Islip's Chris Burke is a traveling man. And he's building a heck of a minor-league cap collection.
The 23-year-old outfielder has played for four teams based in four states at all three levels of the San Diego Padres minor-league system, and his season is just a little more than a month old.
"I've been bouncing around the organization a little bit," said Burke, a third basman with the Class A Fort Wayne TinCaps of the Midwest League, where he has been hitting the cover off the ball, batting .438 after eight games through Friday.
"I'm just happy to be playing and needed to play all over the place. Whatever the organization needs I'm going to do it. That's why I'm here."
Burke's odyssey began with extended spring training at the Padres' facility in Peoria, Ariz. Then it was two weeks at Triple-A Tucson, where he went 1-for-3 in four games; two games (2-for-7) for the Class A Lake Elsinore Storm in California, and four games (1-for-5) with the Double-A San Antonio Missions.
He also dressed for one game for the Rookie League Padres in Peoria, but didn't play.
"They brought me back to Peoria for the day and then flew me out to our high Class A team, the Lake Elsinore Storm," Burke said. "And I was there for four days before being assigned to San Antonio , , , . I really didn't get to unpack."
Burke, who was drafted out of Iona College, has met success at every level. He earned the Blue Chips Silver Slugger Award at Islip High School in 2008 and earned two-time, All-Long Island selection. He led the Bucs to two state title appearances, winning one crown in 2007.
"He's an all-around outstanding person," said former Islip coach Pete Blumenauer, who now coaches at Suffolk Community College. "Chris was a true leader by example with an excellent work ethic and a focus. He was the model student-athlete and made my job very easy. He'll do anything the Padres ask if it'll help the organization. He's a company man."
Burke relishes that he's done well in first impressions along the way. He had a hard single in his first at-bat in Tucson, walked in his first appearance in San Antonio and singled in his first at-bats at Lake Elsinore and Fort Wayne.
"It's great to be valuable enough to move around and help when guys are injured at the higher levels," Burke said. "It's been interesting and if it's what the team needs, I'm all for it."