Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Tide Relievers, Led by Burrows, off to Strong Start

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Tide Relievers, Led by Burrows, off to Strong Start

Article excerpt

The dream is as old as baseball itself -- bottom of the ninth, two outs, tie game. Thomas Burrows played through the moment over and over as he grew up.

Every player imagines himself as the hero. Burrows did, too. He thought of home runs, of a slow jog around the bases and teammates flooding home plate as the game ended.

The University of Alabama's closer didn't think he'd end up as the guy to wreck those moments.

"When I go back to when I was a little kid, I guess I was always the guy at the plate," Burrows said. "Two outs, looking to win the game. I never really thought I'd be on the other side of that. But that's a lot of fun, and it's a really fun role for me to be in."

The junior has been Alabama's closer since the second week of his freshman year in 2014. Now he's the Crimson Tide's all-time saves leader. He earned his 22nd save in Alabama's 2-1 win at Troy on Tuesday, lowering the curtain on one more batter's dream. He passed Brian Reed to take sole possession of the record.

"There have been an awful lot of good closers to come through here," head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "That's a great accomplishment for Thomas."

That includes major leaguer David Robertson, Greg Hibbard and Lance Cormier. Burrows ranks above them all now.

Burrows had good reason to imagine himself as the batter in all those daydreams growing up. He was an all-state first baseman as well as a pitcher at Mars Hill Bible School (total K-12 enrollment: 528) in Florence. He hit .484 as a junior, but it was his arm that drew Gaspard's eye.

The 6-foot-2 lefty could throw in the high 80s. He was working on a slider. Gaspard quickly realized he was working with a pitcher who could handle the pressure.

"You can see it in their eyes," Gaspard said. "When you hand them the ball at the end of the game, some guys like it, and some guys may grow into it, and some guys don't like it."

That's what earned Burrows the job as a freshman. Ray Castillo, just one year older, had saved 12 games the year before Burrows arrived on campus. …

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