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LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES : Baseball Seems to Be in Burroughs Family's Blood : Little League: At 11, Sean Burroughs seems a natural. Of course, the hitting and pitching star for the Long Beach All-Stars also happens to be the son of former major league MVP Jeff Burroughs.

August 27, 1992|PAUL McLEOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — When he was 3 years old, nothing in his home was safe. If Sean Burroughs could pick it up he'd throw it----mostly with disastrous results.

At 5, with anything that resembled a baseball bat in his hands, no lamp or table leg was safe.

"He already exhibited coordination in his throwing," his father, Jeff Burroughs, said. "But it caused extensive damage around the house."

That spunk reared again this week at the Little League World Series each time the plucky 11-year-old stepped into the batter's box.

In the top of the fourth inning Tuesday, with his Long Beach team tied 4-4 and struggling with Hamilton Square, N.J., Burroughs tapped his bat on the plate five times in front of 13,500 people, calling for the home run gods to deliver. He blasted a mammoth drive down the right field line, but it was foul by inches. Then he drove in the go-ahead run with a double to the center field wall. Long Beach, which had trailed 4-1 at one point, went on to win, 6-4.

In the opener on Monday, Burroughs made sure that the multicolored hair on his favorite troll doll was parted four ways in the dugout before he took the mound. He struck out 12 batters in a 10-6 win over South Holland, Ill.

In traditional, middle-America Williamsport, Burroughs runs the risk of being branded as somewhat of a loose cannon. But his tenacity on the field is unquestioned and he has turned in excellent performances during the Little League playoffs, in which he is 8-0 as a pitcher while batting .640.

"He's a really well-developed kid for an 11-year-old," said the elder Burroughs. "He was the most valuable player at the Western regional. He knows how to rise to the occasion."

Team Manager Larry Lewis added: "He's determined, a real bulldog."

Some say Sean's talent runs in the family. His father, Jeff, the team's third-base coach, hit 240 home runs during 16 years in the major leagues. He was the American League's Most Valuable Player in 1974 when he was with the Texas Rangers.

Jeff Burroughs graduated from Wilson High School in Long Beach, where he became one of the greatest hitters in the school's history and was named to the all-Southern Section team.

When his major league career ended in 1985 with the Toronto Blue Jays, Burroughs moved his family back to Long Beach, where he and his wife, Debbie, are raising three children in the same neighborhood in which Jeff grew up.

While Sean was still in diapers, the Burroughs became acquainted with several parents whose children frequented the same Alamitos Bay preschool. Coincidentally, three of the boys Sean met at the preschool are on the Long Beach team. The bond they made then has had a big influence over the team now.

"They grew up together," Debbie Burroughs said. "We all knew each other. We were like parents to each other's kids. You can have a rapport with each other's kids if you have changed their diapers."

Dane Mayfield, a pitcher who is recovering from an arm injury, is one of those preschool alums. On Tuesday, Dane delivered a key single during the four-fun, fourth-inning rally that was capped by Sean Burroughs' game-winning double. Dane's father, Dennis, another Wilson graduate, is an assistant coach on the team.

"They're a little wild off the field," Dennis Mayfield said. "But the last three weeks this team has been living, eating, drinking and sleeping baseball."

At the heart of the team has been Sean Burroughs, who is a year younger than most Little Leaguers here but has emerged as both the team clown and leader, according to teammates.

"He's cool and he's nice," said teammate Chris Miller, a utility player. "He's a hero right now, but he's not cocky. He takes things in stride."

Sean is often mistaken for someone who is years older because he is stocky for his age, Debbie Burroughs said. "Everyone basically forgets that he's just a kid because he's so big, but in reality he's still just a baby," she said. "That's why he plays with troll dolls."

Comparisons between Jeff and Sean are always being made, although the father-son team doesn't like to hear them.

"I'm me and he's him," Sean said. "He says he wasn't as good as I was at this age, but I don't know. I don't remember when my dad was playing," he added with a straight face.

Like his son, Jeff Burroughs pitched and played shortstop in Little League. But Jeff's team never went beyond the district playoffs.

The elder Burroughs tries not to put any extra pressure on the all-stars.

"You have to remember that these kids are 11, 12 years old," he said after the victory Tuesday. "This is not a professional World Series. They're babies. They're awfully talented babies, but they're still learning."

The parents wholeheartedly endorse Burroughs' approach.

"There's never a negative word out of his mouth," said J. Rodney Shelley, whose son, Randall, plays center field. "He's always positive. His teams always win, whether it be soccer, baseball, you name it. I think it's because of his attitude."

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