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Few 31-year-olds have experienced higher highs and lower lows than Sean Burroughs. The veteran infielder has been a Little League World Series hero, a top-10 draft pick and an Olympic gold medalist. He’s also battled the cunning, baffling demon known as addiction and eaten cheeseburgers out of a garbage can.
Once regarded as a can’t miss prospect, Burroughs’ career had fizzled by the mid 2000s and, after a short stint in Tampa Bay in 2006, it appeared he was out the big leagues for good. Then after hitting rock bottom wandering the streets of Las Vegas, the son of former AL MVP Jeff Burroughs rediscovered his passion for the game and began an improbable comeback that began last year in Arizona and continues in Minnesota.
I caught up with Burroughs during last week’s homestand to see how he’s adjusting to his new team.
DZ: We are about a week into the season now, you’ve been through spring training, how’s it going for you?
BURROUGHS: It’s going good, pretty chill. Obviously it started off kinda rough with our first series (in Baltimore), but we came out the last series (vs. Anaheim) and played well. Like you said, it’s still very early, I think everyone is still trying to get their feet under them, get the wheels moving and get into this thing.
DZ: When you join a new team like this, what’s the toughest challenge getting adjusted to the new team, city and everything?
BURROUGHS: You just said it right there, just getting used to these guys, what makes them tick, how people work - not just during the games - before the games, after the games, meetings. When you move teams, you meet 25 new personalities and 25 different guys. I’ve enjoyed everyone so far, had a good time. You just have to get used to - I’ve always been kind of a National League guy, but it’s still baseball. It’s my first full season in the American League so far and you’ve got to learn new pitching, the new fields and everything, but it shouldn’t be too big of an adjustment as we go along.
DZ: As a free agent last year, what attracted you to this team?
BURROUGHS: The whole picture, everything about it. I’ve heard only good things about the organization from the front office all the way down to the fans. I’ve totally seen that and been a part of it since spring training. The coaching staff has been great, the guys in this clubhouse have been awesome and the fans have been really supportive. Looking through the teams I was going to sign with, this team looked like it would probably give me the best shot to get up here and play in the big leagues. That’s one of the deciding factors, you want to get up here and play in the big leagues.
DZ: This is your first time being on an opening day roster in what, four or five years?
BURROUGHS: Yeah since (pauses) in 2006 I was, but I was on the DL with Tampa. Then I was only up with them for 5, 6 games (actually eight) before I got sent down. Basically, it’s been since 2005, so 7 years bro. It’s been a long time so I really relished the opener in Baltimore and I really relished the opener here. It was a good time, a good day. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.
DZ: You had a big comeback year with the Diamondbacks last season, made the playoffs, and came so close to advancing. Going into the offseason, how long does it take to get over losing like that?
BURROUGHS: I think as ballplayers we kind of have selective memory (laughs). You’ve got to learn to forget things relatively quickly. If you have a bad day at the field, go 0-for-4 or make an error…all of us have a really good idea how to forget that and move on. That’s kind of what I did, we all kind of looked back on the series, looked back on the loss for a couple of weeks or whatever, but then I think everyone flipped the page and started getting ready for the next season. As a baseball player, you never really stop thinking about it - the next game, the upcoming season. It was tough, it was a hard one, but we played hard and we left it all on the field.
DZ: Was it even harder knowing that you might not be back with those guys again?
BURROUGHS: Yeah, you think about that. Anything in baseball is possible. I play this game because I enjoy it, I love competing, going out there. When it comes down to it, it’s playing ball. A lot people in this game don’t have the opportunity to basically pick where they want to play - some teams are going to want you, some teams aren’t. It’s a business and I realize that, I am so thankful to be playing in Minnesota now.
DZ: What was your mindset going into spring training and how did you find out you made the team?
BURROUGHS: A couple of days before we broke camp. Going into spring, I didn’t want to do anything differently. I wanted to have solid at bats, I wanted to go out there, show them what I can do, play my game and show them what I can bring to a team. I didn’t want to go out there and be Superman and try and lead the Grapefruit League in hitting. I just wanted to be solid in the field and have solid at-bats and let the chips fall where they fell.
DZ: Going back a few years, you won an Olympic gold medal in 2000; where is the medal right now?
BURROUGHS: Back home in Long Beach in the safety deposit box my parents put it in right after that. Actually, I haven’t taken it out since it’s just sitting there collecting dust. I’ve got to maybe shine it up this offseason and where it around (laughs).
DZ: It is an Olympic year.
BURROUGHS: I know, right.
DZ: Baseball fans are familiar with your dad, what’s he up to these days?
BURROUGHS: He’s chillin’, hanging out. He still lives in Long Beach - golfing. He’s retired, he’s been retired for awhile now. He did some stints as manager of an independent league team for a little bit and he’s kind of move around. He’s kinda hanging out and doing his thing, doing odd jobs here and there.