If his career had continued on the storybook path in which it started, as the first overall pick in the draft, Pat Burrell would have taken the field at AT&T Park on Tuesday night as the All-Star left fielder for the Phillies, as a perennial MVP candidate and as the current big bat helping his team deal with the absences of injured infielders Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
Instead, the 35-year-old Pat Burrell only threw out the ceremonial first pitch and promptly left the field so the game could begin. Burrell, who retired this winter when a chronic foot injury proved to be too difficult to play through, watched the game between the two teams he won World Series rings with -- the Phillies and Giants -- after his brief pregame role. Burrell is working as a scout with the Giants.
But Burrell spent his first nine big-league seasons with the Phillies and will enjoy his second pregame ceremony in as many months on May 19. Last week the Phillies announced that Burrell will sign a one-day minor league contract and officially retire as a member of the organization he started with as the top pick in the 1998 amateur draft.
"It's a special deal," Burrell told reporters in San Francisco. "I was fortunate that they'd even ask me to do it."
Burrell's career didn't complete pan out as the Phillies hoped when they tabbed him one year after J.D. Drew spurned them and held out. Burrell never made an All-Star team and endured some epic struggles at the plate; he hit .209 in 2003.
But in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, his double to lead off the seventh inning led to the eventual game-winning run. When Burrell left as a free agent after the season, he ranked fourth on the Phillies' all-time home runs list with 251.
Burrell will throw another first pitch at May 19 at Citizens Bank Park, when his career officially ends as a Phillies player. But since his new job is all about scouting, Burrell was asked Tuesday about the status of Utley, a former teammate and close friend he recently saw in Arizona.
Utley has been rehabbing his injured left knee in Phoenix since the Phils departed spring training.
"I've talked to him," Burrell said. "I know he's doing everything he can to get back. I just don't know. He doesn't say a whole lot, as you guys know. And I don't want to get into his business. I know he's dying to get back on the field. I think at this point he wants to make sure he's doing everything he can so when he does come back he doesn't have hiccups."