Softball: MICHAEL LOTIEF KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT THE SPORT OF SOFTBALL – At Least, That’s What I Thought
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
By Scott Brazda, Submitted to the Athletic Network on May 20, 2014
MICHAEL LOTIEF KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT THE SPORT OF SOFTBALL:
AT LEAST, THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT
Michael Lotief. Hitting coach supreme. Softball coach extraordinaire.
Wait a second: Michael Lotief? MICHAEL LOTIEF?!?!
You’ve gotta be kidding me!!
Michael Lotief? Really?
The Michael Lotief I knew… back in my formative years at St. Genevieve Elementary and then Teurlings Catholic High… knew nothing about softball. At least, I don’t think he knew anything about softball. Mike was a couple years behind me, and so, being an elitist upperclassman, I paid little attention to his life, his hopes, his dreams. He was insignificant, and I was… significant, at least in my own “all about me” world.
Face it: my biggest memory of Michael Lotief was knocking him down during basketball practice. Again, I was 6’2” and in the starting line-up; Mike… wasn’t 6’2”…and was part of a group forced to guard us superstars. Get the ball in the paint, turn toward the goal, knock down Lotief….
Who just kept getting up. Over and over again, Michael Lotief kept getting up.
And not just that; no, Michael Lotief kept getting up… with a smile on his face.
Now, I don’t think Mike kept getting up and smiling because he wanted me to knock him down again. I don’t think he’s a masochist or anything. I think Mike kept getting up and smiling because….
He just loved being out there… he just loved being part of the team…. He just loved the competition.
At least, that’s my theory.
Mike went to school, made his grades, went to law school; getting up and smiling…and competing each and every day. He started coaching some youth softball, Mike had picked up a bit of knowledge about the game — sharp guy, sports fan, you know? He was coaching championship U-18 teams, and learning and crafting his trade all along the way.
And then he met a talented University of Southwestern Louisiana softball player named Stefni Whitton. Stefni was a good pitcher. Real, real good… as in two-time All-American good. Six no-hitters, 50-something shutouts, nearly 80 victories. And as we often do when we’re dating someone, we pick up their interests, or at least try to become more familiar with some of your significant other’s passions. As I said, Mike had gained a bit of knowledge about softball— sharp guy, sports fan, you know?— but like with most things he did, Mike threw himself into it…even more.
Now, I’m about to paraphrase something Stefni (who Mike no doubt tricked into marrying him) told me a couple months ago, but here’s the gist of it:
Michael Lotief decided that if softball was going to become part of his life, then he was going to know as much as he could about the sport. In essence, if he was going to be around it, and coach a bit here and there, he was going to be as knowledgeable and as good at understanding and teaching the game… as he possibly could.
For Michael Lotief, there have never been any shortcuts. You put in the work, you put in your sweat you put in your heart, you put in your passion…. You get results.
The results….are easily found. The numbers do not lie.
Entering this week’s NCAA Super Regional with Arizona, Michael Lotief… as a head coach or co-head coach (with Stefni up until the 2013 season)… is rapidly approaching 600 victories with Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns. And those are just the numbers; you don’t see the dedication and love and support and buy-in that’s sent back to him by his players and their parents and the UL fans.
This year’s Cajuns presented a major challenge for the guy who, as far as I knew, didn’t know much about softball. The Cajuns were young, relatively inexperienced, with only one four-year senior. Of course, with Mike being Mike, and the Cajuns’ program being the Cajuns’ program, we knew they’d eventually be OK, but not until Mike had a few more gray hairs speckled across his head.
Someone forgot to tell the Ragin’ Cajuns that they might struggle a bit, that they weren’t supposed to make it look this easy. Another superb season, another Sun Belt title, another NCAA appearance, another Super Regional. 47-8-1. Call that amazing. Call that Coach of the Year material.
None of this is very bad for a guy who doesn’t know anything about softball.
Or at least, a guy who didn’t tell me…. he DID know something about softball.