It was just the third game of the season. But for Joey Burney and the DeKalb County Liners, it may have been a turning point.
Against Will County on June 3, Burney, a first baseman from Old Dominion University, stepped to the plate to lead off the seventh inning with the Liners trailing by two runs. He led off by crushing a pitch for a home run. The Liners would tie the game in the eighth, then come back in the bottom of the ninth to win.
Without Burney’s homer, the game might not have reached the point of a comeback.
“The way everyone came streaming out of the dugout after the walk-off single, I just knew these guys were different from the past two teams, the win meant that much to them.” said Liners official scorer and chief administrator of the Midwest Collegiate League Brien Martin.
Burney studies both finance and accounting at ODU. As a baseball player, he began making an impact early. His freshman year at Old Dominion he played in 45 games, starting 40. He hit eight home runs and had 34 RBIs. As a sophomore, he switched from designated hitter to first base, a new position for him, meaning more time on the field.
“Playing for the Liners is much more relaxed,” Burney said. “At school, there is a lot more pressure for me to perform.”
Pressure or no pressure, Burney is currently leading the Midwest Collegiate League in home runs at seven. His most memorable one was a “hit with a broken bat against Chicago.” The Liners, having already clinched a playoff spot, are on a four-game winning streak with an overall record of 25-14 with five games remaining in the regular season. Burney’s home run prowess have helped the Liners reach the top of the MCL standings and the inside track for the top seed in the four-team playoffs.
Having a player such as Burney benefits the team because of his consistency.
“Burney is the same every day, his characteristics are always good, he is always working hard and puts the interest of the team first.” Liners general manager Josh Pethoud said.
Although Burney has made a serious impact on the Liners and at Old Dominon, the future looks even brighter, Pethoud said.
“He’s got a lot of potential, he has a good left handed bat and he is a great defender,” Pethoud said. “I think he is going to have a great upcoming season.”
And for Burney a dream come true is simply, “to play as long as possible.”