One year after saying goodbye, Kevin Burkhardt reflects on time with Mets, team’s success since
It was late in September of 2014 when beloved Mets field reporter Kevin Burkhardt walked away after eight seasons holding the mic for SportsNet New York.
Now, one year later and thriving with FOX as in-studio host for MLB Whiparound, as well as play-by-play man for the NFL on FOX, Burkhardt sat down with Just Mets and reminisced about his time with the team, his choice to move on, and his thoughts on the success of the Mets since his departure.
For Burkhardt, getting the opportunity to be the field reporter for SNY at the start of the 2007 season wasn’t just a job, but a position he could only have dreamed of year earlier.
“It was pretty cool,” Burkhardt said. “I grew up in a family of Mets fans, I watched them when I could when I was a kid and I certainly always listened to the games on my radio.”
Since childhood, Burkhardt always had a connection to this Mets franchise, and for him in his adult life, he used that connection to his advantage.
“To get a chance to go and dive into that world and then be in it for so long, it was a blessing,” Burkhardt explained. “I think the one thing that was cool was that I knew the story lines, I knew the team, I knew the history. That didn’t mean that I didn’t have to work hard, but it certainly was an advantage to get a new job like that and really know what was going on.”
As the years went on, Burkhardt’s work became recognized more and more, and he was eventually doing play-by-play for the NFL on FOX on Sundays, as well as continuing to be the Mets field reporter for SNY.
Once presented with a larger opportunity, however, Burkhardt made the decision to walk away after eight years, a choice that seemed obvious to him.
“Walking away from the job wasn’t hard at all,” Burkhardt said. “It was walking away from the people–the crew, the players, the guys and gals behind-the-scenes at the ballpark–that was the difficult part.”
It’s interesting how timing can work.
The season prior to Burkhardt’s arrival at SNY, the Mets claimed an NL East division title. In his eight seasons covering the team, however, they made zero playoff appearances, often embarrassing themselves in the process, undergoing six consecutive losing seasons from 2009-2014.
Now, the year after he leaves the team, the Mets are back in the postseason after winning their first division title in nine seasons.
Fans have–some jokingly, some not–have referred to it as the “Burkhardt Curse,” something I asked him about during our conversation.
“Am I jealous? Absolutely not, “he said. “Would I have liked to cover a playoff team? Of course, but you know what? Covering a team that struggled as the Mets did over those eight years made me a better reporter. I had to work harder to keep the fans engaged and keep things relevant.”
As for the supposed curse, Burkhardt said, “People can refer to it as a curse all they want, I’ll take that on. But I’m only responsible for eight years, not the 40 that proceeded it.”
It’s been a wild season for the Mets in 2015, namely in the second half, like when Wilmer Flores–now quite famously–cried on the field in late July after thinking he had been traded, a moment that may have been a turning point.
“It’s hard to believe, really, when you think about it,” Burkhardt said. “Wilmer’s so emotionally invested, he’s such a great guy who wants to be good, and that embodies everything that’s good about the game. We always talk about the guys who don’t run to first or don’t hustle and here’s Flores who’s crying on the field because he doesn’t want to get traded.”
Even with the loss the following day to San Diego after Jeurys Familia blew a 2-run lead after a rain delay with two outs in the 9th, Burkhardt still believes it was Flores’ emotions that turned this team’s season around. “That game against the Padres was brutal and when they lost that game you’re thinking ‘okay, here we go again,'” Burkhardt said, “but I think the emotion of what happened with Wilmer galvanized the team a little bit. There were a lot of things that happened down the stretch for this team, but that was a big part of it.”
Despite watching this team from afar for the past year, after covering the team for eight seasons, the team’s success in 2015 hits on a personal level with Kevin as well. “You cover that team and of course you develop relationships, whether it’s Terry Collins or Tim Tuefel or the rest of the coaching staff and of course the players,” Burkhardt said. “And I really feel good for David Wright. For eight years, David Wright was as good as it gets. Anytime I ever needed something he would make the time, he would talk to me honestly, he was a true professional and a good human being, and I’m really happy for him.”
The postseason will certainly bring it’s challenges, as the Mets will go up against Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in their first series, but there is reason for some optimism. “I wouldn’t say I love their match-up against L.A., you’ve gotta face Kershaw and Greinke three out of five games, but if they can get a split in those first two, they’re going to have very favorable match-ups in Games three and four,” Burkhardt said. “It’s a pretty daunting task, but if the Mets can somehow come away 1-1 after those two games, they definitely have the advantage with their starting pitching.”
While the Mets had their struggles against opposing playoff teams this season, going 11-26 against such teams, Burkhardt doesn’t believe it will necessarily have any bearing come the postseason.
“You go back to 1988, the Mets beat the Dodgers every time they played them in the regular season and then they got to the playoffs and they lost,” he explained. “I think you have to throw out what happened in the regular season to an extent.”
“It’s obviously going to be a very difficult series against the Dodgers, but I think they’ve put themselves in a great position, not only getting to the playoffs but making a run–that’s what it’s all about, “Burkhardt said. “They’ve got as good as shot as anyone.”