Thursday, May 21, 2009

Columbus Dispatch: These battery mates were buddies from the first pitch

Thursday, May 21, 2009 4:16 AM
By Mark Znidar


How far back do Alex Wimmers and Dan Burkhart go?

Donna Burkhart took an inventory of pictures in her home of her son and closest buddy as they grew up in suburban Cincinnati.

"In every picture I see Danny and Alex standing or sitting next to one another," she said. "Let's see: There they are for First Communion. It was the same thing for Confirmation. It was the same for eighth-grade graduation. There they are together again. They went to high school and carpooled together. We have all those baseball pictures, too."

Wimmers' mom, Bonnie Summe, said her son and Burkhart were inseparable to the point where both mothers felt as if they had an extra son.

"Dan and his brothers slept at our house, showered in it, ate there and just hung out there, and Alex did the same at the Burkharts," Summe said. "I really felt like they were my other sons. Those boys never left the house without saying thanks -- not once. You always knew Alex was OK being with the Burkhart boys because they were taught the right values."

Wimmers and Burkhart began playing baseball together with a traveling team when they were 9. They became stars in high school at Cincinnati Moeller.

Now, they are battery mates for Ohio State, which won the Big Ten regular-season championship and will open play in the conference tournament tonight in Huntington Park.

They aren't just pitcher and catcher, but special sophomores. Wimmers was voted Big Ten co-Pitcher of the Year with Eric Arnett of Indiana after going 9-1 with a 2.58 ERA. Burkhart was named Player of the Year after batting .362 with nine homers and 57 RBI.

Wimmers does occasionally shake off a sign.

"But I like to think I know what he's thinking most of the time," Burkhart said.

Pitchers generally like to be by themselves in the dugout.

"We'll sit in the dugout and go over the hitters," Wimmers said. "We'll talk about what we want to throw."

For good reason, the baseball talk generally ceases once they leave the ballpark. They share an apartment, and there are pressing things to do -- such as play video games.

Wimmers' and Burkhart's parents are also close. When the boys were 12 and playing in a tournament, the parents drove to Cooperstown, N.Y., together.

Baseball has turned into the glue for both families. In fact, they held a mini-celebration on the field after Wimmers threw a no-hitter against Michigan on May 3.

Burkhart was asked how much ownership he had in that game.

"Maybe 30 percent," he said.

The words had barely left Burkhart's lips when Wimmers corrected him.

"No," he said. "I say the credit was more like 55-45."

Summe put into perspective how much the boys play a part in each other's success.

"When Alex needs a run or big hit in a game, who steps up to the plate but his friend and battery mate," she said.

The buddy system even extended to Wimmers' recruitment by Ohio State.

"When I accepted the scholarship offer, I told the coaches that there's this Wimmers kid from Moeller that I think would like to come here, too," Burkhart said. "We never planned for college like this, but it sure has worked out."

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