By Maurice Patton
MURFREESBORO — Jason Burleson tries to treat all his players the same – regardless of who their parents are.
Still, the veteran Summertown coach had to admit it was a “really cool moment” Tuesday morning when Eagles senior pitcher/first baseman Grant Burleson was recognized as the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association’s Class A Mr. Baseball during a ceremony at New Visions Baptist Church.
“I try to coach as fairly as I can, for all the kids. I’m a coach first on the field,” said the older Burleson – father of Grant and fellow Summertown players Gavin and Grayson. “But this was a really cool moment to have with your kid.”
As the Eagles head into Class A state tournament action at 4 p.m. Tuesday against University School of Johnson City, Burleson will have the added distinction of being the fourth straight Lawrence County product to earn the TBCA’s top honor. Loretto’s Blade Tidwell was named Mr. Baseball in 2019, after former Mustang and current San Diego Padres pitcher Ryan Weathers won the award in 2017 and ’18.
“Ryan and Blade were both really good (high school) players; both are probably going to wind up playing Major League baseball,” the younger Burleson said. “It just worked out.
“It’s definitely going to be a target on my back (this week).”
Over a 28-8 campaign, Burleson hit .477 with 16 home runs, driving in 57 runs and scoring 53, while going 6-2 on the mound with a 1.42 earned run average and 97 strikeouts in 48 innings.
“I knew my stats were pretty good,” he said. “I’ve had a good year. But there were some good players up there. It could have gone either way.”
Moore County’s Chris Martin and East Robertson’s Peyton Smith were the other two Class A finalists.
“Numbers wise, we felt like he had a good shot,” Jason Burleson said. “But Smith is going to Vanderbilt.”
Both player/son and coach/father felt like the offensive production put him over the top.
“I really didn’t expect to hit 16 (homers), if somebody had asked me before the season,” the Columbia State signee said. “I didn’t expect it to be as (good a season) as it was.”
Columbia Academy senior first baseman/pitcher Kavares Tears, a Class A finalist in 2019, watched Tuesday as future University of Tennessee teammate James McCracken of Middle Tennessee Christian was presented the Division II-A award.
Goodpasture’s Brendan Jones was the other DII-A finalist.
“I always want to finish first, but I’m considered one of the top three in my division and my (future) roommate won it,” Tears said. “I’m just as proud of him as I would be for myself.”
Tears helped the Bulldogs to a 32-9 finish and a DII-A state quarterfinals berth. On the year, he hit .462 with 11 homers, 52 RBIs and 46 runs along with a 7-2 pitching record, a 2.28 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 43 innings.
“His stats speak for themselves,” CA coach Richie Estep said. “People pitching around him all the time makes it extremely difficult, and he still produced for us. You knew every time he came up, something positive was going to happen.
“He had a tremendous career for us. We’re going to miss him and we look forward to watching him for years to come.”
Tears was the third different finalist from Columbia Academy since the award’s 2015 inception, following Scott Lentz in 2016 and Will McCall in 2018.