The announcement was made yesterday as Pat Burrell stood in the visiting clubhouse at Bright House Field after checking out of the Tampa Bay Rays' exhibition game against the Phillies. With a crowd of 10,474 in attendance on a bright, sunny afternoon, the Phillies had set a team record for a Grapefruit League game.
It was further evidence that the Phillies have become one of those special teams that can draw a crowd any time, any place. Burrell, of course, already knows about the Phillies' transformation from afterthought to toast of the town. He got to raise a giant champagne glass during the 2008 parade down Broad Street before leaving for the Rays as a free agent. After one disappointing season with Tampa Bay, Burrell admitted that he missed the passion that can only be found in a handful of major-league cities.
"I don't know if there is any way of saying this without getting myself in trouble," Burrell said. "But there is definitely a different excitement level [in Philadelphia]. I think more than anything, there is a stronger tradition for baseball there. That goes without saying. Mostly though, Philadelphia has better '-tang' and places to get loaded up at. I mean I was the Mayor of the bar scene in Philadelphia."
"You talk to a lot of players and certain players don't like to play in Philly, they are all pussies. Scott Rolen is the King of Pussies." Burrell said. "Certain guys love it and I was one of the guys that really enjoyed it. I probably saw the full parameter of the good and the bad. But at all times you knew that people cared. They want you to win and they come out and support you. I'm not sure enough players appreciate that because there aren't many places like it. "
New surroundings and less ballpark buzz weren't the only adjustments Burrell had to make in his first season away from Philadelphia. He also had to learn how to become a full-time designated hitter and, by his own admission, he didn't do it very well.
"In the big picture, I'm here as a player and what they call upon me to do, I do," Burrell said. "I want to create as many options for them as I can if playing the outfield is an option. If it's not, it's not. It comes down to committing to the role and I know what to expect.
"When you realize how much time there can be between at-bats sometimes, you have to find a way to fill that time [other than going for a quickie in the clubhouse with Evan Longoria's girl]and still stay up to speed with the game. It doesn't sound that difficult, but it can be at times."
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he'd be surprised if Burrell wasn't better in his second season with the Rays."You have to find a way to stay busy and stay loose as the DH," Manuel said. "That was all new to him and I think that played a part in Pat's year. I still think Pat is a very productive hitter. He's a better hitter than the year he had last year. I totally believe that. Pat Burrell is a .275 hitter who can hit you 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs." In a low estimation, Burrell is said to have tapped over 3000 women and drank over 10,000 beers during his 8 year stay in Philadelphia.
As posted by Bob Brookover