Kenzie Fowler was a hometown star for the Arizona Wildcats a decade ago as a starting pitcher. These days, she’s working behind the scenes at Arizona Athletics as a member of the Creative Services team, showcasing all of the athletes who wear cardinal and navy. She’s also serving as a role model for current softball star Allie Skaggs.
As a heralded pitcher out of Canyon del Oro High School on the northwest side of Tucson, Fowler didn’t know what she wanted to do when she started college. Well, except for playing softball.
“It’s like that ball is life mentality,” Fowler said. “It sounds so bad because we preach ‘student-athletes,’ but looking back at who I was as a person, I was athlete and then student. I didn’t really embrace the student-athlete side of it until I got deep into the journalism program and then my mindset completely flipped. I was for sure a student-athlete. I graduated as a student of the semester and spoke at my graduation at my senior ceremony. If you would have asked my 16-year-old, 17-year-old self, I was in no way. I was just, I’m good at school, but I want to play softball. There was a flip that came in college for me.”
Her decision to major in journalism came her sophomore year when she had to declare a major. The reason was pretty simple.
“Because I hate math,” Fowler said. “It was either that or history or creative writing. I think on the last day of my sophomore year when you have to declare I decided on journalism because I would be able to work with cameras. I always was that girl growing up making highlight videos for my high school volleyball team, softball team. That was just always something that I did as a hobby. So, I wanted to work with cameras and broadcast journalism was what I chose. And I was so fortunate because I just absolutely loved the program. It was an amazing time. I was really lucky to have the teachers that I did, some of them are still here. Just to get away from softball a little bit and try and thrive in something that’s completely different was really fun for me.”
During her senior year, she took a photo internship with Arizona Athletics under her current supervisor, John Daley. After school, she took another internship—this one with the Pac-12 Network—and decided that she liked being behind the camera and doing creative work more than being in front of the camera.
“Being on camera was a little scary,” Fowler said.
She has since become comfortable being a softball analyst on television, but the desire to be an anchor or sideline reporter has long since left her.
Now, she’s watching another softball star follow a similar path and doing what she can to help.
Allie Skaggs had a breakout year last season when she became the everyday starter at second base. She tied for the Pac-12 lead with 24 home runs and was a second-team All-American.
Like Fowler before her, Skaggs majors in broadcast journalism. Also like Fowler, she prefers the creative job behind the camera that highlights her fellow athletes at Arizona. Last semester, she was an intern for Creative Services.
“I’m really big into the video stuff,” Skaggs said. “So, I want to be behind the scenes, creating video content, player highlights, anything like that. I’m not afraid to be in front of the camera, but I think behind it is really cool. You get to capture so many good moments. Throughout the whole fall, I was going and shooting soccer, volleyball, basketball, and they let me take over the Instagram and edit my own stuff. It’s really cool because then they’d post my stuff and then my own friends would repost it because it’s them. And so, they’re like, ‘Skaggs, great work!’ I get to watch my friends play, but I also get to make some pretty cool stuff.”
The technical part of creating content has been the biggest challenge. Fowler was a major help with that aspect of the job.
“They have all the big cameras, the big microphones and all the spotlights and everything,” Skaggs said. “So, they’ve been really good about running me through. Like, ‘Hey, do you want to hold the big camera today and video your own media shoot?’ I was like, ‘Yes! I’ll video pod right now!’ It was pretty cool. And then the editing stuff, too. Like editing software, there’s a lot of shortcuts that Kenzie’s been doing for so long that she can quickly say, hey, press control this and it can take away 10 minutes of your process time if you just do this movement. And I’m like, ‘Okay, great.’”
It’s not just about the physical and technological parts of the job, though. There are also interpersonal skills that the creative staff need to develop. Fowler was able to step in to help with that, as well.
“Just how do you talk to coaches that may not necessarily want you close to them at practice, and then just gauging all of those things,” Skaggs said. “She’s been really good about helping me with that.”
For Fowler, being able to stay close to the sport she loves by telling the athletes’ stories has been very rewarding. Acting as a sort of mentor for another athlete who wants to follow a similar path has been an extra perk.
“She came to me two summers ago, I want to say, and said she wanted to just pick my brain about what I do,” Fowler said. “Broadcasting for softball but also working in Arizona Athletics for Creative Services. And she was like, I really think that’s what I’m interested in. I’m not quite sure what was your area of study, and I told her it was broadcast journalism. I kind of broke down the classes...You have to go down to City Court and do your fair share of reporting...It builds great skills. And then she was like, ‘Okay, I think I’m going to do that.’ And so, I’ve been in her pocket ever since. I told her if you need any advice or anything—not that she needs it—but I’m here for her for sure because it’s an almost identical path.”
Once she’s done with her playing career, Skaggs said that she would love a job working with Arizona Athletics if something was available or with a professional baseball franchise. Being a coach isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility, either. Wherever her path takes her, she wants it to be in the sports world.
Before she can get to that, she has a couple more years with Arizona softball. The team gets started on Feb. 9 in the Candrea Classic against Long Beach State.