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Sports

Burris brings attitude to Penn Hills

| Thursday, April 25, 2002

Penn Hills senior outfielder Rege Burris has a talent for making his presence felt and heard by the opposition.

The Indians' top player has a habit of talking to runners standing on second base, daring them to run against him if there is a hit to center field.

"That's something I like with him," Brash said. "He takes that cocky attitude out there. He'll talk to a runner on second and tell him not to go. I like that arrogance in a player."

"If I'm on target, I get people by 10 feet," Burris said. "I'm 90 percent on target. I also like base-running. I like to get in a pitcher's head. Make him think about me, not the guy at the plate. It's all part of the game."

And that strong arm is just part of the package along with a good, right-handed bat and excellent speed that have made Burris one of the better players in Class AAA and a college and pro prospect.

Burris had gotten the most attention for his speed. He has run the 60-yard dash under 6.6 seconds.

"That and my speed gets the scouts," Burris said. "That's what they like to see — speed and arm strength."

"Defensively, he's as good as it gets," Brash said. "He's got the best range I've seen. His arm is second to none in the whole area. They've clocked him at 93 miles per hour from the outfield. If a guy is on second or first and they hit it to the outfield, I'm praying that they go for it. That's a guaranteed out with him."

Through nine games, he was batting .529 with 12 RBI, seven doubles, three triples and 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts.

"He's doing fantastic," Brash said. "He's leading off. We started him in the three hole, but I think me might have felt a little uncomfortable. He's our best hitter. He will be up the most in the leadoff spot and him leading off a game with a double or a triple can give you a spark or some momentum."

That has been the down side so far. Plum opened the season 2-6-1, 0-4 in Section 4-AAA.

"We're scoring runs," Burris said. "We have a good pitching staff. We just can't seem to click together. We have big innings, then we just lose it."

Brash is trying to make sure Burris just focuses on playing rather than worry about the scouts. He won't even tell Burris when someone comes to check him out.

"I don't want him to juice a throw up more or think he has to go 4-for-4," Brash said. "He's such a natural and great baseball player. There is no reason to tell him. I can't imagine with all the pressure to keep performing day in and day out."

Brash said the Burris' recently changed their phone number and left the new one unlisted because all the attention the young outfielder is drawing.

Burris is being recruited by Gulf Coast Community College in Florida, though he is putting any on hold as he waits for the Major League Baseball draft in June. Gulf Coast Community College recruits heavily in the area and has turned out 13 major league players, including Steel Valley graduate Curtis Leskanic, a reliever with the Milwaukee Brewers.

"I'm waiting on the draft and I'll see how things go," Burris said.

"There are probably five or six teams that have sent me letters and called me wanting his schedule and when we play to see him," Brash said. "The thing with baseball is, unless you are a top 50 player in the country, you don't know out of high school when you will get drafted. It's a low-key thing until the day of the draft. He's already set up for college, so if he's drafted, it's a bonus."

Brash had a lot of college attention as a pitcher and third baseman at Penn Hills before a major shoulder injury ended his career. He has tried to help counsel Burris on dealing with scouts. He knows Burris presses to hard on occasion.

"In the beginning of the season, I went up and I thought I had to hit every ball," Burris said. "I was tightening up at the plate. I realized I've got to relax. I always expect myself to perform. I never see myself having a good game. I am to hard on myself."

"We had a big conversation on that," Brash said. "I talked to him. I had big schools looking at me. I felt like I had to get 20 strikeouts a game. I told him I don't care if he goes 0-for-4 every game. He's still going to college."

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