By REID TUCKER with Shari and Rick Miles
DeFuniak Springs umpire Cornel Burnett was inducted into the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame after many years of calling games in the local area.
Burnett was nominated for the honor by the coaches of 12U Florida Rays traveling baseball team, composed of young athletes and coaches from Walton and Okaloosa counties. Burnett joined the team on a trip to Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum, where the Rays, along with 104 other teams from around the United States compete in the Cooperstown Classic, one of the nation’s premier invitational youth baseball tourneys. Burnett umpired games during Week 2 of the tournament, which began June 8, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame, complete with Youth Baseball Hall of Fame ring, following the week’s games.
Rays manager Rick Miles, who, along with the rest of the coaching staff nominated Burnett for induction into the Hall of Fame, said the veteran ump is the team’s “favorite local umpire.” Though the local club fell 4-3 in a close game against Illinois’ Orland Park Magic Black, the Rays, Burnett in tow, made a good showing as the only Panhandle team to compete at the Cooperstown tournament.
“Only a small quantity of teams are selected for this tournament and it is an honor to represent our local community,” Miles said. “Cornel is one of a kind. He loves working with the players.”