There is a budding bromance amid the camaraderie of coaches within McKale Center.
“He’s my new best friend here,” Arizona Wildcats baseball coach Jay Johnson said of Mike Candrea.
Candrea has been UA’s softball coach since August of 1985, winning eight national titles and saying he has the pieces for 2017 to get back to the Women’s College World Series.
Johnson, hired in the summer of 2015, took his first Arizona team to the final game of the College World Series in June, falling a run short in a 4-3 loss to Coastal Carolina.
Let’s just say that there is mutual admiration.
“I was so impressed last year with a lot of things,” Candrea said.
“I think he has put together a great staff. I think he has shown he is a very good motivator and understands the mental side of the game and can get this generation to where it needs to be.
“I marveled during the College World Series that the positioning of their players were spot-on. That tells me there is a lot of great preparation that goes into the game with that staff.”
Candrea has a deep baseball background, as a player and coach before falling into softball at Central Arizona College and then Arizona. He is so renowned in the field of hitting that he has consulted with major-league stars Don Mattingly and Tony Gwynn at national hitting clinics, and he helped develop hitting software with former MLB catcher Don Slaught.
“I pick his brain whenever I can,” Johnson said.
“It’s probably more of me asking questions and then listening. I have a long way to go in terms of catching up to that dude.”
Candrea says there is a lot he wants to learn, too, from Johnson.
“We have had a great relationship ever since he came here,” Candrea said.
“He’s a good baseball guy. If there is one thing I miss about baseball, it’s the people. I go down to Hi Corbett and sit in their offices and talk to the coaching staff, and it brings me back to my baseball days when you saw quality people who love the game and would spend countless hours, no matter what it takes.
“It’s nice to see.”
The softball program hasn’t been to the Women’s College World Series since 2010. The baseball program won it all in 2012 under coach Andy Lopez and then made it to the final game last season. Perhaps 2017 will be the year both make it the World Series.
“I told him, now you set the bar, big fella, you gotta keep that going,” Candrea said. “And I’m sure they will.”