Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
It’s always been a dream for Roswell native Rebecca Marrujo to be a head softball coach. It took about seven years for her dream to come to fruition. What makes the dream sweeter for Becca — as she is affectionately known to family and friends in Roswell — is she’s been endorsed by her former coach and mentor, Art Sandoval. Rebecca didn’t know where her opportunity might come to be a head coach, but she was willing to start at the lowest rungs on the coaching ladder to get an opportunity.
Her reality is turning out better than her dream because her first chance to exchange lineup cards will come for her alma mater. It is her turn to see if she can lead Roswell to a Blue Trophy in softball.
A lot of people looking for inspiration may see the paper and think Rebecca was awarded this opportunity because she is from Roswell. Her journey to becoming a head coach started in her backyard under the watchful eye of her dad, Carlos Marrujo Jr. It was there that he coached her and was tough on her to the point he would make her cry, sit her on the bench and yell at her just like he would yell at his son, Carlos III, who is three years older. Until last year, Carlos III was the head baseball coach for Roswell from 2016-18 leading the team to the playoffs all three seasons and sending numerous players to college while he was a head coach. Carlos III is now an assistant coach at New Mexico Military Institute.
“My dad, Carlos Marrujo Jr. was my first coach,” Becca Marrujo said. “There were times when he made me cry. Honestly, when I went to college and those coaches yelled at me, it wasn’t a big deal, because of my dad. He was the type of coach to get in my face. I still lean on my dad. I have already leaned on my brother, Carlos III; he’s helped me with the paperwork side of being a coach.”
In 2008, her senior year, Roswell was beating two-time state champion Piedra Vista 1-0 at the state championship in Farmington. That game had everything, unpredictable weather: it snowed, drizzled rain, was cool and had sunshine. The game had all the emotions Roswell’s players and fans felt as Piedra Vista came back to take a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning. Roswell came back and tied the game 2-2, but the Lady Panthers came back to win, 3-2, as a Panther player hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the sixth inning. The team went on to win against Del Norte but ended up losing to Aztec in a semifinal game.
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“There were so many fans at the game,” Becca said, “(more) than I had ever seen at Eastern New Mexico University.”
Sandoval taught his team more than just softball.
“Coach Sandoval has always been energetic,” Becca said. “Sandoval always pumped up the team and winning meant a lot. Coach Sandoval taught us life lessons as well as softball.”
In high school, Becca played three sports: volleyball, basketball and softball. She played well enough to receive a softball scholarship to Luna Community College. Rebecca was part of the inaugural softball team at Luna College. In two seasons, her team won two games. She tore her labrum at the beginning of her sophomore year and ended up redshirting. She learned so much about competition and being positive from her coach.
The Luna coach, Meredith Aragon, was unbelievably positive with her players, instilling confidence in them to continue to give their best efforts, no matter what the outcome on the scoreboard read. Rebecca thinks that those are the qualities she hopes to instill in her players at Roswell. She was good enough to finish her career at Eastern New Mexico University after breaking her ankle in her junior season.
“I learned a lot of things from my college coach, Meredith Aragon,” Becca said. “A lot of the things I learned from her, I use now. Coach Aragon had so much faith in our team; she pushed us to our limit. Coach Aragon said, ‘play this game like there is no tomorrow. Give back to the game what it gave back to you.’”
One of the things that Becca stressed was that every girl will have to work for their spot. She feels like competition will make Roswell better. The player competition will start with Fall Ball. Rebecca wants the players to play other sports, but if the players are not playing other sports, she wants them involved in Fall Ball. She has not officially named assistant coaches yet.
“I want to encourage the girls,” Becca said. “Winning means a lot, but at the same time, I want them to get more out of it than softball. I want the girls to be successful in school. Student comes before student-athlete. I want our team to be dominant. I want the girls to be successful and move on to college. Our team will go down fighting.”
