Meet Itchy Burts, One Of College Baseball's Most Unforgettable Talents
Not long after David Burts first put on a baseball uniform, one of his coaches noted that his offensive game was reminiscent of Ichiro Suzuki, who at that time had just burst onto the scene here in America.
Burts would often slap at the ball from the left-handed batter’s box, not unlike what you see in softball, and he beat out his fair share of infield hits.
And with that, a nickname was born. Initially, it was “Ichi,” but over time, that morphed into “Itchy.”
To say it caught on is an understatement. By the time he reached high school, everyone from his friends to his teachers called him Itchy. In fact, Burts now struggles to come up with anyone in his life, outside of a small circle of family members, that would think to call him by his given name.
“I guess, if anything, just family and my professors in college,” Burts said. “Everybody else just basically calls me Itchy.”
Of course, it’s one thing to have a childhood nickname. At some point during youth, most everyone has a name they answer to other than the one that appears on their birth certificate.
But what set Burts apart and allowed him to become something of a sensation is his commitment to the nickname throughout his college career. That came down to one decision he made early on that many players might not have made.
When he first made his commitment to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Burts was issued an athlete information sheet, which asked for his name, the name he prefers to go by and the name he would like listed on the roster.
Many players, or perhaps most players, might have assumed that they were supposed to put their given name as their roster name. Still more might have made the decision that it was time to ditch the childhood nickname altogether.
Burts took the road less traveled. He decided to be listed as Itchy Burts on the roster, and that set him on the path to topping Baseball America’s list of the Top 50 names in college baseball three years running.
“When I committed to Corpus, they sent over (a) personal info (sheet) to fill out, and it was like full name, preferred name, roster name, and I kind of just said ‘I’ll put Itchy. Can’t hurt,’ ” Burts said.
The name has also become joke fodder for play-by-play announcers calling A&M-Corpus Christi games and a point of amusement for public address announcers in the Islanders’ road games, who, fearing a Ron Burgundy gaffe that could come with blindly reading something incorrectly, aren’t always sure that the name they’re reading on the lineup card is the right one.
“The (PA) announcer, he’ll be like ‘Batting first, Luke Marbach.’ Then he’s like 'Batting second...uh...Itchy...Burts?’ He’ll hesitate,” Burts said. “And then it’s fun when my mom watches the live stream (with) what other announcers say about my name and stuff.”
For the most part, Itchy Burts continues to go by Itchy Burts because it’s just what people call him, but there’s also something more to it. Like an actor using a stage name, Burts might be David to those who have just met him, and it's the name on his driver’s license, but when he is in a baseball uniform, he’s Itchy.
Burts knows one day he’ll have to move on to the next phase of his life and at that point, it will be time to go back to being David. But until that moment comes, he’ll continue to be Itchy.
“If I go get a job, I’ve got to go back to David, I feel like,” Burts said. “I’ll probably have to go back to David, but if I somehow manage to keep playing baseball, I guess I’ve got to stick with Itchy.”
It remains to be seen if Burts will have the opportunity to ply his trade in pro baseball one day, especially given that he’s not considered a top-tier prospect.
But now we know he can have at least one more season as Itchy Burts thanks to the NCAA Division I Council’s decision on Monday to grant an additional year of eligibility to all players.
A senior, Burts is inclined to come back to play one more year in Corpus Christi, but he recognizes the debate someone in his position has to have in order to make that decision.
“I want to play another year, but at the same time, I don’t know if I need to pay for another year of school just to play baseball another year,” Burts said. “It’s a lot to think about. It definitely got thrown on us pretty quickly.”
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You can guarantee that Texas A&M-Corpus Christi would love to have a player of his caliber back. After all, the nickname still fits his game. Burts succeeds much in the same way Ichiro did. He’s incredibly good at the simple but difficult task of getting the barrel of the bat to the ball with consistency.
The senior is a .337 career hitter and he’s struck out just 72 times in more than 600 career plate appearances. In a breakout sophomore season back in 2018, he hit .401 with just 13 strikeouts in 137 at-bats.
At the same time, he’s not the type of player who will pile up massive walk totals, and listed at 5-foot-7 and 180 pounds, he’s no more imposing in the batter’s box than Ichiro, who was a few inches taller but just as light.
As time has gone on, Burts has developed some power, and he had 22 extra-base hits in 2019, but he realizes he brings the most to the table being the same guy he’s always been rather than trying to be someone he’s not.
“I understand that I’m a 5-foot-7, 170-pound kid. I’m not going to be knocking them off the fence every time,” Burts said. “I think I serve the team a better purpose getting on base, as opposed to me having power numbers.”
Put another way, Itchy Burts has provided the Islanders a ton of value and has drawn individual accolades by just simply being Itchy Burts.