Tony Reeder’s words to his left fielder at the beginning of summer were, “Be patient.”
He needed Blake Burd to trust his abilities, his athletic resume, and his coach’s leading.
Today, when Burd says, “It’s God first. And I’m happy my coaches and parents and teammates all supported me,” it’s a statement everyone in Collinsville can celebrate.
Burd, a senior at Collinsville High School, has given his verbal commitment to accept a baseball scholarship at Wichita State University.
“Oh man, I’m super pumped,” Burd said in a phone interview with the Owasso Reporter. “It was a great opportunity that God laid in front of me.”
Burd is a two-sport athlete, but the Shockers want him in left or center field.
At Collinsville, he has succeeded on the baseball field as an outfielder and on the football field as a durable running back when healthy.
Those healthy moments have been too few.
In 2013, concussion protocol sidelined Burd for half his freshman football season. He showed promise the next spring in baseball but was forced to step away when he tore his right labrum. Surgery then caused him to miss the entire season.
By the time football rolled around last fall, he was healthy and ready to compete as a junior. But tragedy struck again.
In the season opener at Oologah, Burd landed on his left shoulder after a run up the middle and had to come out of the game.
He had torn the acromioclavicular joint in his left shoulder.
“Well,” he said, “I remember asking myself, ‘Gollee ... Is this ever gonna come around? When am I gonna have a chance to play?’”
Kevin Jones and the rest of the football staff made a few desperate attempts at reinserting their star tailback, but Burd was burned by injury. His season was effectively done.
From there, Burd stayed busy rehabilitating his shoulder and made himself ready for his junior baseball season. Healthy mind, healthy body.
Except, he wasn’t locating pitches very well. His eyesight at the plate was poor, and it was affecting his ability to move runners and get on base.
After several contact lenses and prescriptions failed, Burd got a pair of specialized sports glasses and returned to his old self. This summer, he batted above .500 in 27 games for Mark Roberts on a sandlot travel team.
“He came to me after hitting in the cage and said, ‘I want to have a strong summer because I feel like I let my team down in the spring,’” Roberts said. “His work ethic is second to none. He had the determination that he wasn’t going to have a summer like he did last spring.”
Roberts played the Collinsville Kid in center field, citing Burd’s speed as his greatest tool.
“He’s electric every time he crosses the line,” Roberts said. “He’s so fast and quick to the ball, and he’s someone who takes a professional approach to what he’s doing.”
Roberts also said Burd would often beat out ground balls hit to the left side of the infield, hustling down the line each time.
“Blake’s got a high ceiling in his baseball career, if he stays healthy, which shouldn’t be a problem,” Roberts said. “He takes care of his body and his family, and he’s a high-character kid.”
Word has been getting around that Burd isn’t going to play football his senior year. He said he hopes people can respect that choice, and he’s quick to point out that he’s doing just fine.
After all, Wichita State is convinced. And those injuries — the right shoulder, left shoulder, concussion from freshman year — they’re old news.
“Saw several doctors [and that] was not the fix,” he said. “Eventually God healed me.”