Citizens Bank Park opens for 2009

April 3, 2009 8:28:30 PM PDT
Six months after leading the parade down Broad Street atop a horse-drawn carriage, Pat Burrell returned to Philadelphia wearing an unusual color. Donning the navy blue of his new club - the Tampa Bay Rays - Burrell received multiple standing ovations during his visit to the city that was his home for the past nine seasons.

"It's good to be back," said Burrell, who drove in the first run of Tampa's 3-2 preseason loss to the Phillies with a two-out single. "I've spent a lot of time here, with a lot of memories. Being at the park is great, but I've never seen the view from (visitors') side."

Replaced by free-agent Raul Ibanez in left field, Burrell signed a two-year, $16 million contract in January, and ended the first chapter of his baseball career. The Phillies treated their former outfielder to a five-minute video presentation on PhanaVision before Friday's game.

Burrell watched from the dugout as his career played out before his eyes, to the tune of Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love is." An emotional Burrell came out of the dugout to thunderous applause and tipped his cap.

"I didn't know they'd bring out the archives," he said. "It was pretty special. I didn't anticipate that. It was definitely emotional, something I'll never forget."

Hearing cheers again before his first at-bat, Burrell stepped out of the batter's box and doffed his helmet, then lined an RBI single for Tampa Bay's first run. He went 1-for-2 with a walk, and delighted the 39,338 by swiping his first stolen base since 2004.

"I couldn't believe I was safe," Burrell said.

Neither could pitcher Chad Durbin, who was on the mound at the time.

"I'll throw over next time," Durbin said. "I'm surprised he went in feet first because he would've been there a lot sooner if he went in head first. I blame it on fresh legs."

Burrell's welcome represents a change not usually associated with players who come back to Philadelphia in another uniform. Though Darren Daulton and Juan Samuel received cheers in their returns, Scott Rolen and Curt Schilling weren't afforded that courtesy.

The difference is that Burrell preferred to stay. Since signing as the No. 1 draft pick in 1997, the 32-year-old has always stated how much he loved playing in Philadelphia. He owned a place in Center City and was a regular at local nightspots.

The fans weren't always supportive, booing him during prolonged slumps and defensive shortcomings. No one ever questioned his heart. His final at-bat for the Phillies was a double that turned into the winning run in Game 5 of the World Series.

"We're going to miss Pat," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He was here for a long time and everybody liked him. Pat was a big contributor and played a big role of leadership. We're going to miss him and wish him all the luck in the world. If he had to leave, I'm glad he's in the American League. At the same time, life goes on for the Phillies."

That life for the Phillies begins on Sunday night, when they take on the Braves on ESPN, and begin their title defense. Burrell will not be a part of that.

"I have tremendous memories and respect for the organization and fans," said Burrell, who will attend Wednesday's ring ceremony, then join his new teammates for a night game against Boston. "It really couldn't have worked out any better for me. It didn't seem that long ago that I was called up and we were a middle-of-the-pack team. We've come a long way. It's rewarding to know I helped turn the organization into a winner. I feel very fortunate."

Burrell thanked the fans in March by taking out full-page ads in The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Daily News. He told the fans he hoped to see them again in October. If that happens, he likely won't be cheered.

He signed the ads, "All my best, Pat."

On Friday, Phillies fans thanked him back.

"Great to see," said shortstop Jimmy Rollins, now the longest-tenured Phillie. "I've seen a transformation that this dude has turned into a man. He developed into a man who helped us win a World Series. (The fans) appreciated the way he played. He was well-liked. He was Pat the Bat."

Notes: The Phillies announced before the game that left-handers Jack Taschner and J.A. Happ have made the opening day roster. Happ went 0-0 with a 3.97 ERA in seven spring games and will be used out of the bullpen. "I'm happy," he said. "It's a goal to have a big-league uniform on. I have to switch to a reliever's mentality." ... Phillies reliever Gary Majewski was told that he will be reassigned to the minor leagues after this weekend's exhibition games. ... TB starter Scott Kazmir threw three scoreless innings, while Philadelphia starter Joe Blanton allowed two runs in six innings. ... Infielder Jason Donald drove in the winning run with a bases-loaded single to right.

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