- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
With the snow-blanketed baseball field of Waldorf’s Regency Furniture Stadium serving as the backdrop for Thursday’s press conference inside the Legends Club, Lance Burkhart was officially unveiled as the new manager of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs amid a warm, packed-out reception that included officials from the team, Atlantic League and ownership group Opening Day Partners.
Former beloved Blue Crabs manager Patrick Osborn was also on hand to ceremonially pass the torch to Burkhart, handpicked by his predecessor.
Osborn stepped down on Dec. 12 after three seasons as the Blue Crabs skipper, leading them to the playoffs each year, and accepted a managerial job in the New York Yankees minor league system with one of their Gulf Coast Rookie level teams in Florida.
Burkhart becomes the third manager of the Blue Crabs as they embark on their seventh season of existence.
“I can’t tell everyone here how excited I am to walk into this room and see all the people here,” Burkhart said at the press conference, receiving a spirited applause when he was introduced by Osborn. “Even though it doesn’t look like it’s baseball season out there right now, [this atmosphere] is more than I expected.”
Burkhart is quite familiar with the Blue Crabs as a member of the team in his final season as a player in 2009. He was the starting catcher and a teammate of Osborn during that season when the Blue Crabs advanced all the way to its only berth in the Atlantic League Championship Series.
“It’s good to be back [in Southern Maryland] and see all the familiar faces,” Osborn said in his opening remarks at the press conference, flying back to the area on Tuesday morning to be part of Burkhart’s introduction to Crustacean Nation while offering his official farewell. “I’m not going to take a lot of time because this day is not about me. Today is about the direction of this team and a good friend of mine, Lance Burkhart.”
A teary-eyed Osborn expressed before the press conference how difficult it was to end his tenure with the Blue Crabs and the Southern Maryland community, which had lasted since Day 1 of the franchise in 2008 first as a player for three seasons before his days as skipper, despite being offered a job by the Yankees in pursuit of his aspirations of being a Major League Baseball manager one day.
He later added, before introducing Burkhart to the Legends Club turnout as a good friend and former teammate, “It’s a perfect fit, it’s going to be a seamless transition. Lance, he was the guy for the job in my opinion. Having him here, this team will not skip a beat.”
Blue Crabs closer Jim Ed Warden, a Southern Maryland resident, was among those on hand for the press conference.
“It is emotional,” Warden said about his good friend in Osborn moving on from the ballclub. “I was surprised when I first heard [he was departing]. But everybody knew he wasn’t going to be here for an extended period of time. He does have the talent to be a big league manager.”
Like Osborn, 32, the 39-year-old Burkhart hails from the coaching tree of inaugural Blue Crabs manager Butch Hobson, who guided the Southern Maryland franchise from the 2008 through 2010 campaigns. Burkhart was the hitting coach the last four years in Lancaster. Hobson has been the Lancaster manager the last three years.
Hobson groomed Osborn into the Blue Crabs managerial role during the three seasons they were together in Southern Maryland. Osborn was the Blue Crabs starting third baseman from 2008-10, then made a seamless transition out of what could have been a difficult move by managing the same clubhouse that previously knew him as a player.
“When I called Opening Day Partners to let them know I was going to move on, I told them that Lance Burkhart should be the guy,” Osborn said at the press conference. “Lance was my teammate in 2009 here. You guys all know him. He’s been around the game for a long time. He comes from the Butch Hobson coaching tree. It’s funny because the Atlantic League has the Butch Hobson coaching tree, and the NFL has the [Bill] Parcells and [Bill] Belichick coaching tree.
“He values many of the same things that I do, that Butch does.”
Burkhart noted that Blue Crabs pitching coach Joe Gannon and hitting coach Jeremy Owens, both on Osborn’s staff, would continue on in their coaching duties with the team.
“I’m real happy for Lance; he’s been patient and his opportunity is finally here,” Hobson said via a Blue Crabs press release. “We’re going to miss him in Lancaster, but he’s going to do wonderful things. He’s a baseball guy with the perfect mind for the sport.”
Burkhart was a 1997 draft selection in the 15th round by the Montreal Expos, now the Washington Nationals. The St. Louis-area native never made it to the majors though he enjoyed an accomplished minor league career playing mostly catcher among other utility talents that saw him peak at the Triple-A level with three big league organizations: Montreal (1999), Milwaukee (2002) and Texas (2003).
He also played in the Baltimore Orioles minor league system in 2004, his final year in the affiliated minors.
“I couldn’t be happier that Lance is our guy, that’s the bottom line,” Blue Crabs general manager Patrick Day said. “He’s just an absolutely tremendous, not only baseball person, but just a good guy to have a conversation with.”