Smash Burger: 5 years after nearly quitting baseball, Jake Burger becomes Miami Marlins slugger

Updated Apr. 11, 2024 12:09 a.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) — Smash Burgers may become a favorite food for Miami Marlins fans, a meal popularized by an emerging star whose parents talked him out of quitting baseball five years ago.

Jake Burger hit a three-run homer on his 28th birthday, a drive off All-Star pitcher Marcus Stroman that propelled the Marlins over the New York Yankees 5-2 on Wednesday night for just their second win this season. Burger leads Miami with three homers and 15 RBIs, reviving a career that was interrupted for nearly four years because of a foot injury and the coronavirus pandemic.

“Definitely had multiple nights where, like, `I'm done. I’m quitting,'" he recalled.

Burger said a turning point was a 2019 conversation with his mom, Shannon, at a Which Wich in St. Louis followed by a heart-to-heart at home in suburban Chesterfield, Missouri, with his dad, Mike.


“Fortunately, my parents had a more level head than I did and ended up talking me out of it, saying, `Don’t regret anything in life and if you quit, you’re going to regret it,'" Burger said. "And so I’m thankful for them. They’re a major part of the story and major part of me being where I’m at today.”

Obtained from the Chicago White Sox last summer, Burger is among the few bright spots on a team that is a major league-worst 2-11.

Burger already had a memorable game this year. He homered twice off Lance Lynn last Thursday during his first big league appearance in his hometown of St. Louis, where growing up he went to about 20 games annually dating to old Busch Stadium. He sat below the new ballpark's Big Mac Land in left field with Little League buddy Kyle Kinner and watched the Cardinals rally in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings to beat Texas in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series en route to the title.

Burger's parents were at last week's game along with his sister Ellie, wife Ashlyn, 16-month-old son Brooks and grandfather Terry.

“That was really special,” Burger said. “First time I've played in front of my grandpa live. He watches every game, and he’s such a big supporter and a role model for me.”

Overlooked in the amateur draft out of Christian Brothers College High School, Burger went to Missouri State and was taken with the 11th overall pick in 2017 by the White Sox, who signed him for a $3.7 million bonus.

He was invited to big league spring training the following year and ruptured his left Achilles running to first base on an inning-ending groundout against Oakland's Santiago Castillo during an exhibition game on Feb. 26, 2018. Ten weeks after surgery, Burger was cleared to wear sandals and retore the tendon while stepping out of a sandal in the backyard of his Arizona home.

Burger missed the 2019 season because of the heel injury.

“I don't feel like I gave it enough time. I kind of pushed back a little quick," he said.

Then there was no 2020 minor league season because of the coronavirus pandemic. He played instead on a summer team in Missouri’s CarShield Collegiate League.

Burger finally resumed his career at Triple-A Charlotte on May 4, 2021 — his first regular-season game in 1,339 days. He hit .322 with 10 homers and 36 RBIs in 42 games, earning a callup and his major league debut July 2 at Detroit, where he singled and doubled in a 2-for-4 night.

He was sent down in late July, then had two callups in 2022 and two more in 2023. He was hitting .214 with 25 homers, 52 RBIs and 102 strikeouts in 294 at-bats for the White Sox at the time of the Aug. 1 trade that sent pitching prospect Jake Eder to Chicago.

Burger batted .303 with nine homers and 28 RBIs in 53 games with Miami. He's hit third in the order 10 times this year, cleanup once and fifth twice, seeing time at third base and first.

“It's his first real full season in the big leagues and we're giving a lot on his plate with middle of the order and playing every day, and he’s doing a really nice job,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “He’s a smart kid.”

Schumaker credited Burger's work with coaches John Mabry and Brant Brown last year and Bill Mueller and Jason Hart this season.

“He’s a better hitter than just power hitter, and he’s showing how good of a hitter he is here,” Schumaker said.

When Burger arrived in Miami last summer, the Marlins offered $5 burgers to fans at his first game against Philadelphia, similar to a promotion he remembered at Missouri State.

“The Marlins organization and fans and city of Miami made me and my family really welcomed,” Burger said. “The guys in this clubhouse really accepted us with open arms and made the transition a lot easier.”