When prompted the question to describe herself, senior center fielder Morgan Howe struggled to find words. After a couple of minutes she came up with,
The spectators of Howe’s play can testify to these characteristics, even her coach matched some of the words that Howe said.
“Hardworking, driven, leader, attention to detail. If you watch her, how she catches routine balls, her feet are moving, she’s catching it with the proper foot. I don’t know if I have anything bad to say,” head coach Trisha Ford said. “She’s somebody who is very passionate. She knows what she wants and she goes and gets it. She goes out and dominates. She’s one of my favorites.”
But to learn the most about who Howe truly is, just watch her. There’s plenty to see, whether it be her timely hits, the lasers she tosses in from center or her enthusiastic celebrations. She may have a hard time telling you who she is, but she has no issue showing who she is.
After the team lost a tight series with bitter rival Arizona last year, Howe stood in front of the media with one of the most serious faces one can have.
“This is a really disgusting feeling. And I don’t think anybody wants to feel it ever again,” she described after her first experience of the Territorial Cup.
Despite it being her first season as a Sun Devil after transferring from Fresno State, Howe took hold of a leadership spot for the rest of the season after that series against the Wildcats. Of course, it wasn’t easy coming into a new surrounding and take on that type of role.
“It definitely was difficult being my first year here, also being an upperclassman in a new environment,” Howe said. “You have those people that were here for their whole four years and earned that leadership role. Definitely it was hard, I felt like as the season went on I kind of earned that right to speak up and say things that matter.”
As serious as Howe was in that moment, as serious she can be, that’s not how Howe is a majority of the time. A few weeks later, in that same spot where she stood, she was being pushed by teammates on a cart before practice with nothing but a huge smile on her face and laughter coming out.
Between outs, Howe will be doing anything out in center field, half the time she’ll be laughing at right fielder Kindra Hackbarth for who knows what. For most leaders, they lead by example, Howe does as well, but in her very goofy way to keep the team loose.
Howe talked bout how she balances her goofy and serious sides:
“This is a very serious atmosphere. You want to win, we’re here to win. Coach Ford says all the time, ‘winning is fun.’ But you have to find the joy in everything, if you wore every loss or wore every bad practice, you waste those times you have hanging out with your teammates and stuff,” she said.
“I think as a team, we’re better when we play loose and when we’re all having fun. There’s a time to be serious and there’s a time to realize, ‘okay, enjoy the moment, enjoy this time with your teammates, enjoy rolling around on the golf carts and stuff like that.’ With this group of girls it’s hard not to have fun.”
Before games, Howe does a handful of shenanigans, that have included acting like a Tyrannosaurus Rex as she chases around catcher Maddi Hackbarth.
“She just does goofy stuff,” Hackbarth said. “To know that our team can be goofy, but focused at the same time, it’s a good thing to have. It keeps us light on our feet, our energy is always up, having a good time. I think all the girls are on board knowing that right now, and I think that’s a good thing to know going into preseason.
“Being able to figure out the balance of being goofy, but focused and that fine line, you know dancing around, cheering in the dugout, running at each other doing goofy stuff, our team is full of it.”
As Howe mentioned, she finds the joy in everything. In the past year and half, Howe has learned a lot about herself. She started last season hitting an astronomical .600 after six games, but soon after found herself in a slump. Howe didn’t start in a handful of games, as Ford wanted her to get out of her own mind.
“When I get into slumps and stuff, me personally, I start thinking this is wrong, that’s wrong, everything is wrong,” she said. “Usually like 99 percent of the time it’s really nothing is wrong, it’s just a simple pitch selection or a timing thing. Sitting back and realizing and just letting my mind stop racing and just pause for a second, and realize there’s nothing wrong with my ability, like I’m good.”
And from all the words and actions to describe Howe, humble, is one that hasn’t been mentioned. Ford wanted Howe at Fresno State, and even after she left to coach the Sun Devils, Howe followed her after. Ford has put a lot of faith in her into her center field because she’s seen how good of a player Howe can be.
“Coach Ford has always believed in me, even at Fresno my first year with her,” Howe said. “She saw all this type of potential that I didn’t even think I had or I didn’t see myself. Just to be around (assistant) coach (Carly) W(ynn) and coach Ford, I’ve realized I’m way better than I think I am. It’s been an amazing year and a half, and I’m very fortunate for this last season to be here with them. I feel like I’m equipped with everything they’ve made me the best I’m able to be. It’s just awesome.
“I’m a better softball player than I initially thought I was. A lot of people grow up and they’re on these winning teams, who win all these championships and play the highest caliber teams, stuff like that. I was never on one of those teams. Honestly, to realize I’m pretty successful against all these high-caliber teams, people, it’s just one of those like, ‘wow, I’m actually good,’ moments.”
Howe also has a bundle of trust in Ford as well. So much trust, that Howe left Fresno State, where she was on scholarship to walk-on at ASU last year due to the certain amount of scholarships the team can give out. The star center fielder is on scholarship this year after her being an All Pac-12 second team honoree last season.
The goofy center fielder has plenty of trademarks that make her who she is. Her love for McDonalds, as Hackbarth described Howe makes a sound she calls the ‘Golden Arches,’ every time she sees one. There’s the little chicken emoji she loves because Howe extends her arms out when she talks that makes her look like the emoji. Also, she thinks it’s the cutest emoji. Then there’s the hair, the longest she’s ever measured it was 27 inches, but she says its been longer than that and guessed it was somewhere in the 30s.
All of these characteristics make the Sun Devil center fielder who she is, a driving force for the past two seasons on the No. 12 team in the country.
Howe will most likely end her season with stats that prove how vital she is to the Sun Devils’ success. However, her biggest influence may have nothing to do with a bat or a glove, but rather dancing and laughing in center field with her corner outfielders. And as long as there’s a smile on Howe and the rest of the Sun Devils’ faces, they could be dancing back to Oklahoma City.