Both of Ryan Burr's
childhood dreams are in the process of reaching reality, but the burly righthander might have to decide between the two.
The Highlands Ranch (Colo.)
senior pitcher has always aspired to play baseball at Arizona State – check, he signed with the Sun Devils in November – and also to become a pro ballplayer. Many have forecasted the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder to be taken in the top five rounds of the amateur draft in June, meaning a decision could be looming.
While many players have a round cutoff (saying they'll go pro if they're drafted in say, the seventh round or higher) or a money cutoff, Burr hasn't began to weigh the process. He is concentrating on having the time of his life as a senior for the Falcons, and then assessing things from there.
"It's definitely going to be more of a when-the-time-comes type of deal," Burr said. "Just because it's too early to throw out any numbers or any rounds, you know? That'll probably happen after the season is over."
Burr, who will turn 18 on May 28, went 5-1 with a 1.85 ERA last season for the Falcons, who finished 18-7 and earned a berth in the final four of the Class 5A state tournament. Burr struck out 95 batters in 53 innings as a junior, allowing only 29 hits.
"I think in the state, over the last 14 years or so, Ryan is right there with the best of the best of them," Highlands Ranch coach John Cackowski said. "What stands out about Ryan to me is his loyalty to his teammates and his high school. He wants to do so well for them that it hurts."
Burr is not shy about his school spirit. He attends many of the Falcons' other sporting events, and at the time of this interview, was gearing up to watch the Highlands Ranch boys basketball team take on Grandview in the Sweet 16 – from the front row, he was certain to add. The Falcons won 63-58.
It is another school, however, that has been on his mind for even longer: ASU.
"Probably when I was about 10 or 11, I was getting into real baseball," Burr said. "I grew up watching the College World Series and I'd see them there every year. Something clicked and I've just always wanted to go there. I'm pretty happy that it worked out for me."
The only thing that could rob Burr of that ambition would be something better, a large-scale pro contract. It's a scenario he labels a "win-win situation."
Burr said he has been clocked as high as 96 mph but usually works in the low-90s, where he says he is at his best. Cackowski teaches his pitchers to establish the fastball first, which clearly plays into Burr's repertoire. He also has a sharp curveball, and those two pitches have allowed him to be dominant in high school ball.
He understands that he will need at least one more pitch to be successful at the higher levels, so he will work more extensively with a changeup this season.
"Coming into this season, I think that's one of the biggest things I need to work on," Burr said. "Not only for myself, but it's going to make the team better if I can throw three pitches for strikes. That's something I've been aware of over the offseason and something I've been doing my best to get better at."
Burr rarely begins a count with anything off-speed "unless it's a kid I've seen before and I know his habits and I know he's a good player."
Burr's astute attention to detail also helps elevate him to the top tier, his coach says.
"It's really cool because he's such a good kid," Cackowski said. "To be able to see him accomplish these goals is awesome. Obviously, making it going pro is still down the road, but for him to be mentioned with the chance to be drafted, to be looked at as a highly ranked player nationally, is a testament to all the hard work he's put in."
Athletes in similar situations often hope to zip through their senior seasons to get to the big time. Cackowski has made certain to communicate to Burr the importance of the Falcons' season and not to look too far into the future.
The conversation likely didn't last long, because Burr already was way ahead of him.
"When it comes down to it, this is my last season with all my friends I've been growing up with," Burr said. "We've had this goal since I've come here to win a state championship, so we're going to do our best to make it happen. Honestly, all the things that happen after the season can happen after the season."