AS PAT BURRELL walked to the stage, Phillies fans of all ages showered him with a healthy mix of cheers and applause.
His reception at yesterday's Phillies Alumni Luncheon paralleled the support he enjoyed throughout a nine-year career in Philadelphia, where he became a fan favorite and a 2008 World Series champion, before finishing his career in 2011 after quick stints with the Tampa Bay Rays and San Francisco Giants.
Burrell, who was drafted out of Miami with the first overall pick in 1998, was selected as a Phillies Wall of Famer through fan voting on Phillies.com.
Burrell, now 38, hit .257 in 1,306 games with the Phillies, driving in 827 runs, 10th on the team's all-time list. The former leftfielder also hit 20 or more home runs in eight consecutive seasons in Philadelphia and finished with 251, putting him behind only Mike Schmidt, Ryan Howard and Del Ennis.
Commonly referred to by the Phillies faithful as "Pat the Bat," Burrell voiced his appreciation to the fans in attendance at Citizens Bank Park's Diamond Club for sticking with him through thick and thin.
"I can remember a game when, it was terrible, I was bad for a long time and it wasn't getting better," Burrell said. "I wasn't playing in the game and I pinch-hit probably in the 10th inning and got a double, and I remember standing on second base, and it was like a standing ovation, and I was like, 'I should do this more often.'
"The fans were behind me 100 percent. There were some ups and downs, but, in the end, it was such a great experience to play here for so long."
After chatting one-on-one with Scott Palmer, the Phillies' director of public affairs, for about 15 minutes, Burrell was joined by the first group of surprise guests, which featured John Kruk, who played for the Phillies from '89 to '94, and Larry Andersen, another former Phillie ('83 to '86, '93 and '94) and current radio commentator for the team.
While most of the conversations on the day revolved around inside jokes and playful jabs at Burrell, Andersen made time to acknowledge Burrell in a more serious light.
"He was oftentimes taken out for defensive purposes, and when he was taken out, I always saw him right on the front rail for the last two innings," Andersen said. "When the game was over and we won, he was the first one on the field and, to me, that spoke volumes about Pat Burrell."
Other surprise guests to join Burrell on stage included former Phillies outfielder Jason Michaels (2001-05), former second baseman Marlon Anderson ('98-'02), former outfielder Bobby Abreu ('98-'06), former manager Charlie Manuel ('05-'13) and current second baseman Chase Utley.
Utley, one of the last players remaining from the '08 World Series team (along with Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz), expressed his gratitude to Burrell for mentoring him after the Phillies drafted Utley out of UCLA in 2000.
"He took me under his wing right when I got here," said Utley, who debuted with the team in 2003. "He'd been here for a few years and he kind of just pulled me along, showed me the ropes, showed me how to pay clubhouse dues, showed me how to get a cab . . .
"It's something that I'll always be thankful for."
On Twitter: @tom_reifsnyder