Burton hasn’t let diabetes slow her down

CR grad Rosa’Lynn Burton holds many of Wilmington’s all-time softball hitting records, including career hits with 266. (Wilmington University sports information)

NEW CASTLE — Every once in a while, a beeping alarm will go off during a Wilmington University softball practice.

By now, though, everybody around the program knows just what it means.

“As soon as we hear a beep, all the players and coaches starting looking around, ‘Where’s the candy bar?’” said Wildcats coach Mike Shehorn.

Everybody knows that the signal means that outfielder Rosa’Lynn Burton’s blood sugar level is low. The sound comes from a monitor that the Caesar Rodney High grad wears all the time because she has diabetes.

But it’s probably the only time that anybody on the field realizes that Burton has dealt with the disease for most of her life. It certainly hasn’t stopped the senior from becoming one of the top NCAA Division II softball players in the country.

Burton was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was about 8. Going to Wilmington and being a little farther away from her parents, though, meant she really had to be the one looking out for her health.

At the same time, Burton said it’s been pretty cool to know her teammates are looking out for her, too.

A few of them, along with the team trainer and Shehorn, have apps on their phones that will also alert them if Burton’s glucose level drops too low.

“They’re probably more on it than I would expect,” said Burton. “Sometimes I can be nonchalant about it. But if they see me, even if I’m just having a bad day, they’re like, ‘Are you sure? Did you eat today? Do you need something?’

“There’s so much new technology out there that it helps me,” she added.

The most alarming incident that Burton can remember during college came on a road trip to Florida. In the middle of the night, Burton had a really bad sugar low.

But her roommates quickly called the trainer and her parents, who were also on the trip.

“It was like a team effort,” said Burton.

As a former CR coach whose daughter, Skye Boris, coached Burton in high school, Shehorn has known Burton was dealing with diabetes for a long time. He said he’s always been impressed with the way she’s never used the disease as an excuse.

“Her first year here, I think she wasn’t quite sure how to message it without sounding like she was trying to get out of certain things,” said Shehorn. “So she was hesitant to say anything until it got to the point where it was almost like, ‘I’ve got to sit down.’

“But we know that it’s important for her. Nobody knows her body like she does so, if she needs time to get herself together, to take it. You would think somebody would want to take advantage of that but she never did. We always have to check on her — ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Yeah, I’m OK Coach.’”

Burton said she quickly learned when she was young that taking responsibility is just part of the deal when you have diabetes. She has to take injections daily to keep her body stable.

“I kind of cried my way through the whole process,” she said. “But I had to figure it out because it’s my health. If I wanted to go on as a normal kid day to day, I would have to do the extra stuff. It took me a little bit but I figured it out.”

On the field, Burton has been earning All-American honors since her freshman season at Wilmington. A year ago, the Dover native was a first-team All-American selection by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.

Burton holds all kinds of the program’s all-time records including hits (266), runs scored (174), total bases (349) and stolen bases (147). Last spring, she batted .517 and went 60-for-60 on stolen-base attempts.

Before the season was stopped by the threat of the coronavirus, Shehorn said he could tell opposing teams were game-planning to keep Burton off base from her leadoff spot.

“They’d make comments of, if you stop her, then you have a chance of beating us,” said Shehorn. “And she still finds a way, whether it’s to lay a bunt down or hit a ball in the gap or draw a walk. Any time she gets on base it ends up being a double or a triple because of her ability to steal bases.”

Going into this season, Burton was named to a Division II National Player of the Year watch list. In 10 games this spring, she hit .485 (16-of-33) with seven stolen bases — despite dealing with a minor knee injury.

Burton said knowing that other teams are trying to keep her off base only makes her that much more determined to get on.

“I think it drives me because I know everybody has a game plan around me,” she said. “It really gives me an edge like, ‘OK, you’re going to try to get me out but you’re not going to.’ It just adds fuel to the fire.”

Burton has already decided she’s going to come back to play another season next spring. There’s still too many team goals she wants to help the Wildcats reach.

Last season they won the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference title and hosted an NCAA Division II regional for the first time. Burton would love to add a College World Series appearance to that list of accomplishments before she graduates.

“The World Series was the first thing we always talked about when I stepped on campus,” she said. “This year, I felt like we had everything we needed to get there. I really do think we have a chance to make a run at a World Series.

“I am who I am because of my team around me,” Burton added.