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McCutcheon gives Burton 700th victory

May 4, 2011
McCutcheon High School

Fate was in Jake Burton's corner in 1979 when the opportunity to coach the McCutcheon baseball team came his way.

Fast forward to Tuesday night -- 33 seasons after replacing Dennis Cleaver in the Mavericks' dugout -- and fate smiled at Burton once again.

McCutcheon scored four two-out runs in the top of the ninth inning in a 9-5 victory against Noblesville to give Burton career victory No. 700. He joins an elite club of five Indiana high school baseball coaches who have won as many as 700.

It made the night more special for Burton that winning pitcher Justin Curry is the son of former McCutcheon baseball standout Doug Curry, who was a Maverick when Burton was Cleaver's assistant coach.

And it was special for Burton, 58, that his wife of 39 years, Brenda, and their children, Mike, R.J. and Beth, were in attendance. Mike Burton is his father's first base coach.

Burton is 700-333 in 33 seasons, including state championships in 1999 and 2003.

As he gazed upon the field he has manicured so many times, Burton said he has no thoughts of retirement.

"I'm going for 701," Burton said. "I'm having a good time. I still enjoy coming to the ballpark. People think I'm 70, but I'm only 58. I've got a few years left. If you're going to stay in it as long as I have, you've got to have a family that is understanding, and they are very understanding.

"My wife has been tremendous through this whole thing. She has been my best friend and understands what I have to do and why I'm over here. A lot of guys are out doing other things, but I'm at the ballfield. She accepts that, and our kids have been supportive."

Burton recalled that in 1978, he was prepared to leave McCutcheon if a varsity football head coaching position came his way.

"Football was my first love when I started coaching, and I was just the assistant baseball coach here," Burton said. "I was interviewing for football jobs in the spring of 1978, and Denny Cleaver told me he was going to get out the next year.

"He told me that as the assistant that I probably could get it, and I decided to go the baseball route. I haven't looked back."

Burton began the 2011 season with 688 victories. After beating Noblesville, the Mavericks are 12-3, 7-3 in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference.

"Joining that group at 700 is great company," Burton said. "I don't think I can catch those top two guys. But 700 victories is nice. It's another mark that shows that our people have bought into our system. There's a lot of kids that have come through before these guys.

"They laid the foundation for the success we've had. The kids in 1979 had to buy into the fact I was crazy and did some things a little bit nutty. These guys today have no clue how bad I was as far as being on kids. They think I'm on them, but it's not even close. I am much calmer."

Justin Curry knew what to expect when he decided to play baseball for Burton and was thrilled to pitch 3 2/3 innings of shutout relief in a game McCutcheon won despite stranding 13.

"I was looking for the win, but knowing it was No. 700 gave me a little boost," Curry said. "It's pretty special for our team to do this. He was fired up tonight. It's a thrill for me."

And a thrill for Brenda Burton, who married Jake in 1972.

"We've been through it through thick and thin," Brenda Burton said. "He enjoys it, and he loves the kids. We've had great kids to support him also. He loves it, and as long as he loves it and can keep going, he is going to keep going.

"I remember 1978 and that football was his first love. With baseball, he just slid right into that and has loved every minute since. It's amazing that he has become one of only five to win 700 games, and he deserves it. He works so many hours that people don't realize. As long as he is happy and healthy, if he wants to keep going, it's all right with me."

Burton almost teared up when he talked about the support he has received in the pursuit of high school baseball excellence.

"We've had some kids that have done a good job of doing that, and this game is no exception," Burton said. "(Noblesville) struggled a little on the mound in that ninth inning, but we did a good job with our at-bats in the last inning.

"Getting 700 wins means you've been around a long time. We've had a lot of great people who have helped us. And I couldn't be prouder of Justin Curry. There's a little pressure on a kid going out there with a chance to be the 700th win. Justin came in and competed. Justin doesn't have any fear of anything."

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