Former Aztec Helps Team Israel In World Baseball Classic - Palm Springs News, Weather, Traffic, Breaking News

Former Aztec Helps Team Israel In World Baseball Classic

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Palm Desert, CA -

If you swing by Palm Desert High School on a sunny day, chances are you'll find baseball players taking batting practice. Some are current high school players, others are former Aztecs, chasing Major League dreams and more.

On this particular day, there were 3 former high school standouts, all of whom are in the minor league systems around Major League Baseball and one of whom is getting set to compete in the world's most prestigious baseball tournament. 

"My manager came up to me and asked if I was Jewish," says Scotty Burcham, former PDHS standout now playing in the Colorado Rockies Minor League system. "Which is kind of a random question to ask right before a game..." 

Burcham was just warming up for a baseball game in Kentucky when his minor league manager asked him a major question. And little did he know, half way around the world, the manager of Team Israel had been stalking him, well, sort of. 

"They (Israeli baseball officials) went on Facebook, they looked me up, they saw my mom's Facebook (who's Jewish), they saw she's from New York," says Burcham, then paused, "A lot of Jewish people live in New York apparently. A lot of her friends had Jewish names." The Israeli baseball officials seemed to gather enough information, and as Burcham says, "So they called me."

The past October, Burcham helped Team Israel qualify for it's first-ever World Baseball Classic and then found out he made the team's final roster. 

"Obviously to represent another country is something I've never dreamed of." Burcham says of the experience.

And his travel experience is about to expand rapidly. Burcham admits he's never been overseas and is somewhat "dreading" the lengthy flight to Korea on Feb 27th. But he also points out, it's going to be well worth it. 

According to fellow Aztec Alum and Angels minor leaguer, John Schuknecht, the World Baseball Classic is: "The biggest stage other than playing in the big leagues." 

Played only once every four years, the WBC is a 16-team tournament showcasing the planet's top players, including MLB All Stars, to compete in the world's largest baseball tournament.

And because baseball will be back in the Olympics next summer, Burcham says it's likely this is the last WBC. 

"It's really fun for all of us who grew up and knew and played with Scotty," says Schuknecht who was also taking batting practice with Burcham and another local baseball star Nick King. "When you see a familiar face that's going to be on TV soon, it's really exciting."

Schuknecht also admits that should Team USA face off against Team Israel, his allegiance will side with his friend Burcham, perhaps mainly because he's hoping for some souvenirs.

"Are you going to wear a Team Israel jersey?" Schuknecht is asked.

"I'm hoping Scotty can bring back some gear for me."

Burcham will meet up with Team Israel in Arizona on Feb 13th, then head to South Korea for the opening round of the tournament.

Team Israel plays in Pool A and begins their tournament against S. Korea. For a full schedule of Pool A, GO HERE. 

For more information on the World Baseball Classic, CLICK HERE. 

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