Four-time All-American outfielder Caitlin Lowe won two national championships as a player with Arizona softball in 2006 and 2007. Now, she is trying to lead the Wildcats back to the Women’s College World Series as an assistant coach.
Lowe rejoined the program in 2012 after winning a silver medal with Team USA in the 2008 Olympics and a Hall of Fame professional career with the NPF’s USSSA Pride. Lowe spent one season as UA’s director of operations, then a year as a volunteer assistant before being promoted to assistant coach in 2014.
“She was a great player and very headsy player and she does a wonderful job,” said head coach Mike Candrea, who coached Lowe in college. “I got her for a reason. She can coach and I think she has really good insight, does a really nice job of being in the dugout, preparing our hitters as they walk up to the plate, in-game adjustments and scouting before the games.
“There’s lots and lots of stuff behind the scenes that people don’t see but is very valuable for the grand plan of things, and her and Taryne (Mowatt) both put a lot of time and effort in to get us to that point when we walk on the field and play.”
I caught up with Lowe on Tuesday to learn more about her role with the team, why she likes coaching, her future plans, and more. Here’s the Q&A.
How did you get into coaching?
“It was funny, I was at Autumn Champion’s wedding and I saw Coach (Candrea) there. I was still playing professionally so we were just in the offseason, and he was like, ‘You know what? I need a director of operations. What are you doing?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, nothing in the offseason, I’m just training.’ So he’s like, ‘Well, do you want this position?’ I was like, ‘absolutely. I love Tucson, love the program, would love to come back.’
“So I started there and worked my way up. As director of operations, you’re literally all office and no coaching. And I hated every second of it. I told him I hated every second of it. So he’s like, ‘well, I have the volunteer spot open. Obviously you make zero money, but it sounds like something you would want to do.’ So I worked my way into that and then I just got involved in as much as I could that year, and then just realized that I was going to do it for the rest of my life. That’s kind of how I felt. I didn’t feel like I was working. It’s just fun for me.”
What do you like about it?
“I love competing. That’s how I grew up my whole entire life. And everybody asked me if it was a really sad day when I was retiring, and I was like no, not at all, because I still feel like I get my outlet here. I get to live that type of life through 22 different people instead of just myself, which is actually way more rewarding.”
Do you miss playing at all, though?
“I actually don’t. Like, I miss certain things and I miss the relationships I had with my teammates, the locker room stuff. I do miss occasionally hitting, but really I just feel like the challenge these days is more helping our girls do what they can to become their best selves.”
What are your main responsibilities as an assistant coach?
“Well, a lot of it in the fall is developing the outfield, the short game, working with hitters. Once spring rolls around, it’s scouting reports of other teams, kind of how to approach and attack them. And then when I’m in the dugout, it’s all about our approach at the plate, hitters kind of rolling with the punches and what we’re facing and all that jazz. Base running, like a little bit of everything.”
What kind of tips do you give hitters before they step to the plate?
“Usually, every single pitcher is going to give you a different kind of look. So it’s my job to know whether there’s three or seven pitchers on the staff, exactly what they’re going to look like when they do come in there so that our hitters can keep things simple. And I can do a lot of the thinking for them. It’s just giving them a simple plan.”
What is the process like of coming up with those scouting reports?
“In my day, we didn’t have as many games on video. Now with the Pac-12 Network, with ESPN putting so much stuff on TV, I watch—and Taryne on the flip side for hitters—a ton of video. So it’s all about finding out tendencies. I want to know someone’s best pitch. I want to know someone’s chase pitch. I want to know the things that we can hit off them. It’s narrowing it down to those things and it takes a lot of time during the week to watch video. But at the same it’s kind of cool because we do play a lot of the same pitchers in the Pac-12 and once you start to get to know someone, that’s when the game becomes fun because it’s a lot of cat and mouse.”
How much does your history as a player here help you get through to the players you’re coaching?
“Well, I hope it helps (laughs). Because I’ve really experienced a whole lot of failure. Yeah, I did have success and a résumé looks one way, but it took a whole lot of failure to get to that point. So a lot of times when you’re outside looking in, you don’t see all the failures that happened. But it’s my job to be a reality check for them. Like, hey, we’ve all been through this and we have to go through this to get to where we want to go.”
Do you want to be a head coach one day?
“I would love to, and honestly I’m so happy with what my job is now and being with this group and just making an impact. And if one day the opportunity arises, yes maybe. But right now I live my life day to day and I just want to be happy and to me it’s the most fulfilling job. Coach is so great about letting me have balance between family and my job and I really can’t imagine a more perfect situation.”
Your team is only going to face elite pitching from here on out. What has to change or what do you have to improve on moving forward?
“I think it’s just a lot of our mentality, because we have the talent. I mean, you can’t ask for a more loaded roster than we have. And I think sometimes it’s just realizing what we bring to the table and rolling with confidence in that, which is cool and it’s also one of the harder things to get. It comes with experience, it comes with performing in those big situations. So if we do it a couple times, honestly we start a fire that nobody can put out.”
How old are your kids (Harper and Beckham) now?
“Harper is two and a half. And Beckham just turned six months old.”
How do you balance being a mom with coaching?
“It’s probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s a lot of sleepless nights. It’s a lot of figuring it out. And it’s super cliché, but it truly takes a village and we travel with a lot of people to make it happen. Coach has been awesome about letting me bring the baby with me when I can. And then it’s grandma and grandpa coming through. But it has been the most special thing for me to have them grow up around the field because that’s how I grew up. It’s such a cool experience because I see Harper, now that she gets it, look up to certain players on our team, and that gets my heartstrings because they’re truly so special and for her to be involved in that and have them shape her future is pretty cool.”
Are Harper and Beckham going to play softball/baseball or soccer? (Lowe’s husband, Paul Nagy, is an assistant coach for the Arizona soccer team.)
“I know that Harper knows how to say shoftball with an ‘sh’ more than she says soccer. So even though she’s kicking a soccer ball, she’s saying shoftball. I told Paul maybe I should coach soccer and you should coach softball so that we don’t get too crazy, because we don’t want to be those parents. So I don’t know. Whatever makes them happy, honestly.”