Injured Burriss mentoring Giants' prospects
Infielder, 25, offers advice to youngsters while on sidelines
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ask a Minor League position player participating in his first Giants big league camp to name the veterans who have offered advice or insight, and you can predict who he'll almost certainly mention."Emmanuel Burriss," was the first Giant who center fielder Darren Ford cited. "I've always talked to Emmanuel Burriss a lot," outfielder Thomas Neal said before he was reassigned to Minor League camp. "Manny Burriss," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "He helped me a lot before he got hurt. Whether it's defensive positioning or what the coaches want out of me -- before the coaches even have to tell me." Having fractured his left foot while running the bases twice in a nine-month span, Burriss doesn't know when he'll resume playing. The middle infielder is in the process of settling upon a course of treatment with the Giants' medical staff. Nevertheless, Burriss is still contributing actively by counseling the team's promising rookies. Burriss is a natural leader for the younger Giants. At 25, he's barely older than them, so they relate to each other easily. Though he has only one year and 97 days of Major League service time, that's more than enough to make him a veteran in their eyes. And he's exceedingly pleasant and approachable, prompting others to gravitate toward him. Burriss recalled his first Spring Training with the Giants, when he inhabited a clubhouse dominated by the likes of Rich Aurilia, Ray Durham, Bengie Molina, Dave Roberts, Aaron Rowand, Omar Vizquel and Randy Winn. All were amiable and willing to assist less-experienced Giants. But a rookie might not have realized that immediately. "I was around nothing but older guys," Burriss recalled. "The youngest guy was probably Matt Cain, who already was like a veteran. I'm just trying to help these guys feel comfortable. Playing baseball already is hard enough. If you don't feel comfortable, it makes it that much tougher."
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Just as parents unlock life's secrets for their children by sharing personal experiences, Burriss demystified big league camp for Ford, Neal and others by recounting not-so-long-ago incidents.
"I'd relax them, tell them little stories about things that I went through and that I saw other young guys go through," Burriss said.Burriss relies on a proactive approach. He said, "I'll see something or something will be brought to my attention. Instead of just letting it slide, I pull them aside and talk them through it so they don't make those mistakes again." By contrast, Burriss said when he was a rookie, he repeated certain gaffes "because I just didn't know any better." Burriss eventually heard from a veteran or two.
"But it took a while," he said. "After maybe my third time of making the same mistake, it had to be addressed."Burriss enlightens rookies on Major League customs both on and off the field. Some subjects are predictable, such as how to properly execute particular drills, what to watch for in games and how to behave in the clubhouse. He also has covered practical topics, including where to park at the Scottsdale Stadium complex and what to wear to the ballpark. Giants newbies are inevitably curious about and even intimidated by Mike Murphy, the team's longtime clubhouse manager. So Burriss lets them know all about the man he called "Uncle Murph." "He's a Hall of Fame clubhouse guy. A lot of guys feel uncomfortable with that," Burriss said. "Sometimes I'll just ask for stuff for them because they feel super-uncomfortable." The most essential piece of advice Burriss offers is that rookies should be seen and not heard. "I do remind them to keep their mouth shut as much as possible," he said. "That's probably the biggest thing." From some players, this can sound like a harsh message. From Burriss, it's well-intentioned. "They know that I'm not saying it intimidatingly," he said. "I'm saying it in a friendly way -- 'I'm still young; I'm still in it with you guys.'"
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.