Wharton names former Hillsborough standout Burgess as next skipper

By Jarrett Guthrie

TAMPA – Exactly one month to Opening Day of the 2022 high school baseball season Wharton has finally made its new head coaching hire official. The Wildcats have tapped former first-round draft pick Michael Burgess to take over the program, he announced on his personal Instagram on Friday and later confirmed to 813Preps.

Burgess, a Hillsborough High alum and first-team All-County selection by The Tampa Tribune, was selected in the supplemental first round of the 2007 MLB first-year players draft – selected 49th overall by the Washington Nationals, before spending time in the Minor Leagues with the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles across 12 seasons. While at Hillsborough, Burgess helped the Terriers to a state runner-up finish in 2006, and prior to his senior season was named the national high school Jackie Robinson Award winner, and was an Aflac and Baseball America All-American.


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Burgess was announced as an assistant coach at Carrollwood Day School after the end of the spring 2021 season under their new coaching staff. But Burgess said when 813Preps spoke with him on Friday that he wasn’t in search of a high school head coaching job, but felt the opportunity to take on the role at Wharton was too good to pass up.

“I started at (Carrollwood Day) to get my feet wet, but a buddy reached out and said the Wharton job opened up and he thought I would be a good fit,” Burgess said. “… It wasn’t exactly the plan, but I looked at the team and I just said, ‘what the heck?’ and I’m so excited to have this opportunity.”

“I just love baseball, and I want to get these kids to the next level however we can do that.“

Wharton finished 2021 with a 21-5 record, claiming the Class 7A-District 7 title before falling to eventual state semifinalist Durant in the region playoffs. In September, Scott Hoffman announced he was retiring from coaching after 18 seasons leading the Wildcats.

With opening day right around the corner, Burgess admitted that the time window to get to know his players and vice versa isn’t quite as long as he would like. However, he did say he attended a few Wharton games last season and is extremely excited about the team he is inheriting.

Leading the way for this season’s Wildcats squad will be by All-813Preps first team selection Evan Chrest (senior, RHP, Jacksonville signee), and second team selection Ryan Fry (senior, RHP, Miami signee) on the mound, while returning a potent offense including seniors Elijah Dukes, Billy Eich, David Limbach and Quentin Meadows – who all finished 2021 with double-digit run and RBI totals.

So, according to Burgess he has no plans for a slow, “get-to-know-you” period with his new team, rather he has tremendous expectations from Day 1.

“Look, I’d have loved to be (in place) for a few months, but we go today,” he said. “I saw them play last year and they have some great talent, so I’m gonna let those guys do their thing and I expect them to succeed no matter who is in charge.”

Burgess did add that longtime Wharton assistant (and former Armwood head coach) Joey Fernandez will return for the 2022 staff as a bridge from the previous coaching tenure.

“I met with Coach Fernandez and when he said he wanted to come back I was very happy,” Burgess said. “He is a guy with a ton of experience, he knows this team – all the boys, so I’m going to lean heavily on him this season.”

Wharton opens up the 2022 regular season on February 23 at home against Gaither.