What Baseball Teaches: Pat "The Bat" Burrell Comes Home to Stay

James DuganContributor IApril 20, 2012

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 25:  Pat Burrell #5 of the Philadelphia Phillies bats against the Tampa Bay Rays during game three of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 25, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Pat Burrell will officially retire as a Philadelphia Phillie. The Phillies made it official last week and I am ambivalent about it, just as I was to Pat the Bat during his long tenure with the team.

He was here during the best of our times. Some may say he brought the championship to us with his hit in the second half of the ultimate game. He was here doing our lowest times, even chasing the rats at the old Vet stadium, 28 games behind first place.

No player has seen more venom, and some adulation, than Burrell, and no player withstood the psychotic nature of Philadelphia’s passionate fans with as much stoicism.

In this collection of poems in What Baseball Teaches: A Poetic Odyssey into the 2008 Season of the World Champions Philadelphia Phillies, Pat Burrell is celebrated and maligned, but always treated with the respect earned by a player who has become an adopted son of the city.

What baseball teaches is that if you stay long enough and swing hard enough, regardless of the failures, we will be family. It does not hurt that he was at his best against the Mets. Welcome back, Pat, but only for one day.

This poem is for you.


Game 153

Phillies at Atlanta


He has been here.

Been booed.

Been cheered.

Been booed some more.


He swings

in giant sweeps—

A magician with wand and hat.

All or nothing relationship

with the ball.


Few could hit a homer

with such grace

and certainty—

As if he, long ago,

fell for the music

of the collision

between ball and bat.


His air was detachment—

as if he knew it was a game

and liked playing

even when he struggled.


Games upon games

he swings

in great sweeps and stayed.


He is the player I know the best,

killer against the Mets,

and connected tonight for the win.


You can follow James Dugan on Facebook and on Twitter @jamesduganlb. Purchase his new book through Amazon What Baseball Teaches: A Poetic Odyssey into 2008 Season of the World Champions Philadelphia Phillies