D.J. Burt got a college baseball scholarship offer when he was a 15-year-old freshman playing on the Fuquay-Varina High junior varsity team.
South Carolina had already spotted something special and a lot of other coaches, professional and college, have agreed.
Burt, a senior shortstop, is committed to Marianna (Fla.) Chipola Junior College, but depending on where he is taken in the Major League Baseball draft in June, he might be playing professional baseball by mid-summer.
Hes getting a lot of attention. Weve got guys even coming to practice just to watch him take batting practice, not just the games and stuff like that, said Fuquay-Varina coach Milton Senter.
Nothing goes in writing until a players senior year of high school, and Burts freshman-year commitment never made it to a dotted line. When that fell through during his junior year, he made a different kind of commitment.
And this one had more staying power.
With help from his family and coaches Senter and Tom Hayes, he first planned a proper path off the field. Hayes and Senter had a simple message to Burt: no harm. The young player needed to make sure he wasnt hurting his bright future.
In Burts words, it included staying focused not just on the field but off the field, keep a positive attitude and choose who you hang around with.
They just made a big impact on my whole high school career, Burt said.
Also around that time, Burt, now a three-year varsity starter, began to put into practice the advice older players gave him about work ethic.
They told me to bust my butt in practice, and thats how I became the player that I am, Burt said.
Next, he committed to Chipola. If he doesnt wish to sign with a MLB team this summer, he can be drafted any year while at the junior college.
Whether he knew it or not, Burt has been preparing to be evaluated for more than just his skills.
Everything hes going to do is going to be scrutinized, Senter said.
Through 13 games this season, Burt is batting .500 from the leadoff spot, with 20 hits, four home runs and five steals. His power belies his 5-foot-9, 160-pound frame and he can play multiple positions.
In terms of our high school program, he is probably the best athletic prospect weve ever had, Senter said. He has all of the tools youre looking for. He can hit for average, he can hit for power, hes got a lot of speed, hes got a plus arm.
This years MLB draft is the same weekend as the high school baseball championships.
If he and his Fuquay-Varina teammates can return to the title series where they fell just short last year, it could be quite a weekend. Either way, Burts teammates will be glad to see how his second commitment paid off.
Its easy for other guys on the team to become jealous of that if the guy doesnt have the right attitude about it. But D.J. is just a great teammate, Senter said. He loves his teammates, he loves the game, he plays the game the right way. And he would never do anything to jeopardize giving his team a chance to win.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps