Dylan Burleson — better known as “Pickle” to friends and family — is not unlike millions of boys around the country who this time of year are dreaming of a professional baseball career. However, Burleson may have a leg up on some of his potential future competition.
Burleson, 14, was one of only four players from Texas and 30 from the United States selected to be a member of the Coast to Coast Amateur Athletics baseball teams that will compete in San Juan, Puerto Rico from June 24 through July 1.
According to its Web site, Coast to Coast Amateur Athletics was established in 1999 with the express purpose of putting together national all-star teams of America’s best amateur baseball players (ages 11-12, 13-15, and 16-18) to compete in tournaments around the world. The organization is based out of Marietta, Ohio and has scouts in over 30 states around the nation. Since its inception, over 1,200 players from 46 states — as well as Canada, Mexico, Germany and the Dominican Republic — have represented their country in Coast to Coast sponsored tournaments.
Burleson will be competing on one of two 15-player teams comprised of 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds. Each team will play a minimum of four games.
“I never in a million years thought this would happen to a small Texas boy,” Burleson said. “When I got it in the mail I kind of thought about throwing it away when it first happened. I thought it was a joke and this was never going to happen.”
The representatives from Coast to Coast went a step beyond just issuing an invitation in the mail and contacted Burleson’s dad, Dan, by phone.
“When they called my dad I was at Vance McShan’s house,” Burleson said. “When I got the call my entire world changed.
“It was kind of a surprise at first. There’s a lot of good ball players in this one town alone and overall it was very surprising to me. It’s a good step in my life. I want to hopefully play at the next level in baseball so it’s just a good step to get into that process.”
The Coast to Coast Web site also states that many of the program’s alumni have gone on to play baseball at both the collegiate and professional levels, which is Burleson’s ultimate aspiration. As an incoming freshman at Brownwood High, Burleson also expects the experience to help him better understand what it takes to compete at a higher level.
“I think it’ll definitely help me with my work ethic going into high school,” Burleson said. “High school is going to be a big part of this if I want to achieve a career in baseball. It starts now and I’m at the age that I have to start a good work ethic. That’s what’s going to get me there.”
Burleson — who pitches and is a switch-hitting first baseman — was selected for the team without having to go through a tryout. His initial tryout in Waco was rained out. A few days later, the call came that he had made the team and an audition wouldn’t be necessary.
“Three out of the five judges had already seen me in state tournaments in the past,” said Burleson, who competes in several select baseball tournaments throughout the state each summer, including this weekend in Round Rock.
Burleson won’t be alone on his trip to Puerto Rico as his father, Dan, mother, Cassidy, and godfather “J.W.” will make the journey as well. But free time with his family could be limited as Burleson expects most of his time to be spent on the diamond, according to the itinerary he’s received.
“We’re going to have a mini-training camp, learn scouting processes and go through the whole experience,” Burleson said. “But I’m also ready to see the beach. I’ve never done that.”
While the sand and the surf is appealing, Burleson stated what he’s looking forward to most is seeing how he stacks up against some of the best players in — and outside of — the country.
“I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the talent there,” Burleson said. “I’m playing with 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds so I’m not going to be one of the older ones there. I want to see what everybody is made of.”