OKLAHOMA CITY — Annie Lockwood’s Arizona State career started with a whimper.
Lockwood grew up in Phoenix, less than 20 minutes away from ASU’s campus. When she was singled out at the end of a softball camp and asked to walk on to the Sun Devils’ program, she decided almost immediately to do exactly that.
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“I told my parents I wanted to do it and [once I got to ASU] I was like ‘This sucks,’” Lockwood said. “The coaches were great, I was just in a bad place [in life]. I had mono and was battling all that year. I just wasn’t happy.
“I had spent my whole life being this great player, and you think that’s how it’s going to be in college. Then there are three people at third base and three people at first base. And I’d never played any position out of the infield.”
Lockwood made it through her freshman year, playing in just 14 games and hitting .250 during the season. At the end of that season, she was ready to hang up her cleats.
“I went to coach and said ‘I don’t think I can do this any more,’” Lockwood said. “He said ‘Hang in there, you can do this.’”
Arizona State coach Clint Myers understood the problem, one he’s seen many times in his three decades of coaching.
“She was a freshman,” Myers said. “There were a lot of things she had to learn and she had to grow up a little bit.”
That is exactly what Lockwood did.
“Over the summer I talked to my parents a lot and I told them I was really out there for me,” Lockwood said. “I was doing everything all by myself. I know everything. I don’t have to listen to what they say. I know what I’m doing. I was a typical 18-year old and that’s just who I was.
“That was the last summer you could play club in the summer and I went and I played on a club team and I had so much fun. I was really loose and I had a good time doing it and I listened to everything the coaches said because I wanted to be respectful because it was not my team.”
Her time playing club ball in California opened up a whole new world of softball.
“I decided that summer that I needed to go in and just let them work with me,” Lockwood said. “I need to be open. I need to be coachable. I need to have a good attitude. I had none of those [traits] as a freshman. You can ask any of [my teammates]. I came back and I said ‘I’m going to do this for the team. I’m not going to do this for me anymore. I’m going to go out there with a good attitude and work my butt off.’ I was there hours before and hours after and I worked with all of the coaches and they spent so much time with me and I’m so grateful for that too. That was probably what really got me around was the summer. I spent so much time getting out of my own head.”
When she returned to Tempe in the fall of 2009, Myers had a curveball ready for Lockwood. She was moving from the infield to the outfield. Lockwood wasn’t so sure about the move.
“I came back my sophomore year and he had me listed as an outfielder,” Lockwood said. “I thought ‘What are you doing? Are you sure? Did you write my name down wrong?’ and he said ‘No, we’re going to try this out and see how it goes.’”
“We told her she could go out there and graze in the grass and just think hitting,” Myers said. “What do outfielders do? They wait for somebody to hit them a ball. It’s not dirty out there. You get to run left and right. She had to learn to run a little more but she adapted out there and she has really become an outstanding outfielder.”
Lockwood started 60 games for the Sun Devils in 2010, hitting .331 on the season with 12 home runs, 45 RBIs and five doubles. And she was happy as a Sun Devil.
“I am hands-down the slowest outfielder we have,” Lockwood said. “I’m not very fleet of foot but I have a really good arm. I think that’s why they said it might work. It wasn’t really that difficult. The running was probably the hardest thing for me to get used to and (ASU’s other outfielders) still give me a hard time about it when they’re like ‘Some outfielders can run and get to the ball. You have to dive to catch a ball and make it look like a good catch when really it could have been routine.’ But really it’s great. It’s really fun.”
Myers needed Lockwood’s bat in the lineup, and the switch from the dirt to the grass was a way to make that happen.
“You knew she was going to be a phenomenal hitter just even her freshman year,” Myers said. “The difference is that now she believes she can be a great hitter. Back then, she was a freshman. Freshmen don’t know what they’re doing. They’re babies. They’re infants. They grow up a lot after that first year and by the second year they have a really good idea.”
“We talked a lot freshman year and he said ‘I know what you’re capable of but you’re not confident enough in yourself right now,’” Lockwood said. “When he put me in the outfield, he said ‘Look, you have such a great swing. You’re a great hitter. We need you to be that great hitter and if we can put you in a position out there, we can have you in the lineup and we can utilize that and it ended up working out really well. I was excited. It was great.”
Lockwood and her teammates will take to the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium this evening one win away from the program’s second national championship. This season, Lockwood leads ASU with 71 RBIs and 18 home runs, adding eight doubles and 37 runs in 61 games, all starts. She earned second-team All-Pac-10 and NFCA All-West Region second-team honors.
“My roommate my freshman year was [ASU starting left fielder] Taylor Haro,” Lockwood said. “We were both in the same position, fighting for a spot, not really getting a lot of playing time. [After advancing to the championship series this week] we just looked at each other and I said ‘Taylor, we made it. We’re going.’ We both kind of got teary-eyed and we got so excited about it. Now, we’re living that dream out.
“We said ‘Would you have thought freshman year when we were looking at each other across the room and sitting in the dugout saying ‘This sucks’ that we would get here?’ Now we’re actually out there loving every single minute of it. It is the most thrilling experience I’ve ever had.”