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LONG BEACH : The Road to the Little League world Series : Babe Among Boys : Slugger Sean Burroughs Is a World Series Attraction on the Field and Off

August 26, 1993|PAUL McLEOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — When Sean Burroughs steps to the plate in the Little League World Series, dozens of children scramble from their hillside perches beyond Lamade Stadium to stand behind the right-field fence.

Two hundred feet away, the left-handed hitting standout of the Long Beach All-Stars waves an aluminum bat in the still central Pennsylvania air, eagerly awaiting a pitch he can drive over the short fences.

Known as a first-ball hitter with tremendous home-run power, the 12-year-old pitcher/shortstop may be America's best youth baseball player. He entered the World Series with 105 career homers. His batting average hovers around .700.

"Sean is just a great competitor, surely one of the best players in the country," Long Beach Manager Larry Lewis said. "I've never seen a kid that can do what he does and do it consistently."

Burroughs, son of former major leaguer Jeff Burroughs, the team's coach, hurled a no-hitter Monday against Hamilton, Ohio, in an 8-0 victory in the opening game of the World Series. He struck out 16, two short of the Little League record.

He is such an attraction here that Little League officials broke from tradition Monday and allowed Lewis to bring him into the interview tent after the game to face reporters. Players are usually spirited off behind guarded gates after games to protect their privacy because, officials say, "they are children."

But Burroughs has been just too big of a draw to keep him away from the spotlight. Monday night, he signed autographs as he made his way to the tent. When he got there, wearing his all-star jacket and a big smile, the throng was close behind.

At times, he seems like a man among boys, a Babe Ruth among Little Leaguers.

As a pitcher, he has been untouchable this season. His victory over the Ohio team was his 12th in a row, and it dropped his earned-run average to 0.36.

Hamilton Manager Ray Nichting said Burroughs is the best Little League player he has ever seen.

"We've faced very good pitching during the year," Nichting said. "He just flat-out took the bat out of our hands. We were overmatched."

Burroughs, in what Lewis called his best effort of the year, did not allow a ball to be hit out of the infield.

"I had pretty good control," Burroughs said. "I pitch better at night anyway. I don't know why I do, but I do."

Burroughs did not homer, but he hit two singles and scored three runs. Tuesday, he hit a 275-foot homer in a 12-8 extra-inning victory over Richmond, Va. He had a single and a double Wednesday, playing only three innings in a 21-1 victory over Bedford, N.H.

He has picked up where he left off here a year ago when he won both his outings, including a dramatic 1-0 victory over New Jersey in the deciding game of the United States bracket. But even Burroughs could not prevent Long Beach from losing to the Philippines, 15-4, in the title game. Long Beach was later declared world champion when Little League officials found that the Philippine team had used overage players.

Comparisons of Sean Burroughs with his father are being drawn around the Little League complex this week. Jeff Burroughs was a formidable pitcher and hard-hitting shortstop in Long Beach Little League in the mid-1960s. He points out, though, that he was not as strong nor as large as Sean, who is 5-foot-5, 171 pounds.

"Sean is a lot thicker than I was," Jeff Burroughs said. "I was thin, really. I didn't start to grow until I was 14."

The facial resemblance between the two is remarkable, right down to the square jaw and piercing eyes.

Both thrive on pressure. Jeff Burroughs hit 240 home runs in his 16-year major league career. His son saves his best performances for the big games.

"The more pressure, the better he does," Jeff Burroughs said. "He has the ability to handle pressure better than any young kid I've seen.

"You have to remember, he's just a 12-year-old kid. But he's done a wonderful job and he's really enjoying it."

The younger Burroughs said he has a mission in the World Series.

"Because we were here last year, we wanted to play good because everyone is watching us," he said.

He got off on the right foot.

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