Baseball can have plenty of highs and lows at any level. But in the professional game, as players with serious major league aspirations pursue their dreams, the peaks and valleys only get magnified.
Eau Claire native Brady Burzynski has seen that firsthand.
Following a spell with the Joliet Slammers in the Frontier League during which he couldn’t quite match the solid levels of production he posted during the first two years of his pro career, he’s not quite sure where things will go from here.
“I learned that the game is unforgiving. You’ve got to be on your game all the time if you want to stay there. It was definitely a good life lesson overall, playing pro ball,” Burzynski said.
After departing Joliet after three games this year, the outfielder decided to come back home.
He’s playing with the Eau Claire Cavaliers, savoring the chance to hit the diamond and get himself healthy. He was hindered by elbow and hip injuries during his pro career, so now he’s getting back into the groove of things in a place he knows well.
To say he’s only getting back into the groove would be putting it mildly though. He has been a huge threat in the Cavaliers’ lineup, hitting .375 with three triples and three home runs in his first 11 games.
“It’s been really fun playing for the Cavs,” Burzynski said. “(Manager) Matt Miller is doing a great job managing the team. We’ve got a lot of young talent on the Cavs, so it’s fun to be a part of.”
The former Eau Claire Memorial, UW-Stout and Express standout played professionally with the St. Paul Saints and Joliet over the last three years, with varying levels of success each season.
Don’t rule out seeing Burzynski play at the professional level again either. He doesn’t know what the future holds, but if he gets back to full health he might look to get another chance.
“I wouldn’t say professional baseball is out of the question by any means down the road, but I think if I go back I’d want to be completely healthy,” Burzynski said. “If I’m not making a shot at moving on in professional baseball, then I think it would probably be time to get a career.”
Burzynski is a familiar name to Eau Claire baseball fans. He was the Express’ team MVP for the 2015 season with a .319 batting average, and earned All-WIAC recognition during his time with UW-Stout.
He had a solid debut season in the professional game. He hit .271 with six doubles for the Saints in 2016. St. Paul, like Joliet, is an independent team — unaffiliated with any major league clubs — and plays in the American Association.
He followed up his first year with the Saints by getting out to another good start in 2017. After 17 appearances, he had a .292 batting average to show for his efforts.
“I learned a lot in St. Paul from the guys that have been through affiliated ball, a couple of ex-big leaguers,” Burzynski said. “Learned a lot of little nuances here and there.”
The biggest learning experiences came at his next career stop.
He joined Joliet after those 17 games with the Saints in 2017. He posted a .214 average in 20 games last season, and left the Slammers after three games this year. The rigors of professional baseball taught him just how hard it can be to make it to the top.
After leaving Joliet, he returned to Eau Claire to play in the confines of Carson Park, a place he knows well from his days of amateur baseball.
“There’s a lot of history here for me, and a lot of people that grew up in Eau Claire,” Burzynski said. “It’s a spot to keep playing. I love the game, so it’s fun to keep playing.”
And so he’ll keep playing, whether it’s professionally or not. The love of the game is still there either way.