By Rick Assad
Being front and center is nothing new for Sara Budrick, the former Burroughs High and Central Connecticut State University softball standout.
There has been a change in dress, however, as Budrick, a 2006 high school graduate has traded in her bat, glove and spikes for a nurse’s uniform, where she is employed at Olive View UCLA Medical Center as an emergency room nurse.
“I work in two specialties of nursing, oncology and emergency nursing. I work in the emergency room. Honestly, 2020 is a year I’d like to forget. Working the frontlines was mentally, physically and emotionally draining,” she said. “I’m grateful that my family, friends and co-workers were healthy and safe during this last year. I’m also extremely grateful that vaccines have been developed and there is improvement in cases. This year taught me to appreciate my time with loved ones and never take that time for granted.”
Being at the forefront, Budrick, a four-year starter at Burroughs, has seen first-hand the devastation and fear that the coronavirus has delivered.
“COVID-19 has definitely affected me. When the pandemic first started, I had many concerns. I was worried about having enough protective equipment, my health, and the health of my family members, friends and patients,” she explained. “Looking back I’m grateful that I had my co-workers and family to lean on because there were days that made me question my career path, and honestly were demoralizing. I think that dealing with the adversity that the pandemic brought made me stronger professionally and personally.”
Some jobs are extremely challenging. Being an ER nurse is that and also stressful, but it can be rewarding.
How did Budrick, who began as a shortstop during her freshman campaign and then became primarily a pitcher beginning her sophomore season at the prep level, choose this profession?
“When I was in college, I was hospitalized with acute appendicitis, and the nurses that took care of me were phenomenal, and I realized after that experience that I wanted to become a nurse and help people,” she said. “My mother [Leslie] is also a nurse and she was my biggest supporter and motivation to start a career in nursing.”
Having been an athlete has made the transition to being a healthcare worker so much easier for Budrick.
“Athletics I feel prepared me for life,” said Budrick, who won All-Foothill League honors four years and was named to the honor roll four years at Burroughs. “It gave me a foundation of skills I utilize today. Teamwork, responsibility, accountability, time-management, work ethic, leadership; these are a few of the things I’ve learned from participating in sports. And it’s carried over into my professional life. I am a better nurse from participating in athletics.”
Budrick, an assistant coach under former Burbank skipper Mike Delaney in 2015 and 2016, talked about how sports prepared her for being a nurse.
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is how to manage failure. Playing softball, I failed a lot, whether that was a strike out or an error,” she noted. “Personally, I don’t like to fail, but I learned that failure helps you grow as an athlete and improve as long as you learn from it and don’t quit. I’ve also learned how to manage my emotions and deal with stressful situations which is something I did a lot this year working in nursing.”
Delaney could see Budrick, whom he coached at the ponytail level, had the necessary skills to excel on the field and also be an excellent coach.
“Sara was one of the most intense and intelligent players I’ve met. She set high standards for herself and teammates,” he said. “Her knowledge of the game and ability to communicate what she knew to our athletes as a coach was a huge bonus to our program. She was also an excellent role model showing our student-athletes that it was possible to be successful both in the classroom and on the field.”
Across her high school career, Budrick made the Suzanne Manlet Invitational Tournament all-tourney squad in 2004 and was selected to the Valley Breeze newspaper travel softball team based in the San Fernando Valley as the squad finished in the top ten at the Amateur Softball Association nationals during her sophomore and senior years.
Playing high school softball was valuable for Budrick, who batted .331 during her senior season at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, where she was an infielder and majored in Psychology.
“My experience playing softball at John Burroughs was positive. I loved competing in high school and playing teams in the Foothill League because the level of competition was similar to what I faced playing travel softball,” she said. “I remember playing in the rivalry games against Burbank High and the tradition of that rivalry is special. Playing in front of a packed stadium and having your classmates and community cheer you on as you compete against your rivalry school is a rewarding experience.”
Budrick was a four-year starter at Central Connecticut State University where she earned a full athletic scholarship.
Trying to find one’s way through the classroom and softball field is filled with potholes, but Budrick was able to navigate through.
“Being a student-athlete was so much fun and there were times it was difficult,” she pointed out. “Balancing schoolwork and practice was challenging, but made me a better student, because I couldn’t procrastinate. I missed some high school dances to go to college showcases, but looking back the sacrifice was worth it. It was fun to travel and hang out with my teammates at tournaments and games.”
Budrick’s father, Jeff, helped launch her interest in the game.
“My dad was the biggest influence for me playing softball,” she said. “He played baseball in college and later on played men’s fastpitch softball. He traveled to national and international tournaments. I remember watching his games as a kid and I loved it. Spending time at the ballpark was fun for me, and when I was five my dad started a tee-ball team for me and my sister Katie and that was the start.”
Budrick’s trek playing ponytail softball, high school and then college has been something she’ll never forget.
Does Budrick have any choice words she’d like to pass along to first-year high school students who might be thinking about playing a sport?
“I would advise them to develop good study habits and time-management skills and remind them that school is more important than sports,” she said. “I would also tell them that four years goes by very quickly and to enjoy it and take lots of pictures and make memories.”
Budrick has done that and more and is thankful because it’s helped her develop into the person she is.