When you hear that a high school sports star has moved across the country late in her high school career, a lot of eyebrows go up. Are sports taking up too much of the kid’s life, some might ask. In the case of Arizona softball commit Allie Skaggs and her family, it really was about coming home.
Allie and her older brother Ben Skaggs were born in Tucson and spent their early years in Anthem, Arizona. Her mother and father attended Flowing Wells High School on Tucson’s west side where both were athletes. Her grandparents are here.
It’s not a small thing that both parents went on to graduate from Arizona after attending Pima Community College and are huge fans of Arizona Athletics, either. Tucson, UA and sports are all parts of their identities.
“I have pictures from when we would take Ben to Hillenbrand when he was an infant and before she was born,” Allie’s mother Michelle Skaggs said. “And so it’s just part of our whole family culture.”
Michelle Skaggs said that the family had always planned to come home. They moved to Louisville, Kentucky because Allie’s dad Jim Skaggs works for a company that is headquartered there. But Arizona was always calling them, and ultimately Allie came to her parents and said she was ready to go.
“I was ready for a new change and just meeting new people,” Allie said. “And getting out to be closer to U of A and being able to go to those games, all the different athletics this fall and then over the spring.”
Allie is spending her final year of high school at Ironwood Ridge High School on the northwest side of town where her extended family can watch her play. From grandparents to cousins, she has a rooting section excited to see her on the field for her final year in high school.
“Just being out here with family was huge,” she said, “because I just really wanted to be back with them, and having a chance to play in front of them to was a big part of it.”
She’s not alone in having made the move for her senior season. Her Nighthawks teammate and fellow Arizona commit Devyn Netz also moved to Tucson for her final year of high school. In the case of the Netz family, the move was in support of Devyn’s older brother Dawson Netz, who was part of Arizona baseball’s 2019 recruiting class. That shared experience has helped Allie adapt to the change of high schools and travel teams.
“It’s going really well,” Allie said. “She was the one who actually was able to get me the connection to be on that team with her, on the SoCal A’s, and it’s turned out to be awesome. [She] and I are really good buds and we’re with each other every day at school and all the time working out together. So we’re excited for the next couple years.”
The journey to major college softball recruit has been a long time coming. Allie started playing baseball when she was about five, going to the field with her brother and her dad. Ben eventually switched to ice hockey, but Allie stuck to the diamond. By middle school, they knew that there was something special about her on the softball field.
“Her hitting coach started tweaking some stuff and she really started getting some power,” Michelle said.
It wasn’t long after that when Allie got noticed by the Arizona staff. She attended some camps starting her freshman year in high school when the family came back to Tucson for visits.
At Ballard High School, she was emerging as a star. In Kentucky, she was able to start playing high school softball while still in eighth grade. By her junior year, she was hitting .571 with 18 home runs and 64 RBIs, good enough to be named the Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year.
By that point, she was already being recruited by Arizona. During her freshman year of high school, Caitlin Lowe attended a tournament in Colorado where Allie played. Soon after, Mike Candrea was also coming to check out her game.
“It’s still crazy to me,” Allie said. “Being from Kentucky and growing up there, I had never even imagined that he would know my name. And just hearing him and being able to talk to him and knowing him and knowing that whole coaching staff, it’s unreal because of what he’s done and what he’s done with that program. Just having him know who I am and him deciding to offer me for a chance to be on his team, it’s still crazy to me. And I know I just signed, but it still feels like a dream.”
For Tucson natives with a love for Wildcat sports, it was a big deal for the family, too.
“I still remember the first time,” Michelle said. “Caitlin Lowe came first, because I think she kind of scouts out first...and I still remember just because I was always a huge fan girl of hers, just being from here. And I was like, ‘I can’t believe Caitlin was here watching.’ And then the next day, Coach came in. When he walked up, I mean, my son was sitting with me, we both looked at each other and you could just read it on our faces. We’re like, ‘Holy cow! Just, wow!” There’s no other way to describe it.”
It was also helpful that Allie’s dad was a coach for her travel team the year before she committed. Michelle said that he was able to talk to the Arizona coaches in a way that many parents aren’t, and Arizona was able to get information about the family in return.
One of the things parents aren’t always aware of is how important coaching is in travel ball. Candrea often speaks about the coaches he trusts on that circuit when he introduces his recruiting classes. How do they develop their players? Do they have reputations for being straight with college coaches?
Michelle saw that from a parent’s viewpoint. She said Candrea spent a great deal of time watching how Allie was being coached. Was she being developed in a way that would prepare her for Arizona?
Despite their own college allegiances, Allie’s parents didn’t want to determine her path. Michelle says that they have always taken a hands-off approach in the athletic endeavors of both of their kids. They had to take special care when she was being recruited to not show bias, since other programs were looking at Allie, too.
“I put the gas in the bus, but she drives it,” Michelle said about her view of Allie’s softball pursuits.
After years of that bus driving all over the country for softball tournaments, it’s finally parked in Tucson. Allie just wrapped up her final season of fall ball with the SoCal A’s, and the high school season is approaching. All the work has gotten her to her destination, right back where she started.