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Pitcher Joe Burg is an ace in the classroom too

By Joseph Sudberg, Special to The Chronicle

Quantum Physics and nanotechnology are not the usual subjects studied by Division I athletes.  Division I athletes are not usually nominated by their school for the Goldwater Scholarship, which is given to the countries top science, math and engineering students.

Hofstra pitcher Joe Burg fits that bill.

The 5'10", 186-pound sophomore from Lindenhurst, Illinois has a bright future beyond baseball. After coast-to-coast recruitment, Burg said, "it has worked out for the best."

Burg went to baseball powerhouse Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Illinois.  He was called up to the varsity team at the end of his freshman year, "which was basically unheard of at the program I played in", he said, and his baseball career started to take shape.

But in his sophomore year of high school, Burg tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the year, as well as his junior year. 

"That was a big set back," said Burg, "Notre Dame dropped me after that, Northwestern dropped me. Some big time schools pretty much dropped me after that."

But playing at the professional level was not on his mind during the recruitment process. "The schools that recruiting me were where I wanted to go based off academics."

Uncommitted through his junior year, Burg visited Stanford where he received his best advice on deciding where to attend college.  Stanford's assistant coach Dean Stotz told him he needed to find a school that fit "financially, academically, and athletically."

Burg had offers from impressive academic schools, such as: Stanford, Harvard, Illinois, and MIT.  But Hofstra was the perfect fit.

"Hofstra was the best, if you take the sum of those three categories" said Burg.

Burg pitches with the, "This can be my last time on the mound" mentality.  One reason for this way of thought was his ACL tear during high school, the other, his life-changing Katrina relief effort.

"I'll never forget that for the rest of my life," said Burg, "It was a life-changing experience…I've never in my life seen anything like it.  Everything everyone owned was thrown on their front yard. Everything was destroyed."

When relating this experience to baseball, Burg's mentality took form.  "You never know it could be your last time ever stepping on the mound. I play like it's my last time every time I'm on the mound, I give 100 percent."

"Katrina started that thought process, my injury solidified it."

Graduate school is on the horizon for Burg, as he doesn't plan to be in the MLB draft.  He wants to study condensed matter physics, focusing on nanotechnology and applications in electronics or energy.

"It's nice that I've had the academic success, it's really opening a lot of doors for me, for graduate school" said Burg. 

He is one of Hofstra's two nominees for the Goldwater Scholarship, which is given out to one sophomore and one junior for his or her work in science, math and engineering. 

"It's a great honor, the professors here have been excellent.  They have given me so many opportunities. I've done independent studies with professors, I'm in research with a professor right now and I believe I'll be a competitive applicant to be able to go to an MIT, Stanford or Cornell…or even Illinois."

Of course, Burg hasn't completely shut out the idea of playing baseball after college. 

"Baseball wise, I'll see where it takes me. I'm just a sophomore, I have a lot to show if I'm going to be playing baseball at the next level, I got a lot of work to do baseball wise."

Whatever happens, it's certain Joe Burg is prepared for success, and will leave his imprint either on the field, or off of it.

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