Rich Burk ’88 came to Pacific to play baseball and found a career as an announcer. Today, he’s the radio voice of Oregon’s newest minor league team, the Hillsboro Hops.Jenni Luckett | Editor
“At Pacific, when you get there, you can create your own opportunities.”
Burk spent his college career studying broadcast telecommunications (a topic that likely would fall into the Media Arts Department today), playing ball for Pacific coach Chuck Bafaro, announcing other sports and getting to know his future wife, Heather Hansen ’89.
When he graduated, he spent a season as a No. 2 announcer — and all around assistant — for the Class A Bend (Ore.) Bucks. He’d do a couple of innings of play-by-play mid-game while also stocking concessions and otherwise supporting the club.
“I’d have to go to the Safeway behind the ballpark to get more hotdogs,” Burk recalls. “I’d be wearing my Walkman and carrying my score pad, because when I went on in the fourth I had to know what happened.
“It was the worst play-by-play you’ve heard in your life.”
After that first season, he got married and decided he didn’t want the market-to-market jumps that are so frequent in a broadcast career. So he spent almost five years working for pro-golfer Peter Jacobsen and helping with the Fred Meyer Challenge golf tournament.
When he did decide to get back in the game, the new Bend baseball team, the Rockies, were looking for a No. 1 announcer.
“By the time I got to Bend, six years after I’d left, I was much better,” Burk says.
He spent a season in Bend, then the team moved to Portland, where Burk continued announcing four of its next five years. In 2001, AAA baseball came to Portland, and Burk spent the next decade as the voice of the Portland Beavers.
The past three years without a Portland team have been rough, but Burk’s had the chance to fill in announcing for a variety of sports, including Oregon State baseball. He called a few games at Madison Square Garden and broadcast the 2009 AAA All-Star Game. Plus, he says, he got to coach his son’s youth baseball team, which he calls “the greatest thing I’ve ever done.” (The Burks have two children: Madeline, 13, and Dalton, 10.)
But baseball made its way back to Oregon in the form of the Hillsboro Hops, formerly the Yakima Bears, a single-A short-season part of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ farm system. The club sought out Burk for their radio show.
For Burk, it’s pretty much the perfect setting.
“This level is great. There are two levels where players are happy to be where they are: in the majors and at this level, especially the guys who were just drafted,” Burk says. “It’s the first time they’re playing pro ball. There’s still a sense of innocence.”
Plus, he still gets to coach his son’s baseball team and stay in the community he’s come to call home. The Burks live in Hillsboro but still have close ties to their alma mater, too, with him participating in Boxer Club and the family attending church at the Forest Grove United Church of Christ.
“This is the best possible situation,” he says.
And it just goes to show that what Burk loves most about baseball is just as true as his baseball announcing career: “You’re never out of the game.”