Becca has been a fixture as an assistant coach at Roswell. Last season, she helped coach basketball and softball, but had a heart-to-heart talk with her pastor’s wife, Julie Smothermon, in Becca’s office about her future plans of wanting to be a head coach one day. Smothermon told her that what she did while she was waiting would determine when she would get the job. Smothermon told her to be patient and obedient to God, and God would give her the right opportunity. One year later, she was named as the head softball coach at Roswell. She felt ready to be a head coach after being an assistant coach for cross country, basketball and softball. As a student in college, Rebecca volunteered at Portales High School as a softball coach for Robbie Crawley.
“Change is hard,” Becca said. “In order for me to coach what I know and to back up my philosophy, I have to do what I believe will work for my team. I trust and have faith in God that no matter what happens, I have enough confidence that I can handle it.”
The team that is coming back has gone through the growing pains the last two years, missing the playoffs both seasons. The team had a chance to make the playoffs but ended up barely missing out. The team needed to win games early in the season. Rebecca is hoping the team will shine in the Rio Rancho tournament this year and get off to a fast start. There will be high expectations with a lot of sophomores and juniors returning. As a coach, she believes that what will make the Lady Coyotes successful will be if the girls buy into the program and become a family. She hopes the girls will become a family away from their own family and have team unity.
Becca has a winning pedigree and knows what it’s like to win the Blue Trophy, as her volleyball team won it in 2006 under coach Bryan Masse. She said that on that team, everyone bought in and the little things mattered, none of the players cheated on drills. Whether it was running a lap all the way through or in sprints, each person was accountable to their teammates. Each player gave 100% during practice.
“These girls will never get these years back,” Becca said. “I want them to come out and be successful in life. This is more than catching the ball and more than softball. I want to be a mentor to these kids and loyal to them, and I want them to feel like they can confide in me.”
One of the things that Rebecca will emphasize with her team this season is she wants to do more skill work. She will do drills called dailies. Routine things she will expect the team to do and have down so that when game-time comes, it will be second nature. She would like her team to be flexible and be able to play multiple positions. She wants her players to work on strength positions and yet try other positions, in case things happen. Pitchers and catchers will be working. Outfielders will be hitting, and the team will be working on defense and infield drills every day. Coach will have the team working in groups while breaking down the fundamentals.
“God is the most important thing in my life,” Becca said. “God is first in my life. Without God, I would not have my family, job or the things I have in life. Without God, I wouldn’t have this opportunity. I put God first, and I know he will bless me.”
What others are saying about Rebecca Marrujo:
Meredith Aragon: “I am entering my 11th season as a college coach and every year I tell my athletes that no matter what happens, I won’t give up on them if they don’t give up on themselves. We learn more than just softball. I try and teach/coach life. Rebecca now is doing both!”
Former Roswell softball coach, Art Sandoval: “I have a lot of respect for Rebecca. She comes from a good family, and I’m excited for her. She has a lot of good kids coming up that will work hard for her, and I want to wish her the best of luck. I can’t say enough good things about her and congratulate her; all I want her to do is go win!”
Roswell Independent School District athletic director, Britt Cooper: “We felt that she was ready for a head-coaching job. She’s been a great assistant and got the experience there, and we feel she’s ready for the next level.”
Former Portales softball coach, Robbie Crowley: “Becca volunteered for us and was there every day for us like she was getting paid. She was excellent with the kids and got the best out of them. Her strength is she’s a player’s coach. She made me look good as a coach, and she was very knowledgeable, as well. I think she will do an amazing job as a coach. It is an asset that Becca is a female coach and there are less and less of them in the business. I expect her to do great things as a coach for Roswell and have an impact on lives of the young women she coaches. I expect her impact to go beyond the softball field.”
Former Roswell baseball coach Carlos Marrujo III: “Rebecca’s been around softball a long time. My dad and I were part of the RHS softball for a long time. I think she knows what it takes for Roswell to be successful, and she can relate to the girls and show them what needs to be done. She played on a good team in 2008 and moved onto Division II at Eastern New Mexico. Rebecca is young, motivated and excited to help these girls, and I’m excited for her. This is a great opportunity for her. I expect great things from her.”
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.