The Phillies fans gave long time outfielder and general fan favorite Pat Burrell a fitting sendoff in 2008, cheering the Phillies' 1998 first overall draft pick as he led the parade down Broad Street. He was received graciously when the team reunited for a pregame ceremony to receive their World Series championship rings as Burrell stuck with the game with the Tampa Bay Rays. When Burrell returned with the San Francisco Giants, well, Burrell was not quite as well received.
But today it was announced that Burrell will be given one final moment to be honored by the franchise and their fans that followed his career from start to finish. Burrell will sign a one-day minor league contract with the Phillies and retire, officially, as a member of the team.
Here is the official statement from the Phillies (via The 700 Level):
The 35-year-old will sign a one-day minor league contract with the Phillies, thus officially retiring as a member of the organization that selected him as the very first player in the 1998 draft. He’ll be honored during pregame on Saturday, May 19, by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
Other players to return to the team to retire as a Phillie include Doug Glanville and Mike Lieberthal. According to Paul Hagen of MLB.com, Burrell seemed almost reluctant to go through the same process with the Phillies.
'Hesitant' isn't the right word -- I just don't like to make a big deal about things," Burell explained. "But the more I thought about it, it's the right thing to do. I was with that organization for so long. I have such good memories. You realize it's an honor and I'm very appreciative of the fact they wanted to do this for me. I'm looking forward to it. I really am."
We have good memories of Burrell as well, and we're not just talking about his ride with the Budweiser clydsedales on Halloween in 2008.
The Phillies drafted Burrell with the first overall pick in the 1998 amateur draft, but do you remember the course of events that led to that top pick? The year before the Phillies used their first pick to draft J.D. Drew, who refused to sign with the Phillies. The Phillies were left without a first-round draft pick, unless you count Eric Valent out of UCLA in the supplemental first round. The next year the Phillies drafted Burrell, and made every effort to ensure he was the anti-Drew. Of course, Burrell was drafted by the Boston Red Sox but did not sign, although under slightly different circumstances (43rd round pick of Boston). The Phillies signed Burrell to a contract on July 24, almost two months after being drafted.
What we'll remember about Pat Burrell will be his knocks against closers such as Billy Wagner. Wagner had called Burrell a "rat" in the Phillies clubhouse. During the 2007 season Burrell hit home runs off of Wagner in two come-from-behind victories. Of course, we all know how the 2007 season ended for those two teams.
We'll remember the way fans rallied behind Burrell when he was struggling at the plate (sort of the way they did with Freddy Galvis Wednesday night). We'll remember the shot of Jimmy Rollins hyping up Burrell behind the dugout as Game Five of the 2008 World Series resumed 48 hours after it was suspended.
"You know what this series is missing," Rollins asked Burrell, preparing for his at-bat. "You."
In Burrell's final at-bat in a Phillies uniform, he hit smacked a double off the deepest part of the outfield that could remain in play to lead off the seventh inning. He was replaced by Eric Bruntlett, who would come in to score the World Series clinching run with a Pedro Feliz single to center.
Burrell ranks fourth on the franchise list for home runs (251 HR), eighth in RBI (827), and fifth in walks (785).
Whether you agree or not with the concept of a one-day contract, honoring Burrell seems to be the obvious move for the Phillies.
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