Eight years removed from Hadlock Field, Mike Redmond crouched in the visiting bullpen at Fenway Park, warming up the Minnesota Twins starting pitcher before a September game against the Red Sox, and wishing the guy would finish his routine.

Redmond had someone he needed to see.

A pregame ceremony was taking place. The Red Sox were paying tribute to their Double-A affiliate, the Portland Sea Dogs, for winning the 2006 Eastern League title.

The players had scattered, of course, as soon as the minor league playoffs ended. But the manager, the general manager, the mascot and the owner were on hand to accept congratulations.

Redmond dashed through the gate of the visiting bullpen in right field and made a beeline for Dan Burke.

“I came sprinting in and gave him a big hug,” said the former Sea Dogs catcher. “It was a great moment for me, something I’ll never forget.”

Ask an old ballplayer about the people who influenced his career and you’ll hear tales of wise coaches, or cherished teammates, or a spouse who stood by him through the tough times.

But the owner of a minor league ballclub?

That was Dan Burke.

It was Burke who brought professional baseball back to Portland after an absence of 45 years.

Once his Sea Dogs began play at a refurbished Hadlock Field in 1994, Burke was happy to simply step back and soak in the atmosphere, preferably with a few of his 14 grandchildren enjoying the ballgame with him.

“Such a great, great man,” said Redmond, who spent 13 seasons in the majors after it seemed his career had petered out in Portland.

“At a time when we were all such young players, he really cared about us, and not just about baseball, but about our families.”

Burke died Tuesday at age 82. Redmond was in a sporting goods store near his home in Spokane, Wash., his first season as a minor-league manager (for the Lansing Lugnuts of the Class A Midwest League) under his belt, when a phone call delivered the news. Immediately, Redmond thought back to the dignified man with the gleam in his eye who sat by the Sea Dogs dugout and occasionally leaned over to give a thumbs up to a deserving player.

There was the annual lobster bake for Sea Dogs players hosted by the Burkes during the all-star break, the quiet replacement of a lost engagement ring for a player’s fiancee, and other kindnesses that didn’t make the papers.

“He took good care of all of us,” Redmond said. “He created a tremendous atmosphere, made it feel like it was the big leagues to us, and that was pretty cool.”

I FIRST METDan Burke in a cow pasture, an unpretentious setting for an unpretentious man.

It was March of 1994. He was making the transition from broadcast executive to owner of a fledgling minor league baseball team in Maine.

I was in transition myself, having moved from a newspaper in Connecticut to the Press Herald to cover the Sea Dogs.

The pasture was outside of Melbourne, Fla., in what would became the planned community of Viera. The Florida Marlins had built a spring training facility at the end of a long and winding road west of the interstate, so the number of young men playing baseball nearly matched the number of cattle grazing in the nearby fields.

What I remember from our annual spring-training conversations was not his answers to questions about the franchise or improvements to Hadlock, but his excitement over the prospects earmarked for Portland.

Have you seen Charles Johnson play yet? They tell me this young shortstop, Edgar Renteria, is a special one. They’re very high on this outfielder, Mark Kotsay.

Burke was the opposite of meddling. He hired the former president of the Eastern League, Charlie Eshbach, to run the franchise and then stepped out of Eshbach’s way. A small office at Hadlock was set aside for Burke, but I never saw him inside. It was nearly barren, used mostly for storage.

The emphasis at Hadlock, then and now, was on baseball and family entertainment. No dizzy bat races, no inflatable sumo wrestling suits, no loud-mouthed drunks tolerated.

When one of my early stories echoed a phrase coined by former Press Herald sportswriter John Heffernan to describe the lighthouse rising above the outfield fence after every Sea Dogs home run and victory, a polite request was conveyed that I refrain from using “Burke’s Beacon,” lest it catch on. The spotlight ought to shine on the players, not the owner.

His ritual was to sit in the front row alongside the Sea Dogs dugout for half the game, then climb the stairs, waving and shaking hands, to watch the remaining innings from the owners box.

“I never get tired of sitting down there in the fourth inning and looking around and hearing people laughing in close contact with their families,” he told me in 1996. “I just don’t know where you could go and see a nicer collection of people having a nicer time.”

A few years later he agreed to a brief Q&A session, in which he joked about the new vocabulary his wife, Bunny, was learning from being in such close proximity to the players. The session ended with a question about what three objects he would retrieve from his burning home, given that everyone was safely outside.

He groaned, then reflected a moment and said, “I guess I’d just stand and watch it go. I’m not much interested in things. They don’t matter that much to me.”

To everyone who ever passed through the Hadlock portals or graced its diamond, Burke mattered.

He will be missed.

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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Twitter: GlennJordanPPH