Burks looks to the future

Updated: April 12, 2004, 6:54 PM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
Ellis Burks has played for nine managers in 18 big-league seasons, and none had a more profound influence on him than Dusty Baker in San Francisco. So when Burks reached his mid-30s and began thinking more about a post-career course of action, it made perfect sense for him to knock on Dusty's office door in search of guidance.

Ellis Burks
Veteran Ellis Burks knows his playing days are winding down, so he's looking ahead.
When Baker told Burks he might make a good manager with time and the proper tutelage, it was the mother of all votes of confidence. Let's put it this way: It carried a lot more weight than an endorsement from Al Gore.

"As a player, there are managers you don't feel you can talk to about certain things," Burks said. "But I learned a lot from Dusty. He'd explain why he made this move, or whatever. You can talk to him about anything."

Burks, now 39, took a pay cut from $7.1 million to $750,000 to play for Boston as a part-time DH this season. His knees are shot; he can't throw because his elbow hurts too much; and he's off to a 1-for-15 start at the plate. If this isn't the end for him as a player, it's not far off.

But Burks should have an abundance of choices when he decides to retire. Survey everyone from front-office people to former teammates, and he's considered prime future manager material for a number of reasons.

Jerry Crasnick

ESPN Senior Writer