Morgan Burkhart

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Morgan Boyd Burkhart

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Biographical Information[edit]

Independent league legend[edit]

First baseman Morgan Burkhart went undrafted after being on the top team in NCAA Division II in his senior year of college, 1994. After a year as an assistant coach for Central Missouri State University, he spent four years with the Richmond Roosters of the Frontier League, becoming a legend in the circuit. He hit .330/.418/.532 his first year, making the league All-Star team and leading the league with 28 doubles and 70 RBI. He won the MVP award in 1996 (.357/.472/.658, second in average, a league-leading 27 doubles and 17 home runs and second with 64 RBI; he also stole 22 bases). He repeated as MVP in 1997, when he set league records for homers (24), total bases (186) and runs scored (76), as well as home runs in a game (3). He hit .323/.466/.653 and drove home 74 runners, leading the league. In 1998, he not only was MVP, he captured the league's Triple Crown, with a .404 average and new records in homers (36, a new modern record for independent leagues), RBI (98), runs scored (97), extra-base hits (55), slugging (.861) and OBP (.557). He was named Independent League Player of the Year by Baseball America. Some opined that Burkhart's size was preventing big league teams from showing interest in someone with his talent. As he had crossed the age limit for the Frontier League, he moved on and signed with the Boston Red Sox

In the Boston system[edit]

Burkhart showed he could hit in the affiliated minors in 1999, crushing the ball to the tune of .363/~.445/.718 for the Sarasota Red Sox with 23 homers in 68 games but only .230/~.330/.448 for the Trenton Thunder. Overall, he homered 35 times and drove in 108, leading the Boston system in both statistics. Despite his limited playing time, he led the Florida State League in long balls. In the 1999-2000 winter season, he hit .315 with 18 homers and a league-high 55 RBI for the Navojoa Mayos of the Mexican Pacific League. Baseball America named him Winter League Player of the Year. At age 28 in 2000, he hit .255/.392/.504 for the Pawtucket Red Sox, smacking 23 homers in 105 games. He became the first Frontier League alumnus to make the major leagues, appearing in 25 games for Boston and batting a very impressive .280/.442/.493 with 18 RBI in 73 at bats. Morgan hit .269/.382/.502 with 25 homers for Pawtucket in 2001 but only .182/.206/.303 in 11 games in the bigs. He was third in the International League in homers that year behind fellow minor-league veterans Izzy Alcantara and Karim Garcia.

Japan and The Royal treatment[edit]

Let go by Boston, Morgan signed with the Daiei Hawks in 2002. He homered 9 times in 126 at-bats but otherwise struggled, batting .214/.293/.437 and fanning 40 times. Burkhart was subsequently signed by the Kansas City Royals and hit .251/.361/.432 for the Omaha Royals with 17 home runs. He batted 3-for-15 with Kansas City in 2003, finishing his major league career at .248/.366/.405 for a 97 OPS+. Back with the Navojoa Mayos in the winters of both 2003-04 and 2004-05, he once again led the Mexican Pacific League in homers with 16 and 23 respectively, setting a mark in the latter season for a switch-hitter and most in the history of that team.

South of the border[edit]

After a 2-for-18, 9 strikeout stint for the 2004 Charlotte Knights, Morgan went to the Mexican League with the Saltillo Saraperos. He batted .365 (7th in LMB), led the Liga with 100 runs scored, 95 walks and a .517 OBP, homered 24 times (3 behind leader Alcantara), drove in 91 runs (six fewer than Roberto Saucedo and slugged .658. Returning as Saltillo's cleanup hitter and first baseman in 2005, Burkhart batted .304/.466/.583. He was third in the Liga in OBP (behind Felix Jose and Rontrez Johnson), hit 26 more homers, scored 91 times, drove in 72, was plunked a Liga-high 22 times and drew 84 walks, third in the circuit. He had reached 250 career home runs as a professional. On June 8, 2006, he was traded from Saltillo to the Campeche Pirates in a surprising transaction between both teams; Saltillo received infielder Tom Evans in return. He finished the season with a combined .284/.398/.435 line in 117 games, hitting 14 home runs and driving in 62 runs. Following a winter league stint with Algodoneros de Guasave (.254/.341/.421, 6 home runs, 18 RBI in 30 games), Morgan's career was complete.

Post-Playing Career[edit]

After retiring as a player, Burkhart spent the next five years coaching and managing the Calgary Vipers. He was the hitting coach in 2007-2008 and managed the team from 2009-2011. He led the Vipers to a league championship in 2009. In those five years the Vipers played in the Northern League (2007), the Golden Baseball League (2008-2010), and the North American League (2011). Burkhart moved to the Frontier League in 2012 as manager of the Windy City ThunderBolts. Despite signing a two-year contract extension after the season, Burkhart's stay with the ThunderBolts only lasted one year.

Burkhart returned to organized ball as a hitting coach in the San Diego Padres system with the Fort Wayne TinCaps in 2013-2014, San Antonio Missions in 2015, and El Paso Chihuahuas in 2016-2019. He was scheduled to return to El Paso in 2020 before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. Burkhart remained in the Padres organization in 2021 in some capacity. He was listed as a Batting Practice/Hitting Instuctor with the Padres in 2022 so perhaps that was his role in 2021 also.

After the 2012 season, Burkhart managed the Saskatchewan Silver Sox in the Arizona Winter League.

Family Ties[edit]

Two of Morgan's brothers also played professional baseball. Lance Burkhart played in four major league organizations and spent 2005 and 2006 with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League. Damon Burkhart played four seasons in the Frontier League.

Sources: 1995-2006 Baseball Almanacs, 2005-2006 Baseball Guides

Notable Achievements[edit]

Year-By-Year Minor League Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs
2009 Calgary Vipers Golden Baseball League 49-27 1st Independent Leagues League Champs
2010 Calgary Vipers Golden Baseball League 53-35 3rd Independent Leagues Lost in 1st round
2011 Calgary Vipers North American League 53-33 2nd Independent Leagues Lost in 1st round
2012 Windy City Thunderbolts Frontier League 54-42 5th (t) Independent Leagues

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