Mary Ellen Buckley
Mary Ellen “Buck” Buckley loved the game, loved to compete and hated to lose. Her goal was always about what she could do to help the team win, and she was privileged to play with teammates who shared her passion. There were years when she played 5 nights a week and tournaments every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day when summer ball ended with the World Tournament. But her season didn’t end with summer as she played Fall ball into November.
Buck played in leagues from St. Charles to Milwaukee and countless ball parks in between. She didn’t care how far she had to travel in order to take the field, and she was elated to be playing with the best of the best on Precision Erecting that included Wisconsin Hall of Famer Mary Biondi Kasinski and Laura “Flip” Fillipp, a 1996 Illinois USSSA Hall of Famer and National Hall of Famer.
Buck started her USSSA career in 1978 with teams such as Lee’s Deli, Racine Royals and joined Precision Erecting in 1981, one of the best Class A teams in Wisconsin. Buck and Flip were the only two Illinois players on this Wisconsin-based team, so they not only became teammates but traveling companions and lifelong friends. For six consecutive years Precision Erecting won every league and Wisconsin State Tournament in which they played. They traveled to all the big NITs in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, usually winning or finishing in the top five and occasionally doing it the “hard way” – through the loser’s bracket.
Buck was Precision’s left fielder and lead-off hitter with a .600 batting average and .800 on-base percentage. She was known for taking an extra base whenever she could and lived up to her team’s name when she played for Head First, a league team out of Franklin Park.
Flip sums up her longtime friend, “Buck and Kathy Rile (teammate from Cannon Illusions) were the most competitive people I have ever played with.” That’s quite the compliment as Flip has played with many other National contenders including Steele Sports and Little Caesar’s with many talented athletes.
Mary Ellen also volunteered at numerous USSSA National Youth Clinics in Oklahoma and Virginia for Mildred Burrell, former USSSA Women’s and Youth National Director. It was at these clinics that buck realized how much she enjoyed working with kids, and years later she was able to realize her dream of doing it full time when she gave up working as a Medical Technologist and a medical sales rep to become a science teacher.
Always a competitor at heart, Buck took what she learned on the softball field and applied it to academic competition becoming a Science Olympiad coach during her first year of teaching. Her team won its first of six consecutive Illinois State titles in 2011 and went on to win back-to-back National Championships in 2016 and 2017.
Buck sums up her softball career, “The game of softball taught me about life and was my life in my 20s. I learned about responsibility, time management, organization and the value of friendships. The lessons I learned have shaped who I am as a person and who I am as a coach today.”