Opinion by TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports
Conference USA Tournament champion and No. 2 seed Louisiana Tech plays No. 3 seed Dallas Baptist Friday at 6:30 in the Austin Regional, and sometimes in the Tech dugout and sometimes in the third base coaching box will be head coach Lane Burroughs, a man who 26 years ago tried, for two days, to be something he’s not.
He’d been a good Little Leaguer in south Mississippi, so good that an opposing coach suggested, not in a flattering way, that he was a “little SOB.” Burroughs was 10.
The moment stuck with him. Competitive little dude, Burroughs was. He didn’t grow up with much but he had everything that mattered and he learned early on that you always have to make the other team earn it.
He started as a freshman at baseball-storied West Lauderdale High, a feat rarer than a Yankee accent around Meridian. Played at Meridian Community College, then Mississippi College, and then …
It was over. Baseball.
He tried to turn his back on baseball. Left Mississippi and got a “real job.” Bought a truck and carried the note. Nice truck, too. He was committed. Leased an apartment. Utilities. Cable. The whole deal. A real job. He was in.
For 48 hours.
That’s how long his “real job” lasted.
Then, he came home.
Where he belonged.
He came home to Mississippi. But mostly, he came home to baseball.
Became a graduate assistant. Earned another degree. Became an assistant coach. Then a head coach at Northwestern State. And for the past six years, at Tech, the coach of a 40-plus-wins-and-NCAA Regionals team for the past two seasons.
He’s quietly funny. He laughs quickly and can become, just as fast, “a bumbling, crying idiot.” His words.
He’s the best dancer on the team. “I don’t shy away from it,” he said. “The players know it; they need to accept it.”
He’s one of them, a quarter-century removed.
It’s a unique situation, and one he has been perfect for. Sure, there was the virus season, but everyone in college baseball had to deal with that. But a year before, a tornado had taken Tech’s field, and the older players on the team plus Burroughs and assistant Matt Miller were the only ones around for that. The only ones who played a season without a home ballpark.
Burroughs was used to “not much,” and having to plow ahead anyway. It’s why perpetual starters and stars like Taylor Young and Steele Netterville, who had no place else to go but Tech, saw something in their coach they could latch onto as players; neither can talk about Burroughs very much before they start looking at their cleats and rubbing their eyes.
The personality of the coach, maybe, has rubbed off on a team that can speak for itself.
“He’s the type of coach that if he says ‘Run through a wall,’ you do it without hesitation.” — Designated hitter Jackson Lancaster, a transfer
“He’s the definition of a player’s coach. He puts up with all our shenanigans and lets us enjoy the game we love. The way I look at it, we’re one big happy family and Coach Burroughs is the father figure.” — first baseman Philip Matulia
“One of the most competitive people I’ve ever met. That’s what makes playing for him so much fun. He enjoys a W. Even when things get tough, he has never given up on his team, not once in my four years of playing for him.” — left fielder Adarius Myers
“He loves his players and goes out of his way to show it. He knows both my parents’ names and makes it a point to acknowledge them whenever they’re around. He gave me a chance when no one else would. He cares for us like we’re his own.” — Designated hitter Walker Burchfield, a transfer
“He is there for me no matter what, and I can call and ask him anything or for anything at any time. Playing in the summer you hear all about how your summer teammates dislike their coaches, but I have been blessed to where that has never been the case for me. I only hope that at the end of my time here at Tech that I will have given to Coach Burroughs 1/100th of all he has sacrificed and given me. He goes above and beyond for this program and we are all forever indebted to him for that. Coach Burroughs is a man that I feel God put into my life for a very specific reason and I am a better man, player, human, future husband, and future father for knowing this man. I love him like he is a part of my own family.” — All-CUSA pitcher Jonathan Fincher
He hasn’t done it alone. Coaching and support staff. Players. Mentors. He’ll tell you that.
But he’ll also tell you the No. 1-seed is Susan Parker, now Susan Burroughs, his wife now and girlfriend since eighth or ninth grade when he asked her, romantic devil that he is, to “go” with him.
“I didn’t even know where we were going to go,” Burroughs says now.
How about to the Austin Regional? And who could have known then, back when Burroughs had a “job” that he gave up for baseball, how his family would grow. Now he and Susan have two daughters, one son in high school, and 30 more in college.
They all have a game tomorrow.
Contact Teddy at email@example.com
Photo courtesy of Louisiana Tech