Softball, Community Service Were Part of Game Plan for Biology Grad

America’s pastime sport has always been an integral part of Chelsea Sartor’s life, and when she walks the stage Friday at UT Dallas, she’ll leave behind an impressive record of community service as a student-athlete.

Chelsea Sartor

Chelsea Sartor

The softball player, who will graduate with a degree in biology, has the distinction of being the first UT Dallas recipient of the ASC Community Service Award, given annually to the male and female college athletes who “best display leadership and action in fostering community service on their campus and local community.”

“My parents have always raised me to give back to the community,” Sartor said. “They made sure my siblings and I knew how blessed we were and made sure we didn’t take it for granted. Growing up they brought us to a nursing home every month to volunteer and get to know the residents. To me, community service is not a chore; it is something I find so rewarding and truly enjoy.”

As the former community service liaison and president of the campus Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), Sartor has organized a number of efforts, including a halftime game with athletes representing Special Olympics, the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program and a “WhyD3” outreach program.

“Chelsea has been a model student-athlete the duration of her career here at UTD,” said Angela Marin, assistant athletic director. “Her commitment to service and her willingness to be a part of something greater than herself is what I respect most about her. Chelsea has been a privilege to work with as SAAC president, and her influence and kind spirit will be missed on campus.”

Sartor still remembers her first foray into baseball at 5 years old, when her older brother and sister would have private lessons. She said she was too young to play back then, but at the very end, she always got to do a simple, five-minute drill.   

“We used to call it the ‘fry drill,’ and the coach would just throw me the ball,” she said. “For each one I caught, I’d earn a fry at McDonald’s.”

It didn’t take long for her to fall in love with the game, and it began to pay off in some curious ways.

Chelsea Sartor

As a softball player, Sartor has been named an Academic All-ASC athlete four times, which requires at least a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average.

Sartor recalls the summer her baseball skills made it to the small screen, when she played an extra — along with her teammates — on a special episode of the children’s TV series “Barney & Friends.”

“I felt like it took a whole day to film a five-minute segment,” she said. “I remember being excited to see the episode because I got to show off my pitching skills.”  

By the time Sartor was 13, she was the only girl in Plano’s baseball league, and soon, she found herself — begrudgingly — having to change course.

“The boys seemed tougher back then, so I wanted to keep playing with them. But, eventually, I had to switch over to softball,” she said. “They’re not too different; the biggest difference was switching from hitting overhand to underhand. That was the most challenging transition, I think.”

As an outfielder for the softball team, Sartor said she had to carve out time every day for strength training, academics and practice. In addition to her service awards, she has been honored by the American Southwest Conference as an Academic All-ASC athlete four times, which requires at least a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average. 

“Chelsea has been a great team player willing to do anything to see her team succeed,” head coach Rich Wieligman said. “You couldn't ask for a better teammate. Her dedication to her academics and softball has prepared her for a very successful life.”

She currently works as a scribe at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, and she plans to continue her education and pursue a career as a physician assistant.

Among her most notable efforts as part of the University’s SAAC chapter was an outreach program, organized as part of “WhyD3” Week, to help explain misconceptions about Division III sports and its student-athletes.

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“A lot of students and faculty aren’t aware of the athletics program here, so we invited some of them to a breakfast last year where we explained what Division III sports entails and debunked some of the misconceptions,” she said. “I think that dialogue was really important to help people understand the responsibilities we take on.”

Ultimately, Sartor said one of her proudest achievements at the University has been to help SAAC grow. 

“It wasn’t a big thing when I was a freshman, so every year we’ve worked to make it more visible to get these athletes to join and make a difference in their communities,” she said.

After a SAAC-sponsored trip to Washington D.C., where Sartor met with other community service liaisons, she planned a collaboration with Special Olympics

During her junior year, they got a women’s and men’s Special Olympics basketball team to come out during a UT Dallas women’s basketball game and play each other at halftime.

 “Sometimes, we get so caught up in winning, and it’s those experiences that remind me of why we play the game,” she said. “I spent a lot of time in college thinking that sports are something with an end for me. Of course I focused on my performance, but I also focused on being a good teammate, getting involved with the community, and making sure my time here wasn’t wasted.”  

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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