In over a quarter century of USSSA softball, Tom Burton’s support of the game has been unwavering. Always willing to do whatever it took to give his team the best chance to win, Burton prided himself on his scouting acumen and ability as a defensive strategist. Along the way, he also sat behind the microphone as a tournament announcer for over half a dozen tournaments.
Starting with the legendary Fox Valley Lassies in 1979 on through stints with Lady Blue, UPI, Kinder Sharks and Shooters out of Orlando, Florida, Burton has contributed his coaching skills to some of the top women’s slow pitch teams in America.
Burton can list players, officials and coaches from all over America who will attest to his skills and personal characteristics, including directors in Kansas, Florida, Kentucky and, of course, Illinois.
He has coached for five World Champions, including three Lady Blue teams, the 1995 UPI team and the 1995 35 & Over World Champion Bret Givens team.
Scouting is not near the top of the lists of most coaches’ favorite activities, but Burton thrived on that essential task. He loved to break down other team’s offenses and draw up defensive schemes to beat them.
“I just love the strategy part of the game,” Burton said. “Trying to stop the opposing team’s hitters.”
That job often required sitting for hours and watching opposing offenses play, which was just fine with Tom who said, “I enjoyed watching games until midnight or much later.”
“I will never forget his tenacity to get a scouting report,” Dr. Deborah Kerr of the Lassies said. “Even if it meant watching a team at 4 a.m. in the rain.”
His teams have been successful because of Tom’s knowledge of other team’s statistics, where opposing players hit and their weaknesses and strengths, recalled USSSA National Women’s Director Tammy Totland.
While Burton obviously takes great pride and satisfaction in being part of five World Championship teams, he is quick to bring up what he still considers his greatest accomplishment. In 1993, Burton drew up a defensive strategy that helped Lady Blue hold World Series opponents to just six runs in five games, including a 25-2 title game win.
“Six runs allowed in five games of slow pitch softball; I doubt that will ever happen again,” Burton recalled as if he still couldn’t quite believe it.
Most of all, Burton cherishes the friends he has made over the years and across the country; something that is reciprocated by many of those people.
“Besides Tom’s abilities on the field, he also was a good friend to all players, coaches and fans,” Lassies’ Jo Suave said.
We would like to offer Tom Burton one more thing he can take away from this game with an induction into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame with the Lifetime Achievement Award.