By David Willis
Even prior to his final high school season, Zach Burdeau was determined to play baseball at Holy Cross. The problem was, he was not accepted.
"During my senior year I talked to the Holy Cross coach (Greg DiCenzo)," Burdeau said. "I was really disappointed when he said he couldn't support my application. I got rejected."
But after following up his breakout senior season at Andover High with an even better campaign as a postgraduate at Phillips Academy and a pair of stellar seasons with the Andover Legion team, Burdeau is ready to take on Division 1 college baseball with the Crusaders.
"He is a big, strong kid that is only getting better," said Andover Legion coach Joe Iarrobino. "He's a guy that you can bat anywhere in the middle of your lineup. Instead of hitting ground balls, he's driving the ball. He is also a very good third baseman with a very, very strong arm. He is a great fit for a great school."
Burdeau admits he was far from a headliner on the diamond growing up. In fact, he considered walking away from the sport in Little League.
"I was on the 12-year-old All-Star team," he said. "We were playing in Worcester and I was sitting on the bench. I was fed up with sitting a lot and wanted to quit. But my dad (Steve) convinced me to keep playing."
Once high school arrived, Bureau spent his first season with the freshman baseball team, and as a sophomore played JV. He made the varsity team as a junior, but received only two at-bats (going 1 for 2) and pitched seven innings.
His senior season (2008) started much the same way, with him on the bench for the first game of the season. But, Burdeau found himself in the lineup for Game No. 2 when the starting third baseman was away. He finished the contest 2 for 3, and the rest is history.
"I had grown a lot as a player," said Burdeau, who was also a two-year letterman in basketball. "But I was always confident I could play when I was given the opportunity. I had always been able to hit."
He not only exceeded expectations, he emerged as one of the best hitters in the state. He finished the season with exactly a .400 batting average, with 21 RBIs and 12 runs, and he was named an Eagle-Tribune and MVC All-Star.
The 6-foot-3 slugger continued that success into the summer, starting all but one game at third for the Andover Legion squad that finished 14-4-1. He hit an impressive .313 with eight RBIs, and said it helped him gain confidence.
During his senior year, like many high school seniors, Burdeau struggled with the college decision process, especially after the bad news from Holy Cross.
"I was really confused with the whole process," he said. "I didn't know if I wanted to go to a big school or small school. I didn't know if I wanted to dedicate my time to baseball or not. My parents brought up going to Phillips Andover."
With the help of his family, Burdeau decided to take a postgrad year with the nearby Big Blue. That move proved a smashing success on the field.
Burdeau earned the starting job at third base, and dominated the league with a team-best .464 batting average and 26 RBIs, both good for fourth in the Eagle-Tribune area, and scored 22 runs. He was joined on the Big Blue squad by fellow 2007 Andover High grad Sam Clark, who marveled at his friend's success.
"To see where (Burdeau) was our junior year to where he is now is incredible," Clark said during the season. "His persistence is amazing. He's going to play Division 1 college baseball, and he definitely belongs there."
It was on Christmas Eve of 2008 that Burdeau received the gift he had waited for — his acceptance letter from Holy Cross.
"I loved the school right away," he said. "It's not too big or too small. It's right in the city, but it's a gated campus that is so peaceful. And the coach is such a great guy. We take some intense trips to the West Coast. And last year played Boston College and Arizona."
This summer also provided Burdeau one last opportunity to represent his home town, as the starting third baseman for the Andover Legion squad that advanced to the state's Final 8 and went 19-3. Going into the week, he was hitting an outstanding .486, with a key home run in the tourney win over archrival Sudbury.
"I was thinking that this is the last time I'll be wearing an Andover uniform," he said. "I've played my last game at (Peter Aumais Park). But it is a great way to go out. I'm glad I stuck with the sport."
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