Before she became an assistant coach at McNary, Kelly Burdick was leading the Washington softball squad to the Women’s College World Series (Submitted).
Kelly Burdick came to McNary High School to be a special education teacher at the start of the 2019-20 school year. She was also greatly looking forward to be an assistant coach on the Celtics softball team — a squad that was hoping to contend for a state championship.
But the outbreak of COVID-19 had different plans.
The OSAA officially cancelled the spring sports season on April 8 due to the coronavirus, meaning that the start of Burdick’s coaching career at McNary will be put on hold for now.
“It was really tough. You never plan for something like that to happen. For these girls, playing softball is the one thing you can usually count on. I just feel for them because they are missing out on what could be one of the best parts of their lives,” Burdick said.
When the Celtics do take the field once again, they will be under the tutelage of an assistant coach that has one of the most impressive resumes in the area — even though she has only coached for one season.
“Kelly brings so much knowledge and ability to the table as a coach. She has a way of getting kids to go to another level and she gets more out of them than what most people could,” McNary head coach Kevin Wise said.
Burdick was a star softball player at South Salem High School from 2011-14, earning second-team all-state honors her sophomore year and first-team all-state recognition her junior and senior seasons.
According to Wise, facing Burdick was a nightmare matchup for the Celtics when she was a player
“I have been doing this for close to 20 years, and as far as pure athletic talent goes, I’ve never seen anyone as good as her. When we used to play against South, our entire game plan was revolved around slowing her down,” Wise said.
In 2014, Burdick was one of the catalysts that led South Salem to a state championship.
Although winning a state championship was one of the highlights of her prep sports career, what was even more important to Burdick was sharing the experience with her teammates.
“It was amazing to win a state championship, but honestly, it was just so much fun playing with all my friends for all four years. Every year was great,” Burdick said.
Before her junior year of high school, Burdick gave a verbal commitment to continue her athletic career at the University of Washington. She eventually signed with the Huskies before her senior season.
After being a star for her entire career up to that point, Burdick had to get used to a new role when she came to Washington in 2015.
Burdick was used primarily as a pinch-runner her freshman season while getting an occasional start in the outfield. Because of that experience, Burdick was driven to earn a more prominent role on this team.
“I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything, even though it was grueling. I learned how to sit behind other players my freshman year and play different roles. I wasn’t used to that and I grew a ton from it,” Burdick said. “There were so many life skills that I gained and the amount I grew as a person was amazing.”
After making 24 starts her sophomore season, Burdick became the Huskies starting center fielder her junior year. She batted .331, had nine multi-hit games and was named Pac-12 all-academic honorable mention. She also helped Washington reach the Women’s College World Series (WCWS).
Burdick saved her best for last during her final season with the Huskies in 2018. She batted .360, scored 38 runs, stole 25 bases and was named second-team all-Pac-12. She also went 2-for-4 with an RBI in game two of the Super Regional against Alabama to send Washington to their second straight WCWS. The Huskies wound up reaching the championship series, where they fell in a best-of-three set to Florida State.
“The Women’s College World Series was the best experience. There was so much excitement. I had the best time ever,” Burdick said. “Every softball player dreams of playing on that stage.”
As her senior year was winding down, Burdick was still undecided about what her plans were going to be after college. But with her background involving people with special needs, Burdick decided that she wanted to pursue a career as a special education teacher.
Burdick got her master’s degree and in 2019 and was thrilled not only to get her first full-time job in the field, but to make her return home to the Salem-Keizer area.
“It’s a population that I really care for. I love my job and my kids are amazing. They are the light of my life. Being able to work at McNary and reconnect with family in Salem has been one of the biggest blessings,” Burdick said.
When she was asked to coach at McNary, Burdick didn’t hesitate for a second.
“I have a lot to give back to the game and it would be selfish not to so,” Burdick said.
Despite this season getting cancelled, McNary should be a contender once again in 2021, and Burdick is excited to be along for the ride.
“I’m definitely most excited about the girls on this team. They have a bond and a joy for the game that is pretty special. They love softball and have so much fun together,” Burdick said.