SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW: Leading The Way Across The Diamond
Hunter Gordon, Tom Bourdon, And Matt Pare Embrace The "C" On Their Chests
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 03:02
“His leadership role isn’t just because of what he’s done on the field,” Gambino said. “What you see in the box scores and the stat sheet, everyone else can see that, but we’ve all seen him grow and develop during the last couple of years.”
After Bourdon’s rookie season in 2011, it became clear to Gambino and director of baseball operations Pete Frates that the Eagles had a cornerstone player they could stake their future on.
Frates approached BC’s head coach with a bold prediction before voting for team captains even began—Bourdon would be awarded the “C” as a junior. The outfielder’s performance and leadership skills had already spoken for themselves.
“For people outside our program, it’s the first time they’re realizing it,” Gambino said, “but for people inside our program, we already knew it.”
Bourdon’s abilities as a leader have become apparent over the first half of his collegiate career, but his skills on the diamond were always there. Coming from a family in which all four sons played college baseball, America’s national pastime runs in his blood.
“Being able to have my older three brothers who have all played in college and my dad, it came natural to me at an early age,” Bourdon said. “I just wanted to be out on the field with them and do whatever they were doing growing up and competing with them all the time.”
Peter Bourdon, the patriarch of a baseball powerhouse, always recognized that the youngest of his boys aspired to play at the same level as his older brothers. Ironically, it didn’t take Tom too long to catch up to the rest of the family.
“Being the youngest, he was always trying to keep up,” Peter said. “It turns out that he’s probably the most talented of them all.”
A high school career in which the youngest Bourdon set numerous school records and started every game led to a call from the team he’d always rooted for —the Boston Red Sox. Even when faced with a choice between pursuing his lifelong dream of playing pro baseball and attending college, Bourdon stayed level-headed in his decision making process.
“The decision for me wasn’t too hard,” he said, “because I knew that I needed some more years to develop as a player and mature. College baseball was definitely the right scene for me at that stage.”
Bourdon has cemented himself as a force to be reckoned with in the ACC, but still strives to improve year round. The word “offseason” has never been a part of his baseball vocabulary.
“When he’s not at BC or summer league, we have plenty of arms around the house to throw BP,” Peter said, as hitting drills become a family event in the Bourdon household. “I enjoy it as much as he does. His younger sister Mary Kate is great at soft toss.”
A first-class work ethic and complete skill set are two characteristics Bourdon has displayed at all levels of the game. Taking the helm as a captain of BC’s squad is a unique opportunity, but the junior believes the best way to take on his new role is just by being himself.
“For us to change would be exactly what they wouldn’t want, so they just want us to be ourselves and it will naturally come as leaders doing it that way,” he said.
As an invisible base-runner digs for second, catcher Pare rifles the ball toward second base during a drill for BC’s backstops. The senior’s quick throw cracks the leather of his teammate’s mitt, sending an authoritative echo throughout the bubble. Under a mask and suit of catcher’s armor stands a young man who wears his heart on his sleeve and the prestigious number eight on his jersey.
In addition to being selected as a captain, Pare was chosen by his head coach to wear a number that’s become a tradition for BC since Gambino’s arrival in 2011, memorializing late Eagle captain Peter “Sonny” Nictakis. The number is issued to one deserving player each year. Pare has gotten the call.
“It’s an honor,” Pare said. “Everything that I heard about Sonny has just been so great—his integrity, his work ethic—and to be able to wear his jersey is a great honor. I just really want to wear it proudly.”
This season, the number is a testament to Pare’s continuous effort and gritty style of play on the field. The stat sheet provides a lot of insight into the type of player he is. Last season, he led the squad with 15 hit-by-pitches en route to a team-leading .411 on-base percentage, and committed his first career error after an astounding 235 chances. Pare puts his body on the line and seeks perfection in his game for one thing alone: his team.
“If Matt strikes out, he gets mad not because of his own personal stats,” Gambino said. “He gets mad because he let the team down. That’s how he approaches everything. All he cares about his helping his team win, and our boys are feeding off of that as well.”
Yet as much as Pare’s new number reflects his attitude on the field, it also recognizes the adversity he’s had to overcome off of it.
After breaking out with a strong freshman season, the senior looked to continue a promising start to his career into his sophomore campaign. Despite his intentions, a knee injury midway through year two sent him under the knife. It was supposed to be a minor procedure that would only set Pare back a few weeks. When the catcher woke up from surgery, however, he faced a much tougher realization.
“It ended up being a little bit worse than before, and it was a four-month recovery,” Pare said of the unexpected ordeal. “So my plans changed, and that was tough to deal with because we were in the postseason run that year fighting for an ACC championship spot.”
The former high school state champion and Houston Astros draft choice found himself in an unfamiliar position—sitting powerlessly on the sidelines, away from the game he loves. Pare’s mother Kim remembers the effect an untimely blown-out knee had on her son.