White Sox ‘Jake Burger passionate about baseball again

GLENDALE, Ariz. – A little ankle soreness isn’t going to fell Jake Burger.

It will take a lot more than that for one who has been through a ruptured Achilles, a second rupture that occurred while he was in his back yard, a bruised heel and the almost overwhelming battles with anxiety and depression that came in the aftermath.

Burger can handle pretty much anything thrown his way now.

“I’ve figured out ways to manage it, but I’ll still have days to where you revert back to where you were in your worst moments,” Burger said. “But it’s not as severe or frequent.”

In March of 2020, Burger, sidelined by the injuries and dealing with things weighing heavy on his mind, opened up on social media about his mental health struggles.

Support poured in from everywhere.

“The coolest thing is realizing you’re not alone,” Burger said. “When I posted that during my injury, and when I [announced] this initiative I started this offseason, the outpouring of support, of people saying ‘Hey I’m dealing with the same thing,’ you realize there are so many out there battling. Not everyone understands that. It’s been cool people reaching out. “

“Burger BOMBS” is the initiative Burger speaks of. It includes a website he created that is building a community for open discussions about mental health. It will be up and running next week.

Besides hiking and meditation, Burger’s mental health plan includes meditation, outdoor activities like hiking, mapping out his daily routines in writing to stay grounded, reading and talking to others.

A Sox first-round draft pick in 2017, Burger blew out his Achilles in a Cactus League game in February 2018, starting his downward spiral. He missed two seasons with injuries, and then a third (2020) because of COVID. He regrouped, lost 40 pounds last offseason, and now his career path is trending upward again. It reached a significant checkpoint when he played in 15 games for the Sox last season, batting .263 / .333 / .474 with a home run.

“When I was healthy, baseball was kind of monotonous and I did not appreciate it that much,” he said. “When you get hurt, it’s ‘screw this, I do not want to play baseball anymore.’ You get on the field again and there is a new passion for it and appreciation. It’s a weird cycle, going from being a first-round pick to not knowing if you’ll play again to what I did last year. “

To talk to Burger is to wonder where the depression or anxiety might have ever existed. He’s upbeat, well spoken and gets “what a nice guy” reactions from anyone who meets him. That does not mean he’s out of the woods. He might never be completely out.

“It takes a long time to fully get over,” he said. “Being able to manage it definitely helps, for sure.”

Burger’s spring has been marked by a little bit of everything, including 5-for-18 hitting (.278) with a homer and two doubles, leaving a game Sunday with a sore ankle – a lingering aftereffect of the Achilles issue – and appearing in People magazine after he tweeted a picture of an odd sunburn on his shaved head, caused by trucker mesh in his spring training hat.

“I’ve got a bone to pick with those spring training hats,” Burger tweeted.

“That was crazy, People magazine,” he said. “Last time I checked it had like 6 million impressions, so 6 million people know what the back of my head looks like.”

With third baseman Yoan Moncada in front of him, Burger knows the challenge of making the Opening Day roster. He played first base for the first time last week and has taken grounders to expand his versatility.

“I always say wherever they need me I’ll play,” he said.

And in a better frame of mind.

“My mindset for the rest of my career will be, ‘I’m fortunate,'” he said, “and blessed to be able to play.”

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