Armando Quiroz remembers packing the equipment after youth softball practice at Arthur Pack Park, noticing the lights turned off and hearing a 9-year-old making a request that put him in awe.
“Come on dad, 10 more minutes,” his daughter Rebekah asked him.
“There’s no lights, just street lamps,” Armando replied.
“No, dad, 10 more minutes … please.”
“That’s the key to her success,” Armando said Thursday night of his daughter, the new Pima Community College softball coach. “She’s always wanted more. That 10 more minutes is her work ethic, it symbolizes who she is.”
Rebekah Quiroz has used that diligence to go from excelling at Flowing Wells High School to earning All-American honors at Pima to playing for coaching legend Mike Candrea at Arizona to playing professionally to coaching with her dad at Pima and now to becoming the Aztecs’ head coach.
The move came about June 20 after Armando retired after 11 seasons as Pima’s coach, compiling a 501-197-2 record in the process.
Rebekah did not have to ask her father for this coaching opportunity like when she requested 10 more minutes of practice. He stepped aside late this season at Pima, allowing her to take over an interim role, but it was not by design.
“It was by me knee,” said Armando, who required knee-replacement surgery because his knee was rubbing bone on bone.
“She has earned this opportunity,” Armando said. “I think it was meant to be.”
What is happening with the Pima softball program has community pride all over it. Rebekah’s upbringing was in Tucson as was that of assistant coach Jennifer Martinez, who played with Rebekah at Pima and Arizona and in the pros after starring at Tucson High School.
“In Tucson, there are so many opportunities for Latina females and females in general who can keep going whether it’s coaching, doing lessons or helping out teams,” Rebekah said. “I’m very honored to carry on my dad’s name in the community. He is very well respected so it means a lot to me to carry his name through a program that’s already successful.
“I’ll work to maintain that. I know it will be a difficult job with tough shoes to fill, but I’m mostly honored to carry his name through the process.”
The Aztecs took third place at the NJCAA Division I National Tournament in 2013 and fourth place in 2012 under Armando. They claimed two NJCAA Region I titles and made the region tournament in 10 out of the 11 years.
Armando was inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Flowing Wells High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
Rebekah actually coached longer at Pima than her dad, the last 13 seasons under him and Stacey Iveson. Rebekah and Jennifer were coaching on the 2006 NJCAA Division I national championship team in which the staff under Iveson (now Arizona’s director of softball operations and recruiting) was named National Coaching Staff of the Year. Rebekah had 606 wins in her career as an assistant coach at Pima.
She won two state titles with Flowing Wells in 1999 and 2000. She was selected to the Flowing Wells Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
Jennifer is returning to Pima this school year to be Rebekah’s assistant (Tony Rascon is another assistant) after working at Arizona as an instructional specialist coordinator the last five years.
“We’ve coached and played together for so long, it seemed like it is the right fit,” Jennifer said. “I’ve always had a passion for coaching. I started to slowly get back into it by doing hitting instruction and then now have the opportunity to be back at Pima and coaching with Rebekah.”
They say they are like sisters and their family interaction shows that. When Rebekah and Jennifer were guests of the 520 Sports Talk show at Frog ‘N Firkin, the back patio room was full with members of both families mingling as well as with four of the Pima players.
They are mothers of young children — Rebekah has two kids and Jennifer has a 1-year-old daughter — so they know of scheduling demands and adjust accordingly with each other’s help.
One of the Pima players in attendance Thursday was sophomore infielder Mya Cabral, who like Rebekah and Jennifer, went to high school in Tucson (graduating from Pueblo) and is now at Pima and striving for a shot at softball at a four-year school (perhaps Arizona?).
She was selected to the honorable mention team in the 2018 Fast Pitch News NJCAA Division I All-American list.
Cabral was third in the ACCAC conference with a .485 batting average. She led the Aztecs with 52 RBIs as she played in 53 games. She had 82 hits in 169 at-bats to go along with 45 runs scored, 14 doubles, six home runs and 17 walks. She had 316 put-outs and a fielding percentage of .991.
“It’s going to be really productive this upcoming year with them coaching us,” Cabral said. “I mean, they both know how to play at this level. I think they are going to bring some stuff they did back in their day and mix it in with stuff that is new from now.
“(Rebekah) likes to get things done. She’s really quick with her drills but productive. We get a lot of reps in.”
Jennifer mentioned that Pima will utilize much of the same drills Candrea taught them at Arizona with some techniques learned from Iveson and Armando.
“We will try to bring everything we learned to Pima,” she said. “We’ll be doing a lot of individual work, one on one. Me personally, I’m excited to get to know these girls. I’m getting to know them for the first time.”
Rebekah and Jennifer continue a line of communication with Candrea. Rebekah is one of eight active head coaches at the high school and college level who played for Candrea at Arizona.
“We try not to bother him because he’s so busy,” Rebekah said with a laugh. “Every now and then we send him a text. We’re lucky because we’re also close with our other Wildcat sisters. Any time Jen and I need something it’s a phone call or text message away.
“We’ve also been coached by so many legends. It just gives us another opportunity to give back what we were taught. We’re also lucky to be part of the Arizona family. It’s an honor. It really is.”
Jennifer added of Candrea’s impact, “I think that it’s knowing him as a mentor, he and Coach Iveson are always there whenever we have any questions or anything we need. We can always go to them. Our Wildcat family is so close and we have kept in touch with all of them. We’re so very close to all of them. It’s a great resource and a great thing for Tucson and our community to be able to be in that close contact with Candrea. Just to have him as a resource is amazing.”
Pima’s recruiting effort, especially locally, is a priority for Rebekah and her coaching staff.
The Aztecs’ 2018 20-player roster included 10 players from the Tucson area and 14 from Arizona overall. Three of the players were from Pueblo, including Cabral, infielder Vanessa Duarte and catcher Alizea Durazo-Corday.
Former Pima & UA softball players, Rebekah Quiroz (right) & Jennifer Martinez, set to lead the Aztecs w/Quiroz becoming head coach after her dad Armando retired. Here talking w/@520sportstalk & UA football great David Adams at @FrognFirkinAZ. Story upcoming at @AllSportsTucson pic.twitter.com/cCyIW9P28E
“Moving forward we really want to make sure our local kids stay home,” Rebekah said. “It means a lot to Jen and I that if they have an opportunity to play after high school, we want to give them that opportunity.
“We don’t want to be losing our kids to other JCs when we have a top-notch program right here in town. Taking care of the local kids is our top priority.”
Some of Pima’s players walked by Rebekah and Jennifer while doing this interview and they patted their coaches on the shoulders, showing a strong sense of togetherness and no trepidation.
Armando mentioned that comfort comes from how Rebekah tries to keep things together in her diligent way.
“She has a good interaction with them,” Armando said. “She is very demanding. She knows what she wants, but she is also compassionate and understanding. That’s important.”
The players know they will be asked to work longer and harder if necessary — just 10 more minutes dad, please — and if they do, they can reap be the rewards Rebekah has achieved in her extensive playing and coaching career.
Armando plans on attending games and he says he will support her daughter with any questions she might have but maintains, “I want her to get on her feet on her own.”
“My dad offers advice and words of wisdom every day,” Rebekah said. “He tells me to stay focused and that nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We have a target on our back now as new coaches.
“We’re looking forward to that challenge.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.