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Devin Burkes called College World Series berth back in February

IMG_8756by:Daniel Hager06/10/24

DanielHagerKSR

Kentucky redshirt junior catcher Devin Burkes is one of the most positive people you’ll ever talk to.

Back in February, Burkes, Mason Moore, and Grant Smith spoke at Kentucky Baseball’s annual Media Day. The Bradenton, FL native was more than confident that the Cats would be heading to the College World Series in Omaha for the first time ever.

When asked if the goal was Omaha, Burkes responded, “Yes sir c’mon! Omaha. Omaha. Mom already booked her hotel and ticket.”

Video by Kentucky Sports Radio

He called his shot, and now that dream has become a reality.

Looking back on that moment following Kentucky’s Super Regional clinching win over Oregon State, Burkes got emotional as he reflected on just how far he, his guys, and the team have come over the past four months.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “You always, you know you’re going to get there. You know you’re confident in getting there with your squad. But, man, when it actually happens, it’s like you look around and you’re like, we’re going to Omaha. You know what I’m saying? It’s crazy. It’s crazy. We all couldn’t have done it without the coaching staff, Mr. Mitch Barnhart, all the higher-ups, everybody. Everybody is all hands on deck when it comes to this.”

Burkes, who redshirted his freshman year, has played in 138 games for Kentucky over the past three seasons. In that time, he has blossomed into a leader that everyone on the team can come to for support and guidance. He was named a recipient of the Mr. Wildcat Award at the 2024 CATSPYS.

Photo by UK Athletics

“He knows us more than we know ourselves sometimes,” right-hander Cameron O’Brien said postgame. “When he’s back there giving me fist pumps, hitting his chest when he needs to, gives me queues when I throw a bad pitch. It’s awesome to have support back there.” When Coach calls it in the dirt, we are told to make Devin work, so it’s cool seeing him back there blocking those balls for us and being big.”

Burkes is an example of the best of college sports. When he was redshirted in 2021, there was never a thought to enter the Transfer Portal. Coach Nick Mingione told an impactful story about Burkes, his mother, and their trust in him following the win.

“I remember the story about when we decided that it would be in Devin’s best interest to redshirt him,” he said. “His mom came and picked them up. They were driving home. And I ended up talking to Ms. Denise. And I just said, hey, I just want to make sure that you understand, like, we believe this is the best thing for Devin. We believe he’s going to be a great player for us one day. But where our current situation is this is the best thing. And I’ll never forget what his mom said. She said, ‘Coach, whatever you decide I trust you. I’ve given you my son and I trust you.'”

Staying at Kentucky has been an unbelievable decision for Burkes and for the program. Although Devin would probably tell you himself that maybe he hasn’t had the best season at the plate, his leadership is much more impactful than that.

After years of hard work, the Cats are finally headed to Omaha. The College World Series begins June 13.

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2024-06-23