Scott Burrell reflects on baseball career


Mike NevilleSports Editor

When you hear the name Scott Burrell, the University of Connecticut, Michael Jordan, Bulls and basketball all come to mind immediately. Burrell, the men’s basketball coach at Southern Connecticut State University, has made a career of being a successful role player in the world of professional basketball.

The Scott Burrell you don’t know is the baseball flamethrower who threw well over 90 MPH and the only professional athlete to be drafted in the first round of the MLB and NBA drafts. Burrell’s love for the game of baseball, like many, started at an early age right down the road.

“I’ve been around sports, my dad coached at Yale. As a baby I would go to all the Yale baseball games he coached baseball, so I was around all those guys,” said Burrell.

Scott’s growing up around his father learned from the best. He coached baseball at Wilbur Cross High School and later was the head baseball coach at Hillhouse High School.

He also coached American Legion Post 47 baseball from 1956 to 1967 and won several zone championships. The Yale baseball program was his biggest accomplishment.

“When you are young you just watch. You pick up things and try to imitate things that other people did,” said Burrell. “I loved doing that. I had so much fun back then and I have great memories of those days.”

Although Burrell went on to win championships with the great Michael Jordan, basketball was not his first love.

“It was between baseball and basketball, always,” said Burrell. “I don’t know which came first, but it was those two.”

Burrell’s baseball career started right in his hometown of Hamden, Connecticut. He would go on to place at the town’s high school, under the watchful eye of Vin Virgulto.

Before Burrell made his decision to embark on his academic and athletic career at Hamden High School, there were many options for him.

“I think he was thinking about Notre Dame,” said Virgulto. “He can throw a football 60 yards then pitch, so there were lots of schools that wanted him.”

During his first year at Hamden, Burrell became the catcher for Virgulto’s team on the varsity level.

“He was a catcher his first year and I said, my God, nobody is going to steal against this kid,” said Virgulto. “We put him on the mound, and it was just a different world.”

The decision to make Burrell a full-time pitcher worked perfect. He hit well over 90 during his time in high school and beyond. Before being a starter at the University of Connecticut for basketball, Burrell almost became a pitcher for the Hurricanes at the University of Miami.

“Coach Calhoun put a lot of pressure on me. The importance of staying home and building bridges and playing Big East basketball pushed me away from playing baseball,” said Burrell.

Those bridges and staying close to home have always been a big part of Burrell’s upbringing. This was seen first-hand during his time in high school: Being there for coach Virgulto after he suffered a massive heart attack.

“Him (Scott) and about 90 other ball players came over to my house to watch the NCAA tournament,” said Virgulto. “That was one of the biggest things that helped me get back that season.”

Out of high school, Burrell got the opportunity of a lifetime. He was drafted in the first round of the MLB draft by the Seattle Mariners, but he did not sign. Scott’s baseball journey did not end there. He was drafted again, this time in the third round of the 1990 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.

“Toronto allowed me to go to school and play baseball. The Mariners said just play baseball, negotiations didn’t work out in the end for me,” said Burrell.

This effectively ended Burrell’s baseball career until a short stint with Toronto, but his minor league career taught him a new lesson.

“My time in the minor leagues, it helped me grow up, being away from home for the first time. In a different country my first year I was in Canada,” said Burrell. “I loved it, I also hated it.” Burrell.

The love for the game never dwindled away for Burrell. What it came down to was playing against the best athletes.

“You were playing against the best players day in and day out,” said Burrell. “The fan base at UConn was electric and all those things pushed me towards basketball.”

If he would have a successful career in the majors, we will never know. We are just left with “what if ?” Many people daydream about living their childhood dreams. Baseball has popped up a time or two for Burrell.

“My life would have been very different,” said Burrell. “You never know what baseball could have brought. Basketball brought me to the highest level of and I don’t have any regrets for that.”

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