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Sean Burroughs, former MLB player and Long Beach Little League star, dies at 43

May 11th, 2024

Sean Burroughs, who pitched back-to-back no-hitters in the Little League World Series in leading his Long Beach team to consecutive championships and who then followed his father into the major leagues, died Thursday. He was 43.

Burroughs went into cardiac arrest at Stearns Park in Long Beach, where he had dropped off his son before a game, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported. He could not be revived and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Burroughs was one of the coaches of his son’s team. In a statement, Long Beach Little League called Burroughs “a legend in LBLL and the baseball community.”

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“We will have our family in our thoughts and prayers during this time,” the statement read, “and try to end the season playing the kind of baseball Coach Sean would be proud of.”

The Burroughs name means baseball royalty in Long Beach. Sean and his father, Jeff, each played at Wilson High. Each was drafted in the first round: Jeff by the Washington Senators in 1969; Sean by the San Diego Padres in 1998.

Jeff, the 1974 American League most valuable player with the Texas Rangers, played 16 years in the majors. In his book chronicling the 1992-93 Little League World Series champions, a team with Jeff as its coach and Sean as its star, Jeff wrote: “I think I’m better known now for being Sean Burroughs’ father than he is known for being Jeff Burroughs’ son.”

Long Beach, Ca., Little League coach Jeff Burroughs congratulates his son Sean as he rounds third base.Long Beach, Ca., Little League coach Jeff Burroughs congratulates his son Sean as he rounds third base.

Long Beach Little League coach Jeff Burroughs congratulates his son, Sean, as he rounds third base after hitting a home run against Richmond, Va., in the Little League World Series on Aug. 24, 1993. (Carol Francavilla / Associated Press)

Sean appeared on the David Letterman show at 12 and in Sports Illustrated at 21. He won a gold medal, playing for Tom Lasorda and Team USA in the 2000 Olympics. He made his major league debut in 2002 and, two years later, had the walkoff hit that made the Padres winners in the first regular-season game played at Petco Park.

Three years later, he was out of baseball, beaten down by what he later told ESPN was a lack of desire and eventual substance abuse. When he dedicated himself to getting back in shape and pursuing another shot at baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks offered him a minor league contract in 2011.

By the time the year was out, he had made it back to the majors.

“It’s been an incredible journey. It really has,” he told ESPN. “It was just a year ago I was eating cheeseburgers out of garbage cans and living in Motel 6.”

After limited playing time with the Diamondbacks in 2011 and the Minnesota Twins in 2012, Sean played for a Dodgers minor league affiliate in 2013, and played four years in an independent league before doing what his father had done before him: returning to Long Beach and coaching his son.

That was a full-circle moment, for a city and a nation that might remember Sean best as the star on his hometown Little League squad, with his own father as coach.

As Mike Guardabascio of 562.org recalled Friday, Jeff had written this in his book: “Sean came off the mound after one of his no-hitters at Williamsport and walked right into my arms. I’ll carry that memory forever, but you will not find that moment recorded on the score sheets. They haven’t yet devised a scorekeeping symbol that means ‘one great kid hugging one dad with a lump in his throat.’”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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