Boston College baseball held its annual Baseball Night in Boston last night at Fenway Park, and with it came the honoring of a single Eagle to wear a special number. Field manager Mike Gambino announced last night that Tom Bourdon will wear the #8 of Sonny Nictakis, an honor bestowed upon the BC player who battled adversity and best represents the BC baseball community.
"Bringing Sonny's #8 back is something that is very important to me and one of the first things I wanted to do as head coach," Gambino said in a statement released by the BC athletic department. "Wearing his number will be the biggest honor a player can receive in our proram. It will be given to one player each year - the one that best shows the qualities that made Sonny such a great teammate, great leader, and great friend."
Nictakis graduated from BC in 1999 after serving as team captain for two years. He was the 1998 recipient of the Jeff Kent Athletic Leadership Award, and he won the leadership award for the 1996-1997 school year from the BC baseball team. He was president of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee and graduated with a double major in English and Theology. He did all of this while fighting through Hodgkin's Disease, which he succumbed to in the summer of 2000 while an employee of the Boston Red Sox. The Fall World Series for the baseball team is now named in his honor as the Sonny Nictakis World Series, and starting in 2011, Gambino brought the #8 back after it had been unofficially retired for this honor. The honor mirrors the Jay McGillis Memorial Scholarship for football, of which one player wears the #31 on Senior Day.
"It is an honor to wear the #8," Bourdon said. "Sonny is such an important part of our program. Each and every day we hear about his passion, character that he had, and the type of person he was and we just try to emulate that."
The Eagles announced this as part of the team's Baseball Night in Boston, an annual event taking place at the State Street Pavilion at Fenway Park. This year, the event was emceed by Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald and featured Red Sox General Manager and reigning MLB Executive of the Year Award recipient Ben Cherington as its marquee guest. Cherington answered questions during the event in an interactive Q&A on Twitter with the hashtag #BirdballAsksBen.
In his address before BC baseball staff and athletic director Brad Bates, Cherington said, "To have a college program at Boston College, competing at the highest level, makes Boston an even better baseball town. I know how hard it is to play in New England. There's adversity you have to get through. That can be an opportunity or a burden. We (the Red Sox) focused on a simple theme - we needed to play smarter baseball. It requires more than just talent and hard work. There was some edge we were trying to find, and there were three elements to that - smart players, players drawn to the city of Boston, putting focus on the field.
"Playing at BC is an incredible opportunity because it's an education that will set you up for life and you get compete at the absolute highest level of competition. You will never forget that."
We are just about 20 days away from Opening Day as the Eagles get set to take on Nevada in Santa Clara on Valentine's Day.
(Credit to @BCBirdBall for quotes from Cherington's address).