Hornet alumnus starred for Israel in World Baseball Classic


Former Sacramento State shortstop Scott Burcham played for the Israeli National team during the World Baseball Classic after finishing his season with the Colorado Rockies’ Single-A affiliate, the Asheville Tourists. (Photo courtesy of Scott Burcham)

Noah Alvarez

From growing up idolizing his father’s pursuit of Major League Baseball, to boosting the Israeli national team into the World Baseball Classic, former Sacramento State baseball player Scott Burcham has had one rollercoaster of a journey.

During the weekend of Sept. 22, the Israeli national team and Burcham competed in a double elimination tournament against three other nations in Brooklyn, New York. The winner was guaranteed a spot for the World Baseball Classic in 2017.

“It was awesome to represent a country that is trying to make baseball a more popular sport in their nation,” Burcham said. “Spending a week in Brooklyn was really cool too.”

Burcham, who played baseball for the Hornets from 2012-15, received the opportunity to play for Israel after finishing with a .271 batting average and a .931 fielding percentage with the Colorado Rockies’ Single-A affiliate, the Asheville Tourists, in 2016. The subject was brought up by Burcham’s manager before one of the team’s road games.

“My manager asked if I was Jewish, and I said ‘Yeah, how did you know?’” Burcham recalled. “He then told me that Jerry Weinstein, the manager of the Israeli national team, contacted him to see if I’d be interested in playing for the qualifiers. I said yes right away because I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up and it would open many doors for me.”

Burcham’s mother, Mimi Burcham, is of Jewish descent, thus making Burcham eligible to play on the Israeli national team.

In his three games during the qualifying round, Burcham finished with a .455 batting average (the highest on the team), three runs, a double, and mainly played third base for the Israeli national team, position despite typically playing at shortstop.

“I think playing third base helped me a lot defensively,” Burcham said. “It only adds to your value if you can play other positions … it makes me a more versatile player.”

Burcham, a four-year starter at Sac State, added a similar value to the Hornets’ lineup in years past and his impact on the baseball program has not been forgotten by former teammates like senior infielder Brandon Hunley.

“He was the best infielder I’ve ever played with,” Hunley said. “There would be many plays on defense where all of us accepted that it was going to find a hole and be a hit, but Scotty would get to it, make the play and surprise everyone.”

Sac State head coach Reggie Christiansen, who recruited Burcham to become a Hornet, describes him as an “outstanding teammate” and the best infielder he’s ever coached.

“Scott was the same everyday, not too hot, not too cold,” Christiansen said. “I am not surprised at all by his success in the minors and the World Baseball Classic. He has a hard work ethic and possesses great leadership qualities on and off the field.”

One person who also had the opportunity to watch Burcham compete at Sac State is Hornets’ baseball play-by-play broadcaster Anthony Rifenburg.

“Burcham was as good a defensive shortstop as they come, but what he meant to this program and to coach Christiansen was huge,” Rifenburg said. “I’ve never seen Reggie as emotional as he was at the senior day ceremony after Burcham’s last game.”

Burcham began playing baseball at the age of four and looked to his dad as a role model in pursuing an MLB career. His father Tim Burcham was drafted by the California Angels in the 1985 draft and spent 10 years playing in the minor leagues for the Angels and San Francisco Giants farm systems.

Burcham now awaits confirmation from Weinstein whether or not he made the final Israeli roster for the 2017 World Baseball Classic in March.

“I am hoping I get a call back with good news,” Burcham said. “If I get to play for the Israeli team next year, I am going to make the most out of it.”