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ASU Softball: Catching up with Sun Devil alum Morgan Howe

Pro softballer

Brady Vernon/House of Sparky

Former Arizona State center fielder Morgan Howe was at a crossroads. Almost one year ago, her college softball career had ended and she was trying to find out what was next.

A 2019 NFCA First Team All-American who hit an even .400 with 12 home runs and 61 RBI’s in 55 games, Howe was looking at life outside of the playing field after she wasn’t drafted in the 2019 National Pro Fastpitch Softball Draft.

Howe knew she wanted to stay in the game, but the thought of picking up a bat and ball again seemed out of the picture once she wasn’t selected.

“It was definitely an eventful summer with a lot of emotions,” Howe said. “It was really hard. Over the last four years of my life, I’ve always known what I was doing...The draft didn’t really work out the way I thought it was and I thought I was playing over the summer and that was something that didn’t happen that I thought would. For a lot of the summer, I had to navigate who I am without softball.”

Howe elected to go back to school and stay in the game as a graduate student manager, landing all the way across the country at the University of Florida.

Receiving her undergraduate degree in criminal justice at ASU, Howe shifted gears in her major to study sport management with a specialization in athlete development.

The new subject matter and lectures enticed her, learning the ins and outs of handling life as a competitive athlete at a high level in her classes. Most notably, how to think about the big picture for when the spikes, glove, and bat are put away, both mentally and financially.

“Athletes are trained to be short-term thinkers instead of long-term thinkers. When you are an athlete and you are playing your sport, you are thinking about the current situation or the current play,” Howe said. “There’s so much resistance to planning out your future because that’s a long-term type of thinking.”

With her new major, she balanced school, her graduate manager duties, and taking swings and reps with four-time Florida All-American Amanda Lorenz, who was on the staff with her as a student assistant.

Howe also received extra batting practice swings after practices from former Cal Bear and 2012 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Jolene Henderson, who was with the Gators as a volunteer assistant coach.

Howe stayed ready, and her dad mentioned at one point that her grandfather was born in Canada, meaning that the former Sun Devil center fielder could apply for Canadian citizenship to play internationally for Team Canada.

It would seem to be a fitting destination for the player whose walk-up music at Farrington Stadium was ‘Tom Sawyer’, by the Toronto band, Rush - a tune that Howe used during her senior year every time she strolled to the plate in honor of her dad.

She was invited to workout with the Canadian team, only to have her playing aspirations get shot down once more. She wouldn’t be able to gain citizenship for at least three to five years. Her emotions and hopes of playing again were dealt another blow.

“I was like, well I got back into it just to get it taken away again,” Howe said.

However, an Instagram post led to Howe’s next opportunity. Once again, her dad notified her that there might be a way to get back on the field after her father saw a post online and sent her a screenshot.

The California Commotion, the newest west coast professional team in the NPF that was put together in November, was holding a tryout at UCLA. Howe was hesitant to jump at the offer.

“A huge part of me didn’t want to do it,” Howe said. “I didn’t want to get my hopes all high again.”

Her friends and people close to her convinced Howe otherwise, with the message being that if she could give anything to play again, why not just go play ball for a day. Have fun, and don’t worry about what will follow.

Howe agreed. She flew all the way back across the country. On March 2, she officially signed with the new team. She’ll be a part of the first pro softball team on the west coast since 2005, pending that the season gets underway.

Although the sports world is currently on hold at the moment, Howe will still have the opportunity to play the sport she loves at some point.

For now though, the California native is just gleaming in the fact that she’s got the chance to be back between the chalk lines.

Known for her clutch moments during crunch time in Tempe, she was the Sun Devil who caught the final out to send ASU to the Women’s College World Series in 2018, and she hit a home run in ASU’s first game of the WCWS against Oregon.

After not being sure of how post-softball life was going to go, she now seems content on where she’s at and hopes to be back on a field soon. Her support system also helped along the way. Without Howe’s dad, Robert, reminders and help, things might be different.

Her dad would drive Howe to all of her travel ball games growing up, starting off the morning road trips with a signature meal: a McDonald’s sausage biscuit and a hash brown. It was a father and daughter “ritual,” as Howe describes.

“I definitely owe everything to my dad. He’s always had the greatest confidence in me even when I didn’t feel like I had anything to be confident about,” Howe said. “Because we share a mutual love and respect for the game, anytime there’s an opportunity to keep playing, he’ll shove it in my face. He’ll ask me if I saw something and be like, ‘I think you could do it. I think you could be great.’ It’s something that I’ll never be able to pay him back for.”

Similar to the young softball player that was going to travel ball games all around California growing up, the center fielder from Poway is back on the west coast still playing the game she loves, this time at the professional level.

She gets to be a part of an expansion to a league that is looking to grow, and Howe has a vision in mind.

“One year ago, I had no idea what I was doing upon graduating. I kind of put myself in a situation where I wasn’t thinking about what I was actually going to do,” Howe said. “It’s funny because I am in this school situation right now learning about professional sports and the bigger leagues - the NFL, the NBA, and stuff like that and just realizing the NPF isn’t that large in comparison, but it’s really exciting to contribute to the growth.

“Everything starts from nothing. The MLB had to grow, the NBA had to grow. All professional leagues had to grow at some point and I just want to contribute to the foundation...I think I am at ease knowing that one day there will be girls that get to do that.”