by Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE –– For years, they attended as many of each other’s games as
possible. But after Arizona Ritchie graduated from Brooke Point High School and enrolled at the
University of Virginia in 2018, she no longer saw her father, Gregg, as regularly.

For once, though, their schedules aligned perfectly this spring. Or so it seemed.

UVA was slated to host George Washington in softball at Palmer Park on April 21. Twenty-four hours
later, the Cavaliers and the Colonials were scheduled to meet in baseball at Disharoon

Arizona starts at second base for the Virginia softball team. Gregg Ritchie is GW’s head baseball
coach, and he was planning to drive to Charlottesville to see his daughter play, stay overnight and
then meet his team the next day.

Alas, it was not to be. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down college sports well before April, and those
UVA-GW games never took place. Still, if there’s been an upside to this situation for the Ritchies,
it’s the time they’ve spent together at the family’s home in Stafford. Gregg and his wife, Kelly,
have four children, three of whom have been home taking classes this spring.

The pandemic has also given Gregg an opportunity to once again tutor Arizona, an avid pupil since she
was a little girl, on the field.

“We’re able to work out quite a bit now,” he said. “It’s really special I get to spend this time with
her, because it’s been a little while since high school.”

They don’t have to go far to practice. In the Ritchies’ backyard is a regulation softball field, as
well as a batting cage, pitching machine and lights.

“When I was younger, my dad obviously was in love with baseball,” Arizona recalled, “and he made a
major league-sized field for baseball, and I started out playing baseball from 4 years old to when I
was 12 years old. Once I started playing softball at 12 years old, we were like, ‘OK, this should
really be a softball field now.’ So we [altered] the dimensions, and now it’s a softball field.

“I’m very, very grateful for the resources that I have at home. I’m aware that not everybody has
that. I’m aware that my teammates are struggling more in terms of resources for practicing.”

Like his wife, Gregg is a GW graduate. Before returning to his alma mater to oversee its baseball
program, he was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ hitting coach. Arizona grew up around bats and balls and

“When I was young, I would kind of be this little field rat with him and be able to work out with all
the guys,” Arizona said. “So it was very exciting for me, and I definitely think it played a big
role in making me the player that I am today.”

Gregg took over at GW after the 2012 season. Whenever possible, Arizona would “come up there and
she’d sit in the dugout and learn,” he said. “She’s a student of game.”

Back home in Stafford, when Gregg worked with young baseball players at home, Arizona would watch

“Even though she was inquisitive, she didn’t say a whole lot,” Gregg said. “She just watched. I’d be
playing catch with somebody, and she’s sitting there watching. And all of the sudden she’d go over
and grab a tee and walk down to the open area there in the field, and she’d put the tee there and
hit balls. She’d just do it herself, and then she’d walk back, sit down, watch. And then she’d go
chase the balls and put ‘em back in the bucket and watch some more.”

As Arizona got older, she’d quiz her father about strategy and tactics when they watched games on

“All the softball or baseball acumen questions you want your kids to understand before they take the
field at a higher level, she was on that stuff at 10 years old, 11 years old, 12 years old,” Gregg

When Arizona was at Brooke Point, Gregg was able to follow her softball career “pretty well,” he
said. “There were a lot of times I could go to her games. Once college hit? No. I think I’ve seen a
few fall games over the two years, and I’ve maybe been at parts of four or five games in two years.
Maybe. And even then I’m catching just a tick of it. I keep up with whatever technology I can a
little bit.”

The inspiration for Arizona’s given name? Gregg said his wife liked the hit song “Arizona” by Mark
Lindsay, of Paul Revere and the Raiders fame. By any name, the youngest Ritchie has been a welcome
addition to head coach Joanna Hardin’s program at Virginia.

Arizona started 48 games for the Cavaliers as a freshman in 2019. She started all 22 this year in

UVA’s abbreviated season. Hardin said it’s readily apparent Arizona is a coach’s daughter.

