SANTA CRUZ — Santa Cruz High’s Langston Burkett has aspirations of playing baseball professionally. His friends and family will have an in-person opportunity to track his progress toward that goal when he plays in college.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound right-handed pitcher committed to NCAA Division I San Jose State University last week.
“I’m excited to go to a school close by, so my family can come see me play,” said Burkett, before continuing. “They have great facilities and coaches. Hopefully, I can be developed and play somewhere beyond college.”
Burkett competed at the prestigious Area Code Games showcase in August in San Diego and also gained exposure competing for Cal Club Baseball (CCB) at tournaments in Arizona. He also had an offer from Long Beach State University.
A standout basketball player for the Cardinals as well, Burkett helped both programs reach the Central Coast Section playoffs the past two seasons. Make no mistake, he said, baseball is his true love.
He realized as a high school sophomore that playing in college was a possibility. It was then that he began to make changes in his life to help make it a reality. One of them was a diet change, helping him shed 55 pounds. He also started working out and training at Rossy’s Training in Scotts Valley.
“I was able to pitch easier and more efficiently,” Burkett said of the weight loss.
His confidence, poise, and command on the mound has grown tremendously over the past two years, and Cardinals coach Bubba Trumbull expects him to continue to do so.
“He’s a competitor,” said Trumbull, noting that he threw Burkett in his toughest matchups. “Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he’s getting outs. He’s pretty polished, but he has a lot more upside. He doesn’t blow it by you, but he’s going to add (velocity) and keep pitching to his repertoire.”
As of now, his repertoire includes four-seam and two-seam fastballs, a curveball, and changeup. His fastball has been clocked in the 88-90 mph range.
Burkett threw 39 innings last season, a limited total after helping the basketball team reach the CIF NorCal playoffs. He posted a 3-1 record with one save, struck out 41 batters and posted a 3.70 ERA.
In his final baseball playoff game, he was nothing short of phenomenal. With the Cardinals holding a 2-0 lead against Burlingame, he was pulled in the seventh inning after letting the first two batters reach base. He finished with one hit and one walk allowed, as the bullpen faltered and the Cardinals lost 4-3 in eight innings in the Division III semifinals.
A year earlier, he was roughed up in a 12-0, five-inning loss to host Los Altos in the D-III semifinals.
Burkett said the blowout inspired him for greater things as a junior. He was a first-team all-Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League selection and utility because he also played first base and shined at the plate.
“It paid off having that experience, being in that spot where I had failed and learned and grew from that,” he said.
Burkett knows he’ll have other tough outings in college, but he’s anxious to continue to learn and grow, and do so with the ones he loves most watching him.
“It’s definitely a hitters’ conference,” he said of competing in the Mountain West. “It’s going to be a challenge as a pitcher. The ball tends to fly at some of those places. I’ll try to keep (the ball) down and keep it in the park.”