I'll admit, I don't know a ton about Mr. Burnett. The things I DO know are as follows: statistically he is a good pitcher; an ace on many staffs yet not a top-tier, elite pitcher. His bunting skills are suspect, almost a necessity as a pitcher in Clint Hurdle's NL army. And, he has a tough exterior typically sporting a focused look on his face and tattoos up and down his arms. One thing I didn't know is what kind of character he has. I've been told he's a leader (a quality I think the Pirates clubhouse is in need of, particularly leadership by a veteran ball player) but haven't had a chance to catch a glimpse of it until tonight.
While rehabbing with the Bradenton Marauders, "Assassin", as I'm sure his mother calls him, pitched 4 2/3 innings striking out five, giving up one run and eventually taking the 5-1 loss. After the game, Burnett made comments that struck me immediately and spoke toward the kind of person he is both on and off the playing field. When asked about the game his performance, and the other single-A players he said:
"They had some good at-bats, and I had some great plays behind me, too... Those guys played hard tonight), and it was a good game all around."
This struck me because he uses two personal pronouns to refer to himself, yet neither one reflects his performance. He had an opportunity to inflate himself and talk about how well he pitched (despite throwing against some of the lowest minor leaguers in the system) or to give some credit to the other players and also express his pride in himself, but he chose not to. He chose to instead lift up the efforts of the entire team and praise the skill and passion of the coming generations of Pirate players. I hope that Cole, Taillon, and the rest of the future Buccos in Bradenton are paying attention and taking in what AJ has to offer them. Drive and humility are desirable characteristics in anyone, especially your veteran ace.
These are certainly pieces of character that I am looking forward to seeing wear the all black jersey, P on the left chest.