Morgan Burkhart

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Morgan 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, he signed with and spent four years with the Richmond Roosters of the Frontier League and became a legend in the circuit. He hit .330/.418/.532 his first year, making the league All-Star team and leading the FL 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 HR 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 (76), as well as homers in a game (3). He hit .323/.466/.653 and drove home 74 runners, leading the league.

In 1998 he not only was MVP, was also captured the league's Triple Crown, with a .404 average and new records in homers (36, also setting a new modern record for independent leagues, RBI (98), runs (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, though, he moved on and signed with the Boston Red Sox

In the Boston system[edit]

Burkhart showed he could hit in the affiliated minors as well 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 circuit clouts. In 1999-2000, 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 the Winter League Player of the Year. Back with the Navojoa Mayos in 2003-04 and 2004-05 he led the league in HRs with 16 and 23 respectively, setting a mark with the latter for a switch-hitter and most in the history of that team.

At age 28 the next year, he hit .255/.392/.504 for the Pawtucket Red Sox, smacking 23 homers in 105 games. He became the first Pioneer 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 AB. Morgan hit .269/.382/.502 with 25 homers for Pawtucket in 2001 but only .182/.206/.303 in 11 games with Boston. He was third in the International League in homers that year behind fellow minor-league veterans Izzy Alcantara and Karim Garcia.


Let go by Boston, Morgan signed with the Daiei Hawks in 2002. He homered nine times in 126 at-bats with them, but otherwise struggled, batting .214/.293/.437 and fanning 40 times.

The Royal treatment[edit]

Burkhart was signed by the Kansas City Royals and hit .251/.361/.432 for the Omaha Royals, with 17 HR. He was 3 for 15 with Kansas City in 2003, finishing his major league career at .248/.366/.405, a 97 OPS+.

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. The 32-year-old batted .365 (7th in LMB), led the Liga with 100 runs and 95 walks and a .517 OBP, homered 24 times (3 behind leader Alcantara), drove in 91 (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, 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 baseball player. 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.

Post-Playing Career[edit]

Burkhart managed in the Independent Leagues for four years for the Calgary Vipers (2009-2011) and Windy City Thunderbolts (2012). He returned to O.B. as a coach for the Fort Wayne TinCaps in 2013-2014, San Antonio Missions in 2015, and El Paso Chihuahuas in 2016-2017.

Family Ties[edit]

Two of Morgan's brothers have also played professional baseball. Lance Burkhart has 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 indpendent 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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