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Matthew Tkachuk, New Marlins Slugger Grew Up Playing Hockey Together

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New Miami Marlins third baseman Jake Burger singles in the sixth inning of what turned out to be a 9-8 win in 12 innings at Marlins Park on Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

MIAMI — Matthew Tkachuk has another reason to visit the Marlins when he returns for the start of his new season.

Tkachuk, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a game at Marlins Park last year, grew up playing hockey in St. Louis with new Miami slugger Jake Burger.

Burger made his Marlins debut on Wednesday night after being acquired in a deadline deal with the White Sox the day before.

The 27-year-old, who started at third base and batted sixth in the lineup, said he had not spoken to Tkachuk following the trade — he was, after all, a little busy — but hoped to get in touch soon.

“It’s good to be in the same city as him and try to win here,” said Burger, who shared a love of the Cardinals with Tkachuk growing up and recalls getting an autograph from then-catcher Skip Schumaker — now his manager — as a kid on a spring training trip to Jupiter.

“It has been a whirlwind 24 hours for me and my family. I’ll let things settle down before I (reach out). We just kind of grew up playing hockey together. There are a bunch of guys in his class who I was buddies with and lived in the neighborhood, so, we would meet up and play pond hockey and stuff like that.”

Tkachuk

Florida Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk, right, displays his new Miami Marlins jersey with pitcher Pablo Lopez before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch last September. // Photo @GeorgeRichards

Although Burger and Tkachuk played hockey as kids on local rinks, baseball took over for Burger while we all know which direction Tkachuk went.

The two went to different high schools in the St. Louis area with Tkachuk being a first-round draft pick of the Calgary Flames in 2016 while Burger was the 11th overall pick of the 2017 MLB Draft by the White Sox.

While Tkachuk made an instant impact on the Panthers upon his arrival, Burger made a pretty nice first impression on the Marlins.

Not only did the Marlins celebrate him joining the team by offering $5 burgers at concession stands on Wednesday — Schumaker said he had a burger for lunch to join in on the fun — but Burger helped Miami pull out a nice come-from-behind 9-8 win in 12 innings in his debut.

Nicknamed ‘SmashBurger,’ the new Miami infielder went 2-for-4 in his first game with the Marlins and scored the game-tying run in the 10th off a deep fly to right from Jon Berti.

The Marlins won the thing in the 12th on a bases-loaded single from Jesus Sanchez after trailing 5-0 in the sixth and having to rally twice in extra innings.

Burger and the Marlins are back at it against Philadelphia today at 12:10 p.m.

“The clubhouse is awesome, they welcomed me with open arms,” Burger said postgame. “I’m not all the way with the names yet, but we’ll get there. That was so fun.

“I texted my wife after the game and told her that’s the most fun I have had on a baseball field in a really long time. It’s special.”

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