All-Star Pitcher Tim Burke Goes Home a Winner with a Baby Boy

updated 08/07/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/07/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

It was one of those rare moments in sport when the life of a player overshadows the play. Montreal Expos pitcher Tim Burke entered last month's baseball All Star game in the fourth inning, facing a 5-2 deficit and the knowledge that three National League pitchers before him had been battered and sent to the showers. But for Burke, 30, and an estimated 51 million TV viewers, the moment was one to be measured in something other than mere hits and runs. The day before, Burke's wife, Christine, 28, had flown to Guatemala City to pick up the child the couple had been trying to adopt for the previous eight months. Now she sat 2,200 miles away, watching the game in her Guatemala hotel room and waiting for her husband to join her.

Entering the game, Burke hit the Anaheim Stadium field running, but suddenly slowed to a walk. "I wanted to take it all in," he says now. Concentrating momentarily on the business at hand, Burke pitched two scoreless innings, sat out the rest of the game, then raced from the ballpark to catch a plane for the five-hour flight to Guatemala and his new son, Ryan.

Married seven years, the Burkes discovered in 1985 that they were unlikely to conceive a child of their own. Burke showed little interest in adoption at first ("I couldn't imagine living with another couple's child"), so Christine took matters into her own hands. A born-again Christian like her husband, she began praying for a change of heart in her mate. Two weeks later, "Boom, I felt a deep, deep desire, not just to adopt but to adopt a Korean girl specifically," says Burke. And so they did, acquiring one year later a Korean child whom they named Stephanie.

Last year, while flipping through a publication about unwanted orphans, the couple spotted the photograph of an abandoned Guatemalan boy suffering the aftereffects of infant malnutrition and a hyperthyroid condition that had caused mild retardation. "Our hearts went right out to him," says Burke, and after months of red tape, the adoption was approved just before the All Star game in early July.

Five days after the game, Ryan joined 23-month-old Stephanie in the family's split-level home outside Montreal. When he is older, says Burke, he'll give Ryan Daddy's silver All Star ring, its inscription dated the day of the boy's adoption.

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