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The best reason for Randy Burditt to stay for his ninth season as manager of the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team was his main reason for leaving.
Even after putting his resignation in, Burditt still talks at length about the returners from the 2008 season.
“The young kids coming up, their basic skills are there,” Burditt said. “They’re going to be a great team. It’s a great time for me to step down.”
A lot of things have changed for Burditt this past season personally.
In April, Burditt’s father passed away. Also, before the season started, his daughter Megan Burditt was offered and accepted a scholarship to play college softball at Western Nebraska.
Coach Burditt said because so many things had happened in his family recently, he realized how much time he had missed with his loved ones while working with the program for the last 17 years.
Burdit said he’s also already made detailed plans about catching Megan’s collegiate softball games this spring.
The Hilltopper returners — the team had just four seniors on it this season — will still need guidance, and with his plans to see his daughter, he wouldn’t be able to devote to them the time they’d need.
Burditt started as an assistant with the program in 1992 and has seen the program grow by nearly double, and in a few seasons, more than double. In the 2002 season, 56 girls came out for softball, so much so that he had to invent a new junior varsity team to give as many as possible a chance to play.
One of the things Burditt credited helping the program develop into what it is today was something completely out of his control: the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. In those Games, softball was one of the highlighted sports, particularly with the United States performing very well.
In 2001, Burditt took over for 10-year veteran Tom Brown. Burditt said Brown was a great mentor for an incoming manager.
“I learned so much that year,” Burditt said of his first year under Brown. “He taught me very well how to coach, how to teach the kids, how to manage. He was a good teacher to learn under.”
In his eight years of managing the program, Burditt finished above .500 every year. He was also particularly proud of one thing in his final season.
“The seniors I had with me this year made the state tournament all four years,” he said.
Los Alamos had to bounce back from two season-ending injuries to two of its seniors in 2008 to reach the state tournament. Sam Aumack suffered a leg injury and Cassandra Arellano had a sprained thumb on her throwing hand, forcing them to miss most of District 2AAAA play.
However, the younger Hilltoppers stayed on track and finished second in the 2AAAA race, advancing to the state playoffs before being bounced in two straight games by Aztec and Deming.
For his efforts in 2008, Burditt was named the District 2AAAA Coach of the Year.
Burditt said he had plenty of people to thank for the program’s success, not the least of which was pitching coach Jim Ruhe.
“I couldn’t do this without Jim Ruhe,” he said. “Coach Ruhe was a big part of my success. Working with pitchers, doing stuff behind the scenes. He’s a big part and I will dearly miss him.”
Burditt said he was also thankful for his parents, something most coaches, when answering truthfully, are rarely thankful for. He said he had very few problems with the parents involved with the program over the years, the vast majority of whom he said understood what he and the program were trying to accomplish.
He said he will finish out the season coaching the New Mexico Blazers U18 team and may possibly continue coaching a summer program after this year.