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Sara Buscetto: stealing bases, feeding faces, selling places

A wise man once said this: "Hard work spotlights the character of people. Some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all."

And this is the refrain best underscoring the recent accomplishment of Sara Buscetto, a graduate of Waterford High and member of the region's first family of food and philanthropy. Buscetto, a senior softball player at Southern Connecticut, recently set the school's career (65) and single-season (26) stolen base record.

Except that this story is about so much more than a stolen base record.

Buscetto did it while also earning a real estate license and working at Filomena's, the family business, the eatery on Boston Post Rd. that has become Waterford's central artery.

"In the beginning, it was hard. I was living at home and I'd have an hour-and-10-minute commute to New Haven and back," Buscetto was saying last week. "I was working at the restaurant. I was going to school every morning at 7:30 for lifting (weight training), coming home, working out again, coming into work or going to the real estate office for mentoring, then driving back to New Haven for practice or a game.

"I got the real estate license in the summer while I was taking two classes at Southern. It never stopped. But it's all a mental thing. I like the structure of having to be somewhere at a certain time."

Buscetto has a notable last name in this corner of the world. Her grandfather, Mike, ran Michael's Dairy and a towing business. He's been there and done that, an encyclopedia of New London's history. Her dad, Mike, has many endeavors, including Filomena's. He emerged as the region's cleanup hitter during the pandemic, organizing a number of causes to help/feed those in need, not to mention figuring out a way for outdoor dining to work in large numbers during a pandemic.

The Buscettos have many friends. They have enemies. And those enemies, who speak in whispers, often use the word "privilege."

Here is Sara on the subject: "Some would call it privilege. I would say I'm extremely fortunate to have the family I have and the lifestyle we have. But everything was earned. That's something my grandfather and my father have always taught me: Nothing is given, everything is earned. I live by that. Nothing has ever been handed to me at this restaurant, in real estate or softball. My dad and grandfather had to work extremely hard to get where they are. They led by example."

Sara Buscetto played for Liz Sutman's third state championship team in 2013. She's a senior now at Southern, ready to take on the world soon enough. But as much as she's a product of her family, she's equally the handiwork of her town.

"I had great coaches growing up," she said. "When I got to high school, (former all-stater) Alyssa Hancock worked with me a lot my junior year. So did Jen Ward (eventually played at UConn). I took everything they said and what I saw and tried to combine it all. Every stolen base is a different tactic. Lots of different factors."

And in very familiar Buscetto tones, she mentioned that she's stolen 20 bases and was thrown out four times this year. "But if you ask me, I was only out once."

Buscetto, as Hancock and Ward did for her, plans to help current (and future) Lancers upon graduation. There's some symmetry here. Just as some folks resent the Buscettos for their success, others roll their eyes at the mere mention of Waterford High and its run of championships.

Just remember that quote about hard work: "Hard work spotlights the character of people. Some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all."

"I'm actually helping out in a coach-pitch softball league in Waterford when I'm done," Buscetto said. "I've talked to (high school coach) Andy Walker about coming by practice. I'm definitely going to be involved. Softball has taught me time management, how to accept failure, how to take on adversity. Mental toughness. Physical toughness. I've learned what my body can and can't handle. The importance of sleep. I've made a ton of lifelong relationships."

And nobody else leaving college is readier for the real world. That happens when you work, get a real estate license and steal 65 bases at the same time.

"Speaking from where I am right now, my heart belongs at Filomena's," she said. "As soon as my dad bought the place I was here working. I was 11 or 12. I tell everybody I've learned more working at this restaurant and with my dad than I ever did at business school. The hands on experience. Social skills. I have to talk to so many different people. Making connections. The list goes on.

"When I see the work my dad has put into this ... he never leaves. I can't ever picture this not being part of our family. I'd like to continue that after him. At some point the guy's gonna need a break. And I wouldn't change too much. This is a staple in the community."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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