We interrupt all the year-end Top 10 Lists for this Special “Inside-the-Baseball-Lines” Report.
Today, we spotlight one of many unassuming champions who help make our world a better place. Especially right here at home, in The Good Land of Goleta.
Like Dr. Steve Buratto, who has scored an incredible 20-year (and counting) run in helping local kids and the Dos Pueblos Little League.
“Coach Buratto just led the Junior All Stars (ages 13-14) to a Top Five finish in the state of California,” said Dr. Dan Brennan, DPLL board president.
Ralph Randall, a fellow longtime DPLL volunteer coach, commended his commitment.
“Dedicated to the Dos Pueblos Little League youth, Steve’s sons are long gone, and he still puts in the time to coach a regular season team, a club team in the off-season … and the everyday requirements and travel of the all-star program,” he said.
Buratto has hit it out of the park — from coaching in every division … to umpiring … serving as board director … hosting coaching clinics … to conducting umpire workshops — and always with an upbeat manner to ensure a fun, educational learning experience. And all of it benefitting thousands of young athletes growing up on these storied Goleta baseball fields.
“Steve started coaching when our elder son, Will, was age 5,” said his wife, Laura, a sixth-grade teacher at La Patera School. “And Will is now 25. The 20 years have flown by!”
And coaching, one could say, is in the Buratto bloodlines, as his dad (also Steve) is a decorated high school and champion Canadian Football League coach.
The younger Buratto was a multisport athlete growing up in Idaho in a loving family that includes younger sisters Jill and Dina. He later played football at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., where he majored in chemistry.
With his bachelor’s degree and the gridiron behind him, his next stop was prestigious Caltech for a Ph.D. in chemistry.
It was there in Pasadena where he met Laura in 1988 while she was pursuing teaching credentials. They married in 1990 and soon trekked to New Jersey for his post-doctorate work with AT&T Bell Laboratories.
In 1994, Buratto landed a primo UC Santa Barbara chemistry professorship. For his wife, it was a return to her warmer California roots. Their growing family at the time included son Will, then just a year old.
Son Daniel was born in 1996 and daughter Rebecca arrived two years later.
When Will was age-eligible for Tee-Ball, Buratto stepped up to coach — and he’s been helping ever since. His much-valued impact goes well beyond baseball.
“Steve took me under his wing years ago, and I have always been impressed with his deep understanding of the game and attention to detail,” Brennan shared.
“He helps his players become better athletes on the field, and better individuals off it. They learn how to compete, and it translates into valuable life lessons —the importance of always giving your best effort, keeping a positive attitude and displaying good sportsmanship at all times.
“We are so fortunate to have Steve Buratto at DPLL.”
Other colleagues were just as effusive.
“Steve is definitely an energetic and positive guy,” offered Dan Rohde, former DPLL coach and now a volunteer assistant coach for the Dos Pueblos High varsity baseball team.
“He likes the in-depth statistics and his favorite quote to the kids is being ‘results-oriented,’” added Lee Speyshock, a Goleta Valley Junior High physical education teacher and DPLL assistant coach. “He wants his players best prepared for the many opportunities before them.”
Brennan provided more specifics.
“A few summers back, I was managing an all-star team in a sectional tournament in Lompoc,” he said. “Before the game, Steve handed me several pages of detailed strategy notes — where to position players on defense, how to approach certain batters, etc. He was right on, and doing ‘the analytics’ before everyone else.”
Much like in the baseball book and flick, Moneyball.
Beyond his extensive work and volunteer commitments, Buratto still makes the time to travel to catch Daniel, now age 22, play baseball for Bowling Green University and watch Becca play soccer for the University of Idaho, her grandfather’s alma mater.
Will is following in the big footsteps of his dad, who chairs UCSB’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Will is attending the University of Florida and focused on the family’s second Ph.D. in chemistry. He’s been a volunteer DPLL coach and with the DP Chargers freshman baseball team.
“My dad has had a strong impact on me, my family and the DPLL community,” he said.
“He’s shown all of us the value of hard work, dedication, and passion. He’s been a great role model for me, and I am very proud to be his son.”
And what’s on deck for Dad in 2019?
“Steve just signed on to be the DP Chargers junior varsity head coach,” Rohde said. “It’s a great fit as he’ll be working with many of the same players he coached in Little League.”
“And we’re all hoping he stays involved for his 21st DPLL season,” Brennan added.
Safe to say that Dr. Steve Buratto is one busy guy, a quiet community builder who is a real student — and true professor — of the game of baseball, and of life.
— WeissCrax columnist Randy Weiss is a longtime Noozhawk contributing writer. In the interest of full journalistic disclosure, he also works for a local financial institution that is a longtime sponsor of the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Monday Media Luncheons. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.