“Why didn’t you quit?”
That was the question Jason Benetti, White Sox play-by-play announcer for NBC Sports Chicago, asked Jake Burger after Friday’s 8-2 win over Detroit, a game in which Burger went 2-for-4 in a long-awaited major league debut.
It was a question that Burger prompted earlier in the interview when he admitted that he considered quitting baseball several times over the course of his excruciating recovery from a series of catastrophic lower-body injuries.
It was a little over a year ago when the 25-year-old former first-round draft pick opened up on social media about how badly those career-threatening injuries impacted his mental health, and declared his commitment to baseball and the White Sox organization.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself and a lot about life itself over these two seasons,” he wrote. “I’ve battled depression and anxiety. But I’ve realized that opening up and talking about everything has helped me get through it. If anyone that sees this needs help or wants to talk, my DMs are always open.
“That being said, I’m more determined than I’ve ever been in my life to succeed. I’m back and stronger for it.”
The journey from point B – the decision to persevere – to point C – his MLB debut – was one near impossible. But the journey from point A – the depths of despair – to point B is what makes this story truly sensational.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn thinks so, too.
“Obviously you all know him and how tremendous of a kid he is, and how easy it is to root for him,” Hahn told reporters on Friday. “It's really quite an accomplishment for him to merely be playing, much less playing at a highly competitive level. But this is a good story for so many reasons beyond that.”
On Friday’s “White Sox Pregame Live,” Ozzie Guillén and Chuck Garfien applauded to the young infielder’s “never give up, never give in” spirit.
“That’s what happens when you don’t want to quit,” Guillén said. “That happens when you say ‘you know what, this is not gonna stop me.’ Physically, you can deal with that. You can get better. But mentally, the way you went you went through all these problems, that’s why I tip my hat to him.”
While Burger’s on-field success as a top-five offensive producer in Triple-A this year and impressive 2-for-4 big league debut are more than noteworthy, it's clearly not most of the story to the overwhelmed young man who stood before us, holding back tears, after the game.
“Why didn’t you quit?”
“My parents told me, ‘Don’t regret anything in life, and if you quit, you’re gonna regret it,'” Burger told Benetti. "'So keep on keepin’ on, keep pushing, and, ultimately, things are gonna turn.’
"They were right.”