This season Burroughs has gotten back in his natural groove; four of his six home runs have been at home, and only two were pulled to left. He considers his new surroundings a much better explanation for his success than the supposedly juiced-up ball that, some say, has accounted for the 38% increase in homers in the majors so far this season. "The ball is getting a bad rap," Burroughs says. "Why should a 2-1 game be considered normal. I say the ball is just back to being regulation."
Regulation ball or not, Burroughs smacked a home run in his first at bat on Opening Day in Houston and another in his first appearance at home. "It's a pleasure to hit in Atlanta," he says. "I've already hit a couple of balls out that would have been caught in Texas."
Because of some shoddy Brave pitching, Burroughs' batting has not done much to improve the team. His biggest days have been wasted; he hit a grand slam in a 14-10 loss to Los Angeles and had four hits and four RBIs in a 23-9 mauling by Cincinnati. His only game-winning hit was a home run against San Diego. And the Braves need to take advantage of Burroughs' hitting if they want to get true value from him, because he is not an otherwise particularly gifted player. He does not steal bases or make exceptional defensive plays, and he has already struck out 17 times in 20 games.
"I play every day and get the job done," he says, "but I'm not a crowd pleaser. I've been lousy some years and good some others. I just do the best I can and leave it at that."
Because he also played football and basketball in high school, he says he never "ate or slept baseball. I didn't care that much one way or the other about having a baseball career. In fact, the summer I signed I was a little disappointed, because I had been looking forward to fishing for a couple of months."
Now he saves his fishing and golf for the off-season. He is accomplished at both, shooting 70s and having caught bluefin tuna and marlin. But the toughest sport of all, he says, is the one he plays in the summer. "It's a constant struggle. I never have had a lot of confidence. My ego goes up and down like a yo-yo. But this year I'm feeling better again. Being with a new ball club and in a new league is like being a rookie."
As the Texas Rangers should remember, a young Jeff Burroughs is the very best kind.