Winning former Catalina coach takes over Carmel High softball

After a successful nine-year run at Santa Catalina, Jim Pingree starts anew as coach of the Carmel High School softball team.

Throughout his coaching career, Pingree was awarded MTAL Coach of the Year six times. He was also Monterey County’s Coach of the Year in 2011 and was featured by ESPN as a Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year in 2012. In his nine years at Catalina, he had an overall record of 161-50-3 and won five consecutive MTAL championships.

“Catalina’s a special place for special people—that’ll never change,” he remarks. “Even so, I don’t view coming here as ‘switching sides’ or anything. Regardless of location, I’ve always looked at it as an opportunity to coach great athletes and further develop their skills.”

For the players he’s worked with so far, all of them are optimistic in terms of the upcoming season under Pingree. Junior catcher and outfielder Dani Benak claims that she and her fellow teammates are excited for the change.

“We suffered a lot of losses and had a lot of key players drop out, but I believe that making the switch [in coaches] will definitely take the team a step in the right direction,” Benak says. “We performed adequately well under [former coach] Mike Odello, but Jim has more experience.”

Athletic director Golden Anderson validates Pingree’s qualifications.

“He is very organized, has a strong desire to develop all members of the softball program and has a great passion for providing all that he can for program,” Anderson says.

Despite his long record of stunning athletic achievements as a coach, the fruits of his labor did not come easy. When he started coaching at Catalina, Pingree recalls talk of the program being disbanded due to a profound lack of interest and experienced players.

“At the rate things were progressing, we just weren’t able to get the quality of athletes we needed to propel the team forward,” Pingree admits. “Based on the time we put into practice, there was hardly any collective or individual improvement and the players simply were not progressing at the rate they should have been.”

For Pingree, there had been no original intention of coaching for the Catalina Cougars, but he soon met the long, arduous challenge of reconstructing the program head-on after his daughter—who now coaches Santa Catalina’s team—developed an interest in joining the team.

As someone who was active in baseball throughout high school and college, making the transition into softball came naturally to Pingree.

Nonetheless, it took two to three years to level out the ground, reestablish order and turn the tide of the way things were going—a moment found in his first section playoff win during his third year of coaching. From there on, the program soared to great heights and continued to reach the playoffs every year since, an impressive achievement for a small private school of around 490 students.

“For a high school team to be performing at that kind of level is extremely rare,” Anderson says. “It really takes someone versatile and confident in their own abilities to direct a variety of kids in a number of circumstances to success.”

Even with all the praise and recognition he’s achieved, Coach Pingree remains humble.

“The team is just such a joy to work with, and I can’t wait to work with Golden this year—it’s going to be a very successful year,” he says. “For the most part, I’m not concerned about a one-loss record. I just want to make sure that I can do everything to ensure the maturity and growth in each of my players.”

-Grace Liang