BOSTON — It was tough to pick junior Tyler Burgoon out of the crowd of baseball players huddled around Fenway Park’s third base dugout on Thursday.
All of the Cape Cod Baseball League players on hand for the Cape League All-Star Game were dressed in similar warm-up jerseys — and all had ear-to-ear grins on their faces.
Burgoon was no exception.
Even as the pre-game drizzle turned into a steady rain and the start of the contest was in doubt, Burgoon couldn’t wipe that smile from his face.
The right-handed Wolverine, like many other players on that field Thursday, was simply thrilled to be on the field at a big-league park. The fact that it was Fenway, a cathedral of incredible baseball history — well, that was simply icing on the cake.
“I walked up, went through a little hallway and just saw the field,” Burgoon said, with an awestruck glance at the infield before the game. “It was pretty nice to know that I was going to be pitching from that mound.”
Unfortunately for the Cape Cod League and half of its All-Star pitching staff, rain prevented the All-Star game from continuing past the fifth inning. After four and a half innings, and a 3-0 lead by the Western Division, the game was called due to rain and poor field conditions.
Burgoon was one of nine unlucky pitchers who didn’t get a chance to throw his inning from the Fenway mound.
As a closer for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, Burgoon has posted a league-leading 11 saves, giving up just one earned run in 15 appearances (through July 26). His 30 strikeouts to six walks in 19.3 innings ranks him among the best pitchers in the league.
So it was understandable that Eastern Division All-Star manager Steve Englert would be saving Burgoon for the late innings of last Thursday’s game — the innings that ended up being rained out.
“Before Thursday’s game started, during the national anthem and introductions, (Vanderbilt closer) Russell Brewer looked over at me, and he was like, ‘No chance,'” Burgoon said yesterday of Thursday’s game. “We were throwing the eighth and the ninth. There was no chance. We kind of knew it wasn’t going to happen. It was nice that they let the game get played as much as it did, though.”
And even without pitching, Burgoon had a pretty busy and exciting day. Thursday began with a 9:30 a.m. bus trip from Barnstable to Boston, about a 90-minute drive. Burgoon and the other All-Stars went out to lunch in the city and sat through a brief lecture by the Boston Red Sox scouting director. The highlight for many players that night came when they arrived at the ballpark — a tour of historic Fenway Park.
Preparations for the actual All-Star game followed — getting dressed, shagging balls during batting practice and the pre-game home run hitting contest.
Pitchers claimed it was the first time they’d ever gotten excited to field balls in the outfield during batting practice. Burgoon said he was shocked and that he enjoyed seeing teammates “yoke” it out over the Green Monster.
Thursday marked Burgoon’s second trip to Fenway this summer. The Defiance, Ohio, native attended a Red Sox game a few weeks ago as a fan, calling it the best experience he’s ever had at a major league baseball park.
He will go again this Thursday for the Cape League All-Star appreciation afternoon game.
Even with the disappointment that accompanied not pitching in the All-Star game, Burgoon still took away the positives from his experience. What mattered was that he was honored as an All-Star, and even more important, he got to take the field at Fenway among the most talented players in the Cape League.
“Some of the best players in the nation are here,” Burgoon said yesterday. “Even just getting to play with them is great.”