Abe Grijalva was ready to retire to Oro Valley.
But the 55-year-old didn’t make it more than three months before Flowing Wells High School came calling.
Grijalva, a longtime teacher and coach at Douglas High School, was recently named the Caballeros’ softball coach.
“If I was going to coach at the varsity level again, it was going to be softball,” said Grijalva, a former Spanish and physical education teacher who is now a substitute. “There is a lot of good competition in Arizona.”
Flowing Wells wasn’t the only school trying to land Grijalva as its softball coach, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, he led the Bulldogs to a 310-183 mark over 17 seasons. Grijalva spent last year as an assistant coach for the Flowing Wells freshman football, basketball and baseball teams, and says he’ll coach on the gridiron again this fall.
The Star recently caught up with Grijalva to talk about his retirement — and return:
Deep Douglas roots
Before moving on, Grijalva had to say goodbye.
“It was difficult but at the same time, it needed to be done,” Grijalva said. “It’s a great new challenge and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
His ties to Bulldogs go beyond the 30 years he spent as an educator. Grijalva graduated from Douglas in 1978 and moved back five years later after graduating from Northern Arizona University.
Grijalva’s success with the Bulldogs wasn’t limited to coaching. He was a junior offensive lineman in 1976, when the Bulldogs reached the 4A state championship game and finished 10-2. As a senior, he played in the outfield on Douglas’ state champion baseball team.
Grijalva was a man of many hats at Douglas. He served as athletic director for five years before becoming a football and basketball coach. He is best remembered, however, for his softball success.
Grijalva led Douglas’ softball team to seven straight postseason appearances from 2006-2012, including a semifinals showing four years ago.
His softball teams went a combined 80-16 from 2009-2011. Flowing Wells is hoping he can duplicate that success.
“The boys have responded well to my way of coaching since I’ve been here,” said Grijalva. “I’m hoping for the same from the girls. We are going to work hard, and practice like we play: quick.”
Back where they belong
The Caballeros have struggled since capturing state titles in 1999, 2000 and 2002 under Armando Quiroz, now Pima College’s softball coach.
Flowing Wells athletic director Pat Weber moved quickly to hire Grijalva, in part because the hiring committee thought he was the best candidate for the job.
“We wanted someone who can take the program from where (former coach) Terri Swaney has it now back to where it has been before,” Weber said.
The Caballeros could be close. They are coming off a 14-13 season. They last made the state playoffs three years ago under George Corona, who is now Marana’s softball coach.
“During my time at Douglas, we always heard about Flowing Wells being very successful,” Grijalva said. “I know they have a strong tradition of winning and good talent. Hopefully we can keep players in the district and have renewed success.”