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A slugging, singing first big league week for Sheets, Burger

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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MINNEAPOLIS — The last time the Chicago White Sox busted out "Don't Stop Believin'," they won a World Series.

Well, Gavin Sheets is bringing it back.

It's not like he's submitting it for the 2021 team's anthem, like the Journey classic became for the squad during that championship run in 2005. But he did sing it for the team during a light-hearted bit of rookie initiation.

RELATED: South Side feels like home for All-Star hurler Lance Lynn

How'd it go?

"Not the best singing voice," fellow freshly called-up rookie Jake Burger joked to NBC Sports Chicago, "it's really not that good."

Burger and Sheets were the White Sox first- and second-round picks in the 2017 draft, selected just a handful of spots apart from each other before playing together at Class A Kannapolis later that summer.

The two are now, four years later, longtime friends who, as fate would have it, made their major league debuts in the same week.

"We did everything together in 2017, roomed together, traveled together, flew together to Arizona for the first time, the first plane ride. And for us to get here the same week, it's awesome, it's been a lot of fun," Sheets told NBC Sports Chicago. "We feed off of each other. We hit 3-4 (at Triple-A) Charlotte this year, so a lot of our success came from each other, just building off each other and letting it be contagious. We're having a lot of fun with it right now."

 

"Him and I are best friends, same draft class, played in Kannapolis together. So seeing what he's doing fires me up, and we kind of feed off each other a little bit," Burger said. "It's really cool having one of your best friends up here with you and experiencing everything, the clubhouse, on the field, everything. Experiencing all that together, it's unbelievable."

Undoubtedly, both guys are needed on the South Side right now, with the White Sox experiencing an unbelievable amount of injuries. Nick Madrigal getting knocked out for the year opened a spot for Burger, a third baseman who added second base to his defensive repertoire. And injuries throughout the outfield, which have also impacted the designated hitter position, have allowed Sheets, a first baseman who added the corner-outfield spots to his toolbox, to step up.

The two have had some success right off the bat. Sheets has really impressed at the plate, with eight hits in his first 25 at-bats and a 1.037 OPS thanks to a pair of early homers to go along with eight early RBIs. Burger has four hits in his first 12 at-bats with both a double and a triple.

The symmetry of what the two shared in 2017 and what they're sharing again in 2021 has not been lost on them. That Burger, who went through years of recovery from significant injuries, has aligned with Sheets, who did not play at the team's alternate site during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, is pretty incredible.

But the symmetry that's produced the most laughs is the singing.

"It's pretty funny," Sheets explained, "the last time we played together, we were both rookies to (the) minor leagues. I remember doing a duet on the bus with him, one of our first travel things in Kannapolis. And now, this week, we're signing again on the bus as rookies in the big leagues.

"To come full circle and be doing that again together in the same week, it's a lot of fun. That's what it's all about."

That time, according to the guys, they sang together, performing Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine," though a version heavily influenced by the a cappella scene in the movie "Stepbrothers."

This time around, Sheets and Burger went head-to-head, with Burger boasting that his performance was more of a crowd-pleaser.

"I sang 'Crazy Rap' by Afroman. Gets the people going, gets the boys going," he said. "You have to get the whole team behind you. And if you're rapping it, too, it doesn't matter what your voice sounds like. As long as you're putting on a performance, it's fun."

But even if Burger elicited more positive responses from his similarly aged teammates — who it wouldn't be surprising to learn prefer early 2000s hip-hop to 1980s rock classics — Sheets is more likely to win over the White Sox fan base with his choice, as the song holds a special place in franchise lore.

 

And who knows, if Sheets and Burger can continue to slug while stepping up for an injury-ravaged White Sox team, or turn themselves into longtime fixtures on the South Side, maybe they, too, will be etched into that illustrious history alongside "Don't Stop Believin'."

And then Sheets will have to invite Steve Perry to the parade.

"Bring it back for a great year," Sheets said.

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