call came in—the one he’d dreamed of for years.
Burnette had been drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I saw my name pop up on the live stream, and then I heard my name,” Burnette said. “I got a call from the Blue Jays area scout. He said, ‘Congratulations! You’re a Blue Jay!’ I didn’t know what to say. It was wild. For the first time ever, I felt the breath taken out of me.”
A St. Laurence High School graduate (2017), Burnette was selected by the Blue Jays in the 18th round with the 542nd pick overall on July 13 in the 20-round draft.
Burnette, a 6’2”, 205-pound lefty pitcher, is a Beverly resident and St. John Fisher Elementary School alumnus.
After three years at the University of Illinois, he transferred to St. Leo University in Florida, pitching for the Lions this spring.
Burnette said he will sign with Toronto. He flew to the team’s minor league facility on July 15 to undergo a physical, sign his contract and begin his career as a professional baseball player.
“Obviously, this has always been the goal,” Burnette said. “Going into the summer, I knew I had some interest from some teams, and things started to fall into place that this would be a possibility. As the draft got closer, it became more real.”
Burnette pitched this summer for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in Ohio in the MLB Draft League, formerly the New York-Penn League.
In 8 games with the Scrappers, including 4 starts, over 23.1 innings, Burnette had a 1-1 record, a 3.09 ERA and an impressive 44 strikeouts.
“The league had reached out to Coach Rick O’Dette at St. Leo last fall to see if I’d want to play,” Burnette said. “I figured what do I have to lose? We started in late May, playing six games a week like a normal minor league season. It was a really cool experience.”
Playing in the spring for St. Leo, Burnette went 3-5 with a 5.80 ERA that was inflated by two rough starts. Throwing in the mid 90s with an arsenal of fastball and off-speed pitches, he struck out a team-high 53 batters in 45 innings.
Transferring from Illinois in 2020, he made the best of trying to settle in last fall as many questions concerning the pandemic were still unanswered.
“We were working all fall, but not a full fall schedule,” Burnette said. “No team practices, so it was tough building relationships with everybody, but you try your best and work hard. Our win-loss record was tough, but it was a good experience with a great group of guys. I felt good pitching and had fun.”
Burnette’s Dad, Mike, and his older brother, Sean, are also St. Laurence graduates.
St. Laurence Coach Pete Lotus said the Blue Jays are getting a bulldog on the mound.
“It was so cool to see him get drafted,” Lotus said. “Jimmy has an electric arm and without a lot of wear and tear. He didn’t pitch until high school. He has a ton of talent throwing, and he can do so much more with development. He’s a super-competitive person, and he’s always going to battle.”
Wherever Burnette ends up this summer with the Jays, he’s ready to continue to excel.
“I’m a hard-working kid from Beverly, and I want to prove people wrong,” Burnette said. “I want to show that I can do it and I can make it. I’m not going to let anything get in my way.”