After spending 31 years at Ajo High School, Leonard Lopez has found himself back where he grew up.
For Lopez, who is entering his first year as manager of the Flagstaff Eagles softball team, the reason he came to Flagstaff is family. Because he grew up in Flagstaff, he wanted to come back to bring his experience of officiating and coaching to his hometown.
“Basically, the first thing I told them is I was going to bring us some sunshine. And I think I did that because we had fall practice and it seemed like it was never going to snow,” Lopez said. “And because of that we had an opportunity to work with the kids and get a head start on the season. The other thing is just giving back to where I grew up.”
Lopez said he wants his roster to know how to play multiple positions, and to do whatever anyone on the coaching staff might ask of them. Lopez wants utility options to be versatile just in case an injury forces someone into a new spot on the field.
Thursday, the Eagles played at the Dorado Classic tournament, hosted by 4A Canyon Del Oro, and the tourney was a solid chance for the Eagles to experiment with their pitching rotation. The Eagles used four different pitchers in five games, with Makenna Snodgrass — last season’s starting pitcher — starting two of the five.
With the Eagles’ practice being relegated to the Flagstaff High dome, being able to play in the warm weather of Tucson helped the team experience something other than the cold springs of Flagstaff.
“Personally, it gave us an opportunity to go into some warmer weather, and that always helps,” Lopez said. “It helps with the arms, it helps the kids to just be in a different environment and seeing schools they may not see during the season.”
Lopez described how he wants his coaching staff to be versatile along with his team. At the Dorado Classic his staff switched roles, with different coaches manning the third-base line at different times. Lopez said his staff can be good examples of versatility so that his team will hopefully buy in to what he's asking.
Last season, under former manager Rudy Baca, the Eagles went 7-11 and 5-7 in the Grand Canyon Region.
The Eagles bring back their top three hitters in Sodgrass, junior Monica Encnias and sophomore Kayla Jacobson.