The Value Of Being A Two-Way On The USA Collegiate National Team

Image credit: Alec Burleson (Photo by Carl Kline)

CARY, N.C. — No matter the level, there’s this thing in baseball where it seems as if there’s never enough pitching. Limited roster spots make it challenging at both the collegiate and professional levels to have the ideal amount of options out on the mound.

So when it comes to being versatile enough to be a position player and a pitcher, you provide added value. With only 24 players allowed on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team’s travel roster for its summer schedule, versatility is extremely valued. On the fourth and final day of the Red vs. Blue Series, coach Dan McDonnell and his staff took a look at several two-way players as the 24-man roster was being finalized.

East Carolina sophomore Alec Burleson started on the mound for the Red team. He’d already played first base, right field and DH earlier in the week. But in two innings pitched, Burleson threw 10 of his 19 pitches for strikes and used his changeup to stifle’s Blue’s bats for two innings.

“Working down the zone, working my changeup over, I feel like that’s my best pitch . . . These are all good hitters, so I feel like if I messed up they would make me pay for it,” said Burleson. “I always compete . . . make sure I know I can beat whoever’s in the box. That’s what I’ve done all season. I kind of didn’t know where I was playing ’til game time, but I feel comfortable anywhere, anywhere (Coach McDonnell) puts me and try to do my best.”

Burleson also drew two walks and scored twice in Red’s 4-2 win as the designated hitter. His size, ability and versatility have earned him a spot on Team USA.

“He’s that old saying, he’s just a baseball player. He’s not the fastest guy, he might not have the most power, he doesn’t throw the hardest on the mound, but he does everything really well,” McDonnell said when asked about Alec Burleson, who Louisville competed against in its super regional this past June. “And after a weekend series, or a week or three weeks, there’s so much value in having a guy like that.

“I had to watch so much video and talk to so many coaches about him, and I was looking forward to competing with him . . . I remember leaving the weekend and going that kid is a ball player, and I’m really glad he’s here.”

Baylor shortstop and righthander Nick Loftin also saw time on the mound and proved that he could be an option for McDonnell as the team heads into the upcoming weeks, although he did give up four hits and two runs in 0.1 innings on Sunday.

“Loftin didn’t really throw this year, so we just wanted to get him out there, just in case,” said McDonnell. “You got two guys that will make it because they deserve to make it as position players but then they add that value of having two more pitchers.”

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