BENSON — Following in his father Tyler’s footsteps, Benson High School alumni Jayse Burkett has found a home on the baseball field and, more specifically, on the pitcher’s mound. Currently a sophomore at Phoenix College, Jayse is competing in the sport he loves while working on his college degree.
“Being a pitcher myself, I have been able to watch Jayse excel and be there for him,” Tyler, who pitched for the Thatcher High School baseball team, said. “Baseball is a sport that, if you haven’t played it, it’s hard to explain the range of emotions that can occur, even in a single game.”
Jayse was only 5-years-old when he started playing baseball and from those early games of T-Ball he has made it through the ranks of little league, club baseball, middle school and high school competition to where he is today as a pitcher for the Phoenix College Bears’ baseball team. In addition to competing in high school baseball, he also participated in football as a running back and quarterback for the Bobcats’ football team.
“Jayse has been competitive his whole life. Since he was a very young boy, everything was a contest, especially in sports,” Tyler said.
Although Jayse has achieved his aspirations of playing college baseball, it took awhile for him to decide on his future path. With the help of his family, his high school weight lifting coach Chris Taylor, and his high school baseball coach Fred Trujillo, his path suddenly became clear.
“Coach Taylor helped me get stronger in his weight lifting class which definitely changed the direction of my career,” Jayse said, “Coach Trujillo is at the top of my list of baseball coaches for helping me get to where I am. I can’t say enough about either of them and how much they have done to support my goals.”
In addition to the support he received from his high school coaches, Jayse has the continual support of his family who can be seen at all of his games. From his high school football and baseball games to his games as a member of the Phoenix College Bears – the Burkett family will be there in force to support Jayse.
“My parents did not miss a single one of my fall or spring games,” Jayse said. “It’s a priority for them. Seeing my family cheering from the bleachers during my games and talking to them after is a big thing for me. They are an amazing support system.”
He added having a father who also played the game helps him with the mental aspects, as well as the on the field skills.
“I am also very thankful to have a dad who played baseball and has been around the game,” he said. “He’s been my rock mentally. He’s always been the person after every game I talk to about everything – what could have been better and what was good. I definitely would say that my dad has played such a huge role in my mental development as a baseball player and as a man.”
After competing in fifteen games during fall junior college baseball, the Bears’ regular season practice began on Jan. 3. As the season progressed, Jayse and his teammates were only able to play 20 of their nearly 50 season games before COVID-19 ended their collegiate baseball year. He is, however, looking forward to returning to the field his sophomore season.
“I have some great memories of my first year on the Bears’ team,” Jayse said. “I know I’ll always remember my first college win against Chandler Gilbert Community College. I pitched 7 innings, had 9 strikeouts, gave up only 2 runs, and we won 5-2. That’s where my college career started.”
While playing baseball at Phoenix College is of high importance to Jayse, it is also his classroom work that has him excited for his future. He is currently working on a degree in sports psychology.
“Athletes can experience slumps or struggle during competition even though they are very talented,” Jayse said. “I want to help athletes work on their mental game to overcome those struggles or setbacks.”
For Jayse and his family, his dreams of playing collegiate baseball have come true but he still aspires to possible Division I or II competition following junior college.
“His drive and determination have landed him in a spot that he has known he would be in since he knew what dreams were,” his father Tyler said. “He talked about playing college baseball when he was in little league. We are all extremely proud of Jayse and the effort that he has put into his dream.”