Georgia Tech’s freshman phenom leads Yellow Jackets into ACC play

Georgia Tech outfielder Drew Burress (8) looks to the outfield to determine if he should continue to third base during a game Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Jason Allen)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Georgia Tech outfielder Drew Burress (8) looks to the outfield to determine if he should continue to third base during a game Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Jason Allen)

It may be a concern for MLB general managers one day in the future, but Drew Burress has an itch to be on the go.

Georgia Tech’s live wire of a center fielder would rather be skiing or wakeboarding than doing something a little more low-key.

“Sitting down and relaxing is not the most relaxing thing for me,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I like going and doing stuff and being active.”

Burress certainly has been “doing stuff” for Tech baseball through the first 16 games of his college career. The freshman from Houston County High School has made national headlines with his home run prowess and leads the Yellow Jackets (12-4) into the start of ACC play at 4 p.m. Friday when North Carolina State comes to Russ Chandler Stadium for a three-game series.

A four-home run game Feb. 27 against Georgia State has been the highlight of a 10 home-run season thus far, a total which ranks third in the nation (and first among freshmen). The 5-foot-9 outfielder has proved he can pack a pop even if he isn’t the most intimating physical specimen when standing in the batter’s box.

“He’s got an elite path. And he just has a really good temperament about how he takes his at-bats. He doesn’t give a ton away,” Tech associate head coach James Ramsey said. “Usually with freshmen you’re gonna give away at-bats, you may not control the strike zone as well, but you have a great swing. Or you might control the strike zone well, but you don’t have that great of a swing yet. I think he’s done a really good job all-encompassing both.

“Then it’s just crazy power. He’s got plenty of juice in practice, but he’s one of those guys that it just continues to elevate when he gets into big moments. When he gets into games, he’s able to tap into more.”

Burress, 19, chose Tech despite being a highly regarded prospect with the chance to turn professional following his senior season at Houston County. ESPN ranked him the No. 40 overall MLB draft prospect in 2023, and he said he had offers from MLB clubs who indicated to him that he would be selected as early as the late second round.

But Burress felt then, and feels now, that he is better than that. So he opted to follow through with his commitment to Tech and spend (at least) three seasons in Midtown rather than bouncing around the minor leagues.

“Obviously coach (Danny) Hall is one of the winningest coaches of all time. Coach Ramsey is a huge reason, too, one of the greatest hitting minds I’ve been around and I’ve already reaped some benefits of that,” Burress said of choosing to play in Atlanta. “Probably the biggest thing for me is the past five, 10, however many years, Georgia Tech always hits. The guys that hit, they continue to rise, and Georgia Tech has a really good history of developing hitters.

“I had quite a few (MLB) offers, but they weren’t meeting what I felt I was worth. So, I was like, ‘I’m gonna go to school and prove that I should have (been drafted higher).’”

There’s a family element to Burress’ chosen path as well. Burress’ father, Andy Burress, was a sixth-round draft pick by Cincinnati in 1995 as an outfielder and catcher. A star at Telfair County High School, the elder Burress was shipped to Billings, Montana, from McRae. He would bounce around from there to Charleston, West Virginia, Burlington, Vermont, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Rockford, Illinois, and Stockton, California, before returning to Georgia, where he runs the 5 Star Baseball Academy in Warner Robins.

It was during the rise of that academy’s prowess that Drew Burress was raised. He acknowledges he wasn’t very much aware as a child that he was in the presence of so many great players and future stars or how that indirectly affected his development along the way (the organization has had more than 20 players reach MLB). But he did recognize hitting was his path to success.

“If you hit, you don’t sit,” he said. “If you wanna continue to go further in the game, it don’t matter if you can play a lick of defense, a lot of times if you’re a good enough hitter you’re gonna keep moving up. That’s kind of something that’s always been instilled into me, and that’s, at the end of the day, one of the things you work on the most. You take more swings in the cages and think about it more than anybody else, and you’re probably gonna be better than most.”

At Houston County High, Burress was ranked among the top 20 prospects nationally by Perfect Game, considered the No. 2 prospect in the state of Georgia and was named an All-American and one of the AJC’s 2022-23 high school athletes of the year. He hit .430 with 17 doubles, three triples and 13 homers, scored 52 runs, drove in 55 and stole 17 bases as a senior.

Yet there was hesitation from professional scouts and executives to make Burress an MLB draft priority. He believes the discussion often circled back to Burress’ 5-foot-9, 180-pound frame.

“It’s always been a thing that’s been talked about about me. To be honest with you, I think it’s one of the primary reasons that I ended up coming (to Tech) because I was so devalued in the draft because of the fact that they say I’m undersized,” Burress said. “To me, it doesn’t matter. I’ve heard it plenty, and it doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve been better than all these guys, I’m gonna continue to be better than all these guys and whether I’m 5-9 or 6-9, it doesn’t change.”

Burress is hitting .375 with 18 extra-base hits, has a slugging percentage of .984 and has 27 RBIs for the Jackets. He can recall, in detail, all four of his home runs in that aforementioned win against Georgia State — what the count was, what the pitch was and where the ball went over the fence. Burress’ phone, he said, was inundated with calls and messages for at least three hours that night after the game.

But Tech’s freshman phenom isn’t just striding to the plate simply looking to mash the ball. He said his approach starts with taking focused swings and, much like a hitter has a strategy for each at-bat, he has a strategy for each swing. He added he’s not at all satisfied with his impressive start to his college career, knowing the length of the season and ACC competition will continue to challenge him for the next two months.

“There’s always areas to improve,” Burress said. “You get into a mode when you’re seeing the ball well, everything you see you think you can hit, even though they’re not pitches that you should be hitting. It’s just one of those things, staying consistent with what I’m doing and getting pitches I like to hit.”

Burress, whose mother teaches high school economics, chose to major in business. Hall said Burress has the chance to graduate from Tech in three years, something that no player has done during Hall’s tenure at Tech.

Before the start of any baseball season Burress said he takes a dry-erase marker and writes his personal goals on his bathroom mirror. One of those goals is to be invited to play for Team USA again, and another simply is to see if he can handle ACC pitching.

The latter of those challenges begins Friday.

“Probably if you were an opponent, you might sense a little bit, like, ‘This guy is pretty cocky, pretty confident,’” Hall said. “But if you know him, he’s all about the team, he’s a great teammate, he’s constantly rooting for other players. Yet when it’s his time, he wants to be successful and help the team win in any way he can.”


Georgia Tech baseball vs. North Carolina State, 6 p.m.