Finishing Strong: Burnett Benefits from Return to Baseball

According to the script, Kyle Burnett was supposed to be a blue-chip quarterback recruit with offers from the top college programs in the country. A couple of plot twists later, Burnett finished his high school career having never taken a varsity snap. The Highland Park High School senior had plenty of reasons to end it there.

But a new season and a change of sports later, Burnett is fulfilling that potential on the baseball diamond, where he has emerged as the top hitter on a team that is contending for the District 10-6A title.

“I did not expect to be performing at this high of a level,” Burnett said. “With everything that’s happened to me, I don’t think anybody expected much.”

During his freshman and sophomore years, Burnett was a dual-sport subvarsity athlete playing football and baseball for HP. He left the school prior to his junior year to enroll at IMG Academy, the prestigious yet controversial campus in Bradenton, Fla., that recruits top talent from around the country. Suddenly, dozens of college coaches were watching his every throw. 

“Ever since I was little, I wanted to play Division I football,” Burnett said. “It was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Burnett and his mother lived in a condo on the western Florida coast, hoping the experience would ultimately allow him to fulfill that dream. By the spring of that year, Burnett was near the top of the IMG depth chart, and was poised to open his senior season as the starter.

Last summer, however, IMG added Shea Patterson, a quarterback from Louisiana who was one of the top recruits in the country (he will be a freshman at Ole Miss in the fall). Burnett knew his chances of playing were slim after that, so he decided to head home to HP.

To make matters worse, Burnett pulled a hamstring during summer workouts and missed most of his senior season. He finished as a backup running back.

That was that, until HP baseball coach Travis Yoder and some of Burnett’s old baseball teammates encouraged him to give baseball another try after a year away from the game.

“We had a couple of holes to fill. We needed an outfielder and we needed a power hitter,” said Yoder, who recalled Burnett’s potential in baseball from his freshman year. “It didn’t take long for him to get back on track.”

Burnett missed playing with his buddies, and it helped that the baseball roster was already dotted with HP football players.

“They have been so supportive of me,” Burnett said. “All the negative things that happened to me in football helped motivate me for baseball.”

Burnett has become a fixture in the middle of the lineup for the Scots. As the left-fielder, he leads the team in home runs and batting average. In just the second week of the season, he hit a 415-foot homer to the opposite field at a tournament in McKinney.

“He’s such a hard worker,” Yoder said. “We would have been OK without him, but we’re that much better with him.”

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