Katie Burge knew nothing about softball.
Her parents were similarly clueless.
Eleven years later, Burge has a scholarship to play college softball at UCF, coming off a junior season in which she hit an astonishing .692 with three homers and 47 RBI in 29 games.
The Miami Palmetto senior shortstop has also represented Great Britain in Olympic qualifying softball, traveling to countries such as Italy, Poland, Czech Republic, Canada, Netherlands and England.
“She’s one of the best players I’ve coached in 10 seasons at Palmetto,” softball coach Emilio Exposito said of Burge, a four-year starter.
“Katie has tremendous speed. If she hits one in the gap, it’s a triple. She’s got a great glove, great arm — overall, she’s very talented.”
To say that Burge, an 18-year-old Miami native, has come a long way would be a massive understatement. She was just seven when her parents — England natives Emma and Neil — saw a flyer for girls’ softball tryouts at Evelyn Greer Park in Pinecrest.
Burge and her older sister Hannah — now an outfielder at NCAA Division II Eckerd College — registered for the tryout and showed up rather unprepared.
“They didn’t have gloves or bats,” Emma said. “We didn’t know they would need those things. Softball wasn’t really a sport in England back then.”
Katie Burge was apprehensive.
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“There were girls around me who had been playing for two years already,” she said. “I didn’t know if I would be any good. But I had good coaches, and I love it now.”
Burge, who wants to study Finance in college, has progressed in her chosen sport for at least two reasons: her natural athleticism and her total dedication.
Her athleticism is reflected by her speed but also by the fact that she earned first-team All-Dade in golf.
“She’s good at everything,” Palmetto outfielder Olivia Rapp said. “She’s [also] very serious. Say someone [on the team] is joking around. She tells them to quit it — she’s very mature for her age.”
To truly witness Burge’s serious-minded dedication, you would have to go to her backyard where her father recently put up a batting cage, complete with lights for night-time use.
The cage is a natural progression for Burge. When she was 12, Burge said she no longer wanted to pitch because it was keeping her away from what she really had a passion for: crushing.
“I love to hit,” Burge gushed. “I can hit 300 balls a day. I had to stop hitting for a day [recently] because I was about to get a giant blister.”
A lefty batter who throws right, Burge stands upright at the plate, barely bending her knees, emulating major-league star Cody Bellinger.
Burge took her softball career to another level a few years ago when her mother discovered former South Dade High All-State star Thea Ramirez was playing for the Puerto Rican national team. Ramirez’s mother informed Emma that Great Britain also had a team, and Katie was soon going through the process of sending video and trying out for the squad.
This past summer was Burge’s third playing for Great Britain, and only a 5-0 loss to Italy kept her from making the 2020 Olympics.
“I was the youngest girl on the team,” said Burge, who was 17 at the time. “I played against women who are 30 years old. It was a really good experience.”
Added Emma: “It’s pretty spectacular. We’re super proud of her.”
2019 STATE SOFTBALL CHAMPS
Class 9A: Park Vista
Class 8A: Winter Springs
Class 7A: Lake Region
Class 6A: Sebring
Class 5A: Coral Springs Charter
Class 4A: Trinity Christian
Class 3A: Admiral Farragut
Class 2A: Academy at the Lakes
Class 1A: Trenton
OTHER DADE/BROWARD TEAMS FROM 2019 FINAL FOUR
Class 9A: Coral Gables (state semifinals)
Class 8A: Cooper City (state semifinals)
Class 7A: Doral Academy (state semifinals)
Class 4A: Westminster Christian (state final)