A-K Valley Senior Spotlight: Leechburg’s Tommy Burke
Monday, May 16, 2022 | 1:28 PM
Tommy Burke spent his four years in high school balancing numerous activities, including baseball, football, academics and musical theater.
Despite the hefty workload, the Leechburg senior managed to become the school’s valedictorian.
Burke excelled on the gridiron last fall as the Blue Devils’ starting quarterback, throwing for 2,207 yards and helping the team achieve a winning season and reach the playoffs for the first time in 30 years.
This spring, he is playing center field, and he stepped into a role as a starting pitcher.
As a two-way player, he strives for consistency and is hitting his stride this season.
Burke went 3 for 4 and drove in one run in a 15-1 win against St. Joseph on May 2 and followed up with a win on the mound, pitching four innings and striking out five batters with an RBI double in a 16-1 win over St. Joseph the next day.
Although he had early struggles at the plate, Burke put together a nine-game hitting streak. He made adjustments, using a more open stance, and is now hitting .433.
Burke, a Waynesburg football recruit, took a few minutes last week for an A-K Valley senior spotlight Q&A:
What is one thing you have to do before every baseball game?
I put my uniform on the exact same way every time. Even before football games. I’m a very superstitious guy, so I like doing things the same way every time because I like consistency.
When did you realize that you had a hitting streak going, and what was your mindset during your hitting streak?
I started the year off with six strikeouts. I was like 0 for 12 or 13, starting the year off, and I really sat down with my coach and I asked him what I was doing wrong. We made some changes to my batting stance and ever since then I’ve been hitting the ball, putting it in play, using my speed to my advantage and just getting deeper into counts. I really started noticing my hitting streak probably after four or five games. I was like, ‘OK, well, hey, I’m doing some good, I should just keep this going.’
How does it feel to make an impact as a pitcher and a hitter?
I never really pitch because quarterback and pitcher have very different throwing motions. That always messes me up throwing a football and throwing a baseball, but this year it means it was senior night. I said ‘Coach if you need someone to pitch, I can pitch and I can start. I can see what happens.’ And it worked pretty well.
How do you balance school, football and baseball?
I always make school first because, I mean, I’m not the biggest guy. I’m not the fastest guy. I’m not going to go to the NFL or MLB, so school was always first for me because academics are going to take you further than sports.
What does it mean to you to become valedictorian?
It shows other kids that you don’t have to be this stereotype of a person to only be smart or to be just a good athlete. You can be both. You just got to put your heart into it and work hard.
What did it mean for Leechburg to make the football playoffs?
This year, we had a saying that was “TDTM” which stands for “their dream through me,” which meant that for every past season and every person that lived in Leechburg, we wanted to live out their dreams, which is to have a good football program.
Who has pushed you the hardest and has helped you the most throughout your athletic career?
My mom and my dad are always on me with everything. They’ve put a lot on the line and sacrificed a lot of time, money and everything just for me. I’m so thankful for that.
What stood out about Waynesburg?
I’m majoring in pre-medicine, and I want to become a pediatric cardiologist or a surgeon one day, and at Waynesburg, they have a program where if you finish with a 3.5-grade point average or better, you get a guaranteed interview with WVU medical school. I thought that was awesome because it’s already hard enough to get into medical school, let alone get an interview like that.
When did you realize that going into the medical field was for you?
My sister was born with a congenital heart defect and DiGeorge syndrome. At two weeks old, she had to have open-heart surgery, and I promised myself that I want to be a doctor and that I want to help other kids like her. I want to help other people in this world to get better.
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