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Jake Burger’s return to St. Louis a family affair — and a reminder of his value to Marlins

So many of Jake Burger’s early baseball memories involved Busch Stadium, but there has always been one that comes to the forefront when he recollects on those early days.

He was 15 years old, sitting below the ballpark’s Big Mac Land in left field during Game 6 of the 2011 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers. The Cardinals rallied from down three runs to send the game to extra innings, then tied it again in the 10th before David Freese belted a walk-off homer in the 11th to even the series at 3-3. The Cardinals went on to win the World Series in seven games.

“The place was just going absolutely berserk,” Burger said. “I think we were standing in the stands for 30 minutes postgame there just going crazy. I’ll always remember that moment.”

Fast forward to Thursday, and the mood was a little more mellow a half hour after the game.

But the moment meant so much more.

There was Burger, still on the Busch Stadium field after playing his first game at his hometown ballpark ... against the team he grew up cheering for ... with more than 60 family members and friends in attendance.

Burger blasted a pair of solo home runs in the game — albeit an 8-5 Miami Marlins loss to the Cardinals that marked Miami’s eighth consecutive defeat to begin 2024 — but for a day, the result was secondary.

Especially considering the company with him.

Among those in attendance on Thursday: His grandfather Terry, who hadn’t seen Burger play in the big leagues until Thursday; his parents Mike and Shannon; his sister Ellie; his wife Ashyln and their son, Brooks.

“Four generations,” Burger said. “It’s cool to go all the way down from Brooks to my grandpa.”

“Really, there’s no words,” Burger added.

Miami Marlins third baseman Jake Burger points to the stands where friends and family gathered ahead of the team’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, April 4, 2024, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.
Miami Marlins third baseman Jake Burger points to the stands where friends and family gathered ahead of the team’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, April 4, 2024, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.

Family is paramount to Burger. A love of baseball is one of many facets that ties them together.

He and his sister grew up going to Cardinals games with his dad and grandfather. He idolized the likes of Scott Rolen and Albert Pujols growing up.

On Thursday, in the early stages of his fourth MLB season and first full year with the Marlins after being acquired at the 2023 trade deadline, Burger created the hometown moment of his own while providing the latest example of what he can provide the Marlins long-term.

“There’s a lot of gratitude and thanks to go around,” Burger said.

A young Jake Burger with his grandfather, Terry Cook.
A young Jake Burger with his grandfather, Terry Cook.

And there are a lot of traits he’s picked up from them to make him the man and player he is becoming.

From his grandfather, Burger learned the importance of always being optimistic, regardless of the situation. Terry spent most of his working days as a superintendent of a St. Louis school district.

“He’s my hero,” Burger said. “Just how he went about life and is going about life, it’s always been a positive outlook and just the right way to live. Treat people with respect and treat people with kindness. I look up to him so much and everything he’s accomplished in this life. It’s the least I can do to make [the] St. Louis [series] as special as I can for him.”

From an individual performance standpoint, Burger did that on Thursday.

After drawing a walk in the first inning, Burger hit home runs in the fourth and fifth innings for the fourth multi-homer performance of his MLB career. The first home run went 403 feet to left-center and landed in the Marlins’ bullpen. The second went 398 feet to left field and landed just below Big Mac Land — not too far from where Burger was sitting for that World Series game 13 years ago.

“It’s crazy that I’m out here — not watching the game but playing in it,” Burger said.

Apr 4, 2024; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Miami Marlins third baseman Jake Burger (36) reacts after hitting a solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the fifth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2024; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Miami Marlins third baseman Jake Burger (36) reacts after hitting a solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the fifth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the latest big performance from Burger since Miami acquired him on Aug. 1 from the Chicago White Sox for pitcher prospect Jake Eder to bolster the Marlins’ lineup.

In 61 career games with the Marlins, Burger has a .310 batting average with 14 doubles, 11 home runs, 38 RBI and 33 runs scored.

So far this season, he’s hitting .355 (11 for 31) with 10 RBI, six runs scored and a .981 on-base-plus-slugging mark while splitting time between third base, first base and designated hitter.

“He’s been nothing but special for us, honestly,” said Marlins manager Skip Schumaker, who played for many of those Cardinals teams Burger watched growing up — including that 2011 World Series team. “He’s done a really nice job with the hitting guys trying to figure out how to be the best you can be every single day. There’s not a pitcher that comes in that he doesn’t know. It’s impressive the amount of homework he does on each guy, and the results are because of the all the work that he puts in.”

The work ethic stems from his dad, who worked on a small farm in southern Indiana.

“With my dad it’s all about determination and going out there and capturing whatever you want,” Burger said. “A big part of it is just having that understanding of nothing’s gonna be handed to you. You’ve got to go out there and work as hard as you can.”

That mindset helped Burger get through the hurdles of his early career, including a twice-ruptured Achilles tendon and a bruised left heel.

“The injuries were a big moment in my life, a traumatic moment,” Burger said, “and having that upbringing of being determined and working as hard as I can got me to this point and that’s that’s gonna be the mindset for the rest of my life.”

Miami Marlins infielder with his son, Brooks, after the team’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, April 4, 2024, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.
Miami Marlins infielder with his son, Brooks, after the team’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, April 4, 2024, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.

That upbringing has also helped keep him humble as he maneuvers through being a father himself.

Brooks, who is one-and-a-half, is quickly following in his dad’s footsteps. He’s rarely seen without a bat or ball in his hand. Burger doesn’t force baseball on Brooks, but the sport has already created a lot of memories between father and son.

“He’s around baseball so much that he just enjoys it,” Burger said. “The easiest way for me to stop a tantrum right now is showing some baseball highlights. Right when I get home, it’s him picking up a bat, running over to me, giving me a hug and starting to take swings with me.”

And Burger is quick to admit that Brooks isn’t only seeing highlights of dad.

“He’s got the Luis Arraez swing going,” Burger said. “I’ve been showing him a lot of Luis’ swing. He’s still obsessed with my highlights, too. I think it’s more of just ‘Dada’s on the TV’ versus baseball with me, but when I’m showing him Josh [Bell] and Luis, it’s all about baseball.”