College Softball: Burge sets bar high for Hawks

March 01, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI |

HAGERSTOWN — A year ago, Thomas Burge decided to try something new when he started working with the Hagerstown Community College softball team.

Now, HCC has decided to try something new with Burge.

After spending a season as a volunteer coach for the Hawks, Burge has become the Hawks' head coach after Amy Sterner decided to step down after four years running the program.

Now he's going from raising his hand to raising HCC's expectations.

“HCC is a strong program and it is a tradition that will be carried on,” Burge said. “Any transition is a new start and softball in Maryland and in the Maryland JuCo Conference has been successful. Those are high expectations we want to keep. Anyone who steps into this position will have that, but the goal in any sport is to win.”

Reviving HCC's fortunes is a key to winning. Burge made his first huge impact on Feb. 6 when he signed Smithsburg's Cara Ferguson — a 2012 Herald-Mail Washington County co-player of the year — to a letter-of-intent to play for the Hawks in 2014.

It's a milestone that just signifies how his quest for a new adventure has turned into a burning passion.

“I wasn't an official coach last year. I just volunteered to help coach Sterner and I fell in love with it,” Burge said. “I didn't do it for any specific reason. I just wanted to help and then I fell in love with another sport.

“I love challenges and new things and thought this would be an awesome challenge. I have been in sports my entire life and love competition and working in a team aspect, but I love the idea of working with young athletes and helping use what they learn in sports to help them develop into young adults.”

For Burge, it's a change, but only a slight one.

He has been at HCC as an instructor and director of the school's wellness center. He moved to the area 2 1/2 years ago and worked at Shepherd University in similar capacities until was accepted at HCC.

Burge is a North Carolina native, who played basketball in high school and at Guilford College before getting into strength and conditioning.

When HCC opens its season today, Burge will have already been on the job for six weeks. The Hawks started practices on Jan. 22 with 6:30 a.m. practices, which may become a cornerstone for his program and a starting point for his players.

“There is a lot to be learned about competing in sports, like discipline and being on time,” Burge said. “We have been doing the 6:30 practices. The idea of these girls getting up that early to practice, then going school and then going to work a part time job are the kinds of lessons they will transfer over when they get a fulltime job in their adult lives.”

That belief has Burge trying to take the program down to a deeper level.

“I've come to realize that there are a lot of girls who are not playing softball right now that are good enough to play here,” he said. “I want to be able to get them to understand that if they come here to play, they earn so much and get a chance to go to a four-year school or at least a chance to get into, say, the nursing program here.”

It's not just Burge's philosophy. He has been living it as he makes the move from volunteer to the guy who is calling the shots.

“We have been preparing for it every day,” Burge said. “We attended a conference in New Jersey, listening to coaches talk about hitting and pitching. I have been sitting with our assistant coaches every day to discuss our practice schedules. We have been preparing in force.”

The signing of Ferguson is a sign of what Burge expects to accomplish.

“I'd like to get the players her with the love and passion for the game,” Burge said. “Cara has the leadership. If we can get 12-13 girls like her, it will all come together. You got to love the game.”

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