“She can handle feedback,” Hardin said. “It’s been interesting, especially as she’s transitioned to
second and third year. She really wants honest, straightforward feedback. She doesn’t want fluff.
She wants me to tell her the truth, and I think that’s because her dad’s been doing that her whole

“She’s a ballpark rat. She’s at the field all the time. She loves it. She’s one of the kids we have
to tell, ‘Hey, you’re done for the day.’ ”

Hardin got to know Gregg well during the Cavaliers’ recruitment of Arizona, and they’ve remained

“Coaches connect pretty quickly, especially when you’re in similar sports, because you understand
each other as a head coach,” Hardin said. “He understands the recruiting process, he understands my
position, he understands my decision-making. He gets it. He’s a great resource.”

And so, when Hardin had two positions to fill on her staff after the 2019 season, she sought input
from Gregg. He suggested she consider Jake Sidwell, a volunteer assistant on the GW baseball team in
2019. Gregg told Hardin that Sidwell’s values matched hers perfectly.

“That’s a huge thing,” Hardin said. “When you’re hiring, you want to have values that are aligned
with the people you’re going to see every day.”

Sidwell, a former catcher for Davidson’s baseball team. joined the Wahoos as an assistant coach last
July. “He’s a special human being and a very talented young coach,” Gregg said. “Once everybody
knows what he can do, how he handles people, his temperament, his heart, his passion, his drive, his
relentlessness, I think you’re going to see him do some really lofty things.”

Neither Gregg nor Hardin saw Sidwell’s lack of experience in softball as a negative.

“Absolutely not,” Gregg said. “My take on good coaching is number one that you’re a people person.
That’s first and foremost. Obviously, you have to know your craft. But the bottom line is, even if
you’re elite in knowledge, if you cannot relate to people and you’re not good around people, then
it’s going to be a struggle. It’s truly about developing a really good mentor-teacher relationship
that grows into something bigger and better as you move along.

“Number two, he had massive drive … and then the third thing is, he was always learning.”

Sidwell said: “I would not be where I’m at––literally––if not for Gregg Ritchie. He has been a mentor
for me, and it’s really cool for me to be able to use what I learned from him to coach Arizona.”

During his year on Gregg’s staff, Sidwell said, Arizona “came up to [GW’s] field a couple times to
get work in and was usually pretty quiet. I definitely heard about her more than I knew her.”

Asked about any similarities between father and daughter, Sidwell laughed. “I think she’s more
competitive than him, which is saying a lot. He might not like that I said that.”

Sidwell added: “Probably the biggest thing I’d say is that you can see the similarities in their
ability to be really competitive and work really hard and still balance that with a tremendous level
of care and compassion: Arizona for her teammates, and Gregg for his players and coaches. It’s a
unique balance. You don’t see a lot of people that are able to do both.”

Arizona, a sociology major, is minoring in global sustainability. She’s a member of Green Athletics
(a sustainability and environment club) and is working to start a club for Jewish student-athletes
at UVA.

“I think what’s been great about Virginia for Arizona is that it’s opened up some opportunities for
her to be involved in some clubs and other areas,” Hardin said, “which has expanded her friends and
her perspective.”

Like her fellow students, Arizona finished the spring semester online. Neither she nor her softball
teammates were able to complete their season.

When the announcement came on March 12 that the NCAA had canceled its remaining 2020 championships, Virginia was preparing to host ACC rival North Carolina in a three-game series at Palmer Park, which opened this year.

“It was very, very emotional when we first got the news,”
Arizona said.

The Hoos had a 10-12 overall record when the season was canceled. Of UVA’s starting position players,
two were juniors, one was a redshirt sophomore, four were sophomores, and two were freshmen. Pitcher
Riley Wilkinson, who appeared in six games, was the only Cavalier in her final year of eligibility.
She’s starting medical school at the University of Louisville this year.

“Obviously, I’m lucky,” Arizona said. “I wasn’t like Riley Wilkinson, who played her last game and
didn’t even know it. But there were lot of emotions that day and the following days. I stayed in the
stadium three hours after we heard that the season was over, just being with everybody and taking it
all in.

“After that, once it settled, I think we’ve been moving past it. We’re really trying to take
advantage of the time we have to really jump into the championship level that we want to be at.”

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