First published in the Aug. 20 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
By Alex Leon
Special to the Burbank Leader
It usually isn’t enough of an advantage to win most games but it was enough for the Burroughs High School baseball team to win this year’s CIF Southern Section Division 5 championship, 1-0, over Moreno Valley on May 20 at Cal State Fullerton.
One run scored in the fourth inning helped the Bears capture the first CIF baseball title in school history, but the process to winning the championship actually started in June 2021, when the team opened summer workouts after losing in the second round of the CIF playoffs that spring.
“The 2021 season was challenging in a lot of ways but some of the decisions we made to go with a starting lineup of sophomores and freshmen and just a few upperclassmen were difficult to make but better for the program in the long run,” said head coach Matt Magallon. “Playing those younger players last year really helped us grow as a team and bonded the players in a way that paved the way for our success this year.”
Talking to the head coach — who just completed his third year at Burroughs, and was a player growing up in Burbank and playing locally at Bellarmine-Jefferson High School, Glendale Community College and Cal State Dominguez Hills — he comes across as a seasoned veteran in the dugout. He deflects any praise directed at him to his players, his fellow coaches and staff at Burroughs and the administrators whom he feels are in the trenches with the team.
“I kid our Athletic Director Keith Knoop that he can’t miss any of our games in the future because we won games with him in the stands during the regular season and in the playoffs, especially on the road,” he said. “In fact, all of the sports and coaches at the school went out of their way to support us and the faculty encouraged students to come out and support us. We had something like 300 students at our home game against Burbank and it made a huge difference to the team.”
With a 23-11 overall record and 11-3 in the highly competitive Pacific League, the Bears jelled at the right time, winning five straight playoff games, three via shutouts — including the narrow championship victory.
“The road to the CIF title for our baseball team was as an exciting event for our school and for me personally as anything I can recall. Every playoff game was a challenge for our players and coaching staff, but they found a way to persevere and that says a lot for their leadership and the process they follow,” Knoop said. “Head coach Matt Magallon has really put his stamp on the baseball program in a short time, making it a priority to be organized and strategic and to put forth a vision that stresses accountability and responsibility for his players and that starts with his coaching staff from top to bottom.”
Speaking of his coaching staff, Magallon counts his two brothers — Mike Magallon and Mitch Kellogg — as critical pieces to the team’s success, as well as his habit of reaching out to opposing coaches in the area to discuss coaching philosophies and to glean information on anything that might make his team better.
The latter item included taking a little more time off than usual this summer to be with his family and coaching for USA Baseball. But winning the title a few months earlier did not diminish the excitement about the Bears’ future, as Matt Magallon and staff welcomed 61 incoming freshmen at tryouts just weeks after hoisting the championship trophy.
One run may have been enough to win the CIF title almost three months ago for the Burroughs baseball team but Matt Magallon is taking no chances in preparing his program to do what it takes to defend the championship and represent the Burbank community and John Burroughs High School the best way he knows how.
Alex Leon is the sports information director for Glendale Community College. He was formerly the sports editor of the Foothill Leader, as well as a reporter and columnist for the Glendale News-Press.