Sean Burroughs was a legend when he was 12 years old.
Son of former major leaguer Jeff Burroughs, who hit 240 home runs and was AL MVP in 1974, the younger Burroughs led his team to Little League World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. By the time he was 18, he was nearly his dad's size at 6-2, 200, and when he was selected ninth overall in the 1998 draft, he turned down an offer to play college ball at USC to sign with the Padres.
And that's where expectations trumped reality. Though similar in looks and size to his dad, Sean Burroughs wasn't the power hitter Jeff was, even though many expected him to develop that sort of power. He hit .363/.467/.490 at age 18 and rocketed through the Padres' system, reaching the major leagues at age 21.
The power never developed and Sean had only one season -- 2003 at age 21 -- when he even reached a league-average performance, posting a 105 OPS+. With no power (a career high of seven home runs) and no speed (a career high of seven stolen bases), he was shipped to the then-Devil Rays after the 2005 season for another failed No. 1 pick, Dewon Brazelton. The trade was a failure for both teams; Brazelton posted a 12.00 ERA for the Padres in nine games and Burroughs was released after the 2006 season. Signing a minor league deal with the Mariners, he didn't make it there either, and after his release in June 2007, he was out of baseball for more than three years.
Almost on a lark for both parties, the Diamondbacks signed him to a minor-league deal last November. He was given no promises and played in only three major league spring training games, going 0-for-2. He was fortunate that the D'backs Triple-A squad in Reno needed a backup third baseman, and he has taken advantage, hitting .386/.434/.571 in 77 plate appearances. There's still little power -- just one home run -- but he's struck out only six times. Tuesday night, he went 5-for-5 with three doubles, a triple, a single and four RBI and nearly hit for the cycle; one of the doubles barely missed being a home run. Burroughs, for his part, seems relaxed and enjoying his role:
"When you're playing every day, you can have up and down days but it all equals out," the fun-loving 30-year-old said. "Coming off the bench and getting spot starts is the hardest part of baseball. I come to the field ready to play, whether my name's in the starting lineup or if I'm going to help the team late in a ballgame.
"I've played baseball all my life, and, yeah, I thought my timing might be a little off to start but it really hasn't been. I've felt fresh because I'm taking care of myself away from the field. That was a big obstacle for me in the past, and not showing up to play day in and day out, and that really hurt me."
The Diamondbacks have been starting Ryan Roberts at third base, but he's also been filling in at second because Kelly Johnson hasn't been hitting. Melvin Mora, now 39, backs up Roberts but isn't very good in the field or at the plate any more (.587 OPS). The D'backs have an open spot on their 40-man roster (Burroughs isn't on it right now).
Perhaps the Sean Burroughs story will have a happy ending. He appeared on David Letterman's show after the Little League World Series triumphs. Sean's not yet 31; could there be more baseball fame in his future?
... and the answer is, apparently, "Yes." Via tweet from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Burroughs has been recalled by the Diamondbacks and will join them for Wednesday night's home game against the Atlanta Braves.