Nick Burdi long ago established himself as one of the top high school pitchers in Illinois and the country.
He even caught the eye of ESPN lead baseball analyst Keith Law at last summer’s Area Code Games in California.
Now as the 6-foot-5 right hander’s Downers Grove South High School career comes to a close, the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft is fast approaching. The question is not so much if Burdi will get selected, but when.
“I am very excited,” said Burdi, who has been told that he could go anywhere between the third and fifth round. “I’m excited to begin the next chapter in life, wherever that may be. But I am staying focused on the fact that it is a long road ahead and I have a lot to learn.”
Burdi first encountered scouts in the fall of his junior year at a showcase at the University of Iowa. And ever since, he has received increased attention with radar guns present at nearly every one of his travel and high school starts. That included a high-water mark of 71 scouts earlier this season when the Mustangs played in Arizona in late March.
Through it all, Burdi said his main concern has been on the team while staying grounded individually.
“There is a lot of pressure,” the senior said, “but I try to just remember that all I can do is what I can do. If that is what the pro scouts are looking for then we have a match. Baseball is not a game that you can fake. There is no wide receiver to make great catches on a QB’s bad passes. You either have what the scouts are looking for or you don’t.
“The one thing I know is that pitching takes all your focus and concentration. If I move my focus off of the batter, nobody will like what they see. I also remember that I have teammates that are expecting me to stay focused and pitch well. I never want to let my teammates down.”
Darren Orel has enjoyed going along for the ride. The Downers Grove South head baseball coach enjoyed working with the scouts and learning about how the system works.
The process also brought a lot of exposure to the Downers South program and the rest of its players.
“Overall it’s been a positive experience, a bit overwhelming at times, but positive,” Orel said. “Nick has handled the attention very well. From a coaching standpoint, I think Nick is the once-in-a-lifetime pitcher. I don’t expect I will get another guy who can throw 95 plus in high school. I’ll keep wishing though.”
Burdi has several options and a big decision ahead of him. With a scholarship to the University of Louisville to fall back on, Burdi doesn’t have to make the direct jump to the minor leagues.
Of course, high-round selection in the draft likely would yield a substantial signing bonus and might be too hard to pass up.
“I do not want to minimize a Louisville education,” Burdi said. “I am blessed and grateful to have received that offer and a pro offer will really have to be substantial for me to forgo my Louisville experience.”
For future standout players that might be fortunate enough to go through this process, Burdi offers a piece of advice.
“If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in this situation,” he said, “be prepared for the ups and downs that are involved with this process. The key is to stay focus on what you can control, and what you can control is your performance between the lines. Everything else will fall into place.”