CMU hires softball coach
The summer heat won’t be a problem for the new softball coach at Colorado Mesa University, but shoveling snow off the field might be a challenge.
Candace Abrams, who played on the 2001 NCAA national championship team at the University of Arizona, will take over for Kris Mort, who retired from coaching after last season.
“I don’t have a lot of experience with snow,” Abrams said, laughing. “But even in Arizona, we always come prepared. We played at Washington, so we always made sure we had a jacket.”
She’ll have more than just a jacket in her CMU coaching wardrobe, but right now, the weather is the least of her concerns. Abrams, 30, has some packing to get done and a few things to finish at Arizona so she can head north for her first collegiate head coaching job.
“I’ve always enjoyed the Colorado area, playing summer ball growing up,” she said. “This is a chance for me to have my own program and build on something that’s already strong.”
Abrams just completed her second year as a volunteer assistant for the Wildcats, who lost to national runner-up Oklahoma in the NCAA Super Regionals.
Her philosophy is a bit different than Mort’s, who was known as a power hitting coach.
“I’m looking to build off what’s already there,” Abrams said. “I want to bring in more speed and the short game. Coach Mort was the opposite of that, but I think I can bring some different dynamics to the game and push the limits and challenge the girls and see if we can get over that hump and win a national title.
“I know Coach Mort said they stole more bases this year than they have in a long time, so there is a great foundation to build off.”
Once Abrams saw the job posted, she started researching the program and looking at the facilities on the CMU website. Then she got a look at Bergman Field in person.
“I spent the whole day on campus, and the pictures online do not do it justice,” she said. “They’re great, but being there in person, it’s over the top. It’s something that’s impressive for that level.”
Mort is now an associate athletic director at Mesa, and Abrams said she’s looking forward to having that resource nearby.
“I see it as an asset,” she said. “It’s something that will help me as a young coach get grounded. She’ll be a great mentor in that department, and I’m looking forward to building that relationship.”
Abrams has a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Arizona and received her master’s degree in sports and exercise psychology from Barry University, where she was an assistant for two years. Prior to that, she was the head coach at Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson.
She’ll bring what she learned from Arizona coach Mike Candrea, who has won nine national championships and coached the USA softball team in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
“I learned a lot as far as doing the little things, taking care of yourself every day, what are you doing every day to help the team,” Abrams said. “It’s strength training and conditioning and academics. If you work hard in the classroom, that transfers to the field. It’s building a cohesive unit that respects each other and our opponents and respects the game. That plays a huge role in developing a program.”
More than 30 people applied for the position, CMU athletic director Butch Miller said, and they conducted 10 phone interviews before bringing finalists to campus.
He offered Abrams the job Friday evening, and she hopes to be on campus next week to sign her contract and look for a place she and her dog can call home.
“To have played in a program like that, the mentors she has at her disposal and who she’s coached with and played for are second to none in the softball community,” Miller said.
“She was an assistant at Pima (Community College) for two years, and they won a national title. She played and coached at Arizona with Mike Candrea. Coach Mort is still in the hallway, and she can help her with (logistics and learning about the RMAC).
“Her energy and passion, she’s very knowledgeable and is intelligent about the game. I think we hit a home run with this one.”