Northborough – Neil Burke has gotten used to success and accolades during his coaching career so when the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association (MBCA) came calling with one more award, he was prepared for the attention. This time though, it happened to be the paramount achievement for someone in his line of work.
The Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) baseball coach was recognized for his outstanding record with induction into the MBCA Hall of Fame Jan. 29. He was joined by three other prolific coaches for a ceremony at the Double- Tree Hotel in Westborough. Patrick Yanchus of St. John's Prep in Danvers, Thomas Healy of Canton High School and Andy Cline of Phillips Academy in Andover rounded out the recipients.
The MBCA analyzes four criteria when considering candidates for induction.
“They look at character, the length of time you'se coached, activity in the MBCA, and coaching record,” Burke said.
His record, 332 wins to 182 losses, speaks for itself. The respect he has garnered from peers and players covers the character requirement. His tenure on the MBCA's Executive Board, as well as writing and producing their newsletter have been valuable services to the association. In terms of longevity, not only has Burke coached the minimum 15 years, but his 29 seasons automatically make him eligible as an active coach.
Burke has spent 23 of those years as the head coach at ARHS. After graduation, he returned to his alma mater as the junior varsity baseball coach before becoming the skipper of the varsity team four years later. All the while, he has balanced his duties as a physical education teacher with the demands of leading a group of young men on the baseball diamond.
“I never considered another career path besides teaching and coaching,” Burke said.
He has met success along the way, as evidenced by his career winning percentage. All those wins, along with 10 league championships, did not come in the fashion of a colorful, vocal manager like Lou Piniella or Bobby Cox. Burke prefers teaching the mastery of fundamentals and relying on his players to trust their training. His accomplishments vouch for his technique. Five years ago, his determined work ethic and dedication to the school culminated in his greatest achievement.
“It's hard to compare any- thing to winning the state championship in 2006,” Burke said.
Despite his recent title and a streak of 18 consecutive trips to the postseason tournament, Burke is willing to walk away from the game.
“I plan to coach for three more years, ending the same time I retire from teaching,” he said, ” but I's not sure what my retirement plans are yet.”
Whatever they may be, Burke has certainly earned some relaxation after a celebrated career. But don's write him off just yet. The Tomahawks begin their season Friday, April 15 at Hudson High School. With Burke at the helm, it's hard not to think they'sl be favored to win.