NOTEBOOK : This Time, Burroughs Doesn’t Face the Music
A former major league most valuable player who has been a familiar face here the past two years has shown up again. Actually, he looks different this time: Jeff Burroughs left his game face in Long Beach.
“It’s nice to come here just to enjoy the atmosphere,” said Burroughs, coach of the Long Beach Little League world champion 1992 and ’93 teams.
Burroughs, who played 16 years in the big leagues and was the American League’s most valuable player in 1974 while with the Texas Rangers, played in an old-timers game Saturday in Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Pa. His wife and son, Sean, a standout in the past two Little League World Series, are with him.
“I promised Sean we’d come back so he could trade pins,” Burroughs said.
Burroughs likes what he sees in Northridge, which has replaced Long Beach as the World Series representative from the Western Region.
“They are really good,” he said. “People are always going to compare teams to us. That’s part of the fun of baseball.”
Add Burroughs: Northridge ace Nathaniel Dunlap has thrown the hardest of any pitcher in the tournament, registering 74 m.p.h. once on a radar gun Monday and consistently hitting 70-72 m.p.h.
Last year, Sean Burroughs threw “80-81 m.p.h. pretty regularly,” according to his father, Jeff.
Not so, insist Corey Wright and Paul Alesse, volunteers who have worked the radar gun at the World Series since 1983.
“Burroughs topped out at 68 m.p.h.,” Wright said. “He had a hellacious hard curve. That’s what really made him.”
Alesse said the fastest that a pitcher from the U.S. has been clocked is 78 m.p.h., although they couldn’t remember the boy’s name. Several pitchers from the Far East, they said, have thrown 80 m.p.h., with 83 being the fastest pitch recorded at Williamsport.
Bouncing back: Cleanup hitter Spencer Gordon perhaps best exemplified the range of emotions Northridge players have gone through the past two days.
Gordon made the final out of Monday’s 4-2 loss to Brooklyn Center, Minn., with two runners on base, capping a hitless game for him. He softly knocked his head against the dugout wall afterward, visibly dejected.
“I have never seen my son so despondent,” said Eric Gordon, Spencer’s father, who along with Spencer’s mother, Bonnie, tried to console their son outside the team barracks. “He hugged his mother longer than I have ever seen him hug her. He told us, ‘I let the team down and blew the game,’ and nothing me or the coaches could say could change that thought.”
Tuesday brought a new day and new game for Northridge, which defeated Middleboro, Mass., 6-4.
Who broke open a scoreless game in the third inning with a line drive off the center field fence hit so hard he was held to an RBI single? Spencer Gordon.
Two batters later, Gordon trotted around the bases ahead of Matt Cassel, who smashed a three-run home run to give Northridge a 4-0 lead.
“Last night in the barracks, a lot of the guys were really down,” Cassel said. “This game picked up everybody’s spirits.”
No-show: An appearance by Michael Jordan has been canceled because he is recovering from a shoulder injury, said Dennis Sullivan, a Little League spokesman.
TODAY’S GAME: Northridge vs. Springfield, Va., 4:30 p.m., on ESPN.