Catching up with ... Astros legend Chris Burke

May 7th, 2020

HOUSTON -- Long before José Altuve sent the Yankees home with a walk-off homer to clinch the 2019 American League pennant and before Marwin Gonzalez’s stunning homer off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen tied Game 2 of the ’17 World Series in the ninth inning, the biggest home run in Astros history might have been delivered by .

Burke, the team’s first-round Draft pick in 2001, hit a walk-off home run at Minute Maid Park in the 18th inning to cap an epic Game 4 of the 2005 National League Division Series, sending the Astros past the Braves and on to the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals. The Astros advanced to the World Series, where they were swept by the White Sox, but Burke’s homer was one of the season’s defining moments. At the time, it was just the seventh series-clinching walk-off homer in postseason history.

Burke, 40, lives in Louisville, Ky., and announces college baseball games for ESPN while raising five children with his wife. In the first of our “Catching Up With” series, we checked in on Burke and reflected on his time with the Astros and juggling five kids while navigating stay-at-home measures amid the coronavirus pandemic. I’m guessing things are pretty crazy at your house with five young kids and everyone stuck at home?

Chris Burke: Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t say crazy. The home school has been a pretty good adjustment. My wife was an A-plus student, so she’s just kind of completely taken the reins on that and I’m there for PE class and emotional support. I kind of stay out of the way as it pertains to that, which has been good. She is definitely better suited for that than I am. We’ve gotten into a good rhythm with that.

Unlike most people, with five kids it’s a blessing. At a time when my work has been essentially stopped, you’re never looking for things to do. We’re always busy taking walks and playing ball in the back yard. We’ve played a lot of golf, which has been cool. That’s the one sport that’s been able to stay open, and it’s been neat to see my kids take a real interest in that. Man, just cooking and cleaning and getting them bathed and to bed is a full-time job. So you live on a golf course? How is it taking young boys out on the course?

Burke: The rules at our course are you can only ride with people that you live with, so we have a full cart. We stack it one cart. My 4-year-old is just along for the ride. He’ll hit some shots here and there, but my 10- and 7-year-old have really fallen in love with the sport -- and for me, as a guy who loves the sport and is their dad and a youth sports coach, the sport of golf is very useful in teaching kids how to handle their emotions.

It can be a very frustrating game. It can be a game that leads you towards a lot of bad self-talk, right? Just trying to encourage them to be able to get past current mistakes or not get ahead of themselves if the round is going good, and to think the game and learn the game through the lens of all its different levels is really a blast. There’s definitely some synergy with some of the other sports, and there’s some nuances to golf that are different, as well, that have been fun to see them kind of fall in love with and get frustrated with, and all the different emotions that people that play the game know. You have to be enjoying that, but how much are you missing baseball these days, not only watching it on TV but also commenting on the college games on ESPN?

Burke: Man, I’m really missing it. I feel very blessed to do what I do for ESPN. Like with a lot of things, I feel like I always have an attitude of gratitude for what I’m able to do, but you would agree you always miss everything a little bit more once it’s gone.

I love the college game. I love the energy of the college campuses and the drama of watching the seasons unfold and charting the course up until Omaha. Definitely missing out on that and just hopeful that we -- meaning our country -- can kind of get a handle on what a new normal is going to look like so kids can get back to school in the fall and maybe get closer back to what the new normal is going to look like. Speaking of baseball, a lot of old games are on TV and internet these days. Do you get your boys around and watch some of dad’s games, including one infamous home run in particular?

Burke: I’m sure that game [Game 4 of the ’05 NLDS] has been on. Nobody’s alerted me when it was and if it’s on. The two games I have watched a decent portion of are Game 2 of the World Series in ’05 and Game 5 of the NLCS of ’05. That was just on two days ago. It’s crazy how your memory serves you perfectly in some instances and not at all in others. What about your homer to beat the Braves in the ’05 NLDS? You still get some chills when you watch that, even 15 years later?

Burke: That one is the one I’ve seen dozens of times since it happened. It’s just one of those moments you never could appreciate it for what it has become in the moment that it happened. I think every time I watch it, I’m more and more grateful to have been able to have a moment like that than I ever could have been as a 25-year-old living it in real time. … Just really grateful to have been a part of that Astros team and play with so many great players. Do you get back to Houston much?

Burke: I was fortunate to get to come back and be a part of some pregame ceremonies for the playoff teams and the great run they’ve had over the last few years. I was back in Houston a couple of times for that. I usually call at least one Texas A&M series a year, and I usually fly into Houston to do that, and then I’ll get a chance to catch up with Lance [Berkman] and Andy [Pettitte] when I do that. I make it back once a year and just always smile when I fly in, because I remember my time there so fondly.