She Likes to Play Hardball

Photo by Dan HOLM New softball coach Amanda Peek is putting her experiences as former baseball and softball player to good use this year. The Falcons are 8-3 in league entering today’s game vs. Burbank.
Photo by Dan HOLM
New softball coach Amanda Peek is putting her experiences as former baseball and softball player to good use this year. The Falcons are 8-3 in league entering today’s game vs. Burbank.

Amanda Peek was fearless in baseball and softball, and she’s relishing the chance to guide the Falcon softball team in her own way.

By Brandon HENSLEY

t was a lesson on Falcon Pride Christy Menefee won’t soon forget. Earlier this school year, the new varsity assistant softball coach for Crescenta Valley High School designed some T-shirts on her own.

For these, the Falcon logo was slightly different than the one splayed all over school, the one descending from the sky with its talons out, ready to attack. She thought she was being creative. She thought she was having fun.

She thought wrong.

Menefee took her design to new head coach Amanda Peek, who might have told her to run some laps if Menefee were a player.

“Oh no, you don’t understand. You can’t use that! This is the only logo. This is the CV logo,” said Peek, a 2004 CV graduate.

That was Menefee’s first taste of being a part of the Crescenta Valley family, and if it was a harsh introduction from Peek, so be it.

“At first I didn’t really understand it, but once we got going I totally understood,” she said.

 Amanda and Christy

Both Peek and Menefee played at Cal State Northridge, just at different times (Peek is younger), and they’ve taken over the softball program with a renewed sense of purpose, turning the school’s motto of “Pride, Tradition, Honor,” into “Commitment, Discipline, Consistency.” (Doug Ebert is the third assistant on staff.)

Peek is described as both meticulous and intense and, if her style makes her unpopular, she doesn’t care. She said teachers who are easy don’t do students any justice in life.

“I always have both feet in. I’m full-force in everything I do,” she said.

At the CV softball field, there are 22 blue banners that hang on the fence in right field on game days, signifying past Pacific League championships. But there hasn’t been a blue banner hung since 2011, which, coincidence or not, was the last year longtime coach Dan Berry was at the helm. Berry died in the fall of 2011.

“I loved Coach Berry,” Peek said. “He helped me get a scholarship. He had my back. He was somebody you knew whose heart was 100% there.”

Peek played for Berry for two years, her junior and senior year. It wasn’t always about softball with her. Peek was a baseball player, who played catcher and pitcher.

 Amanda and Christy1

As a kid, Peek played for teams that traveled within and outside the country. In 1999 as a member of the Week 10 Championship Glendale Knights of California, she hit home runs in her first two at-bats. She was intentionally walked her third time up, denying her a chance at tying the Cooperstown Dreams Park record for home runs in a week, which is 16.

She settled for 15, the record for most homers by a girl.

Peek was still committed to baseball as a teenager, which is what she played her freshman and sophomore year in high school. Baseball Coach Phil Torres remembers Peek as a capable player who could more than hold her own on and off the field.

“That was no problem,” he said of the chemistry between Peek and the boys. “They all played together. And she dominated them when she was younger, so they couldn’t say much.”

But the boys got bigger, as they tend to do. If Peek wanted to continue to play at a high school level, and potentially play in college, softball was the best option.

“She could [catch]. That was no problem,” Torres said. “I just remember it looked like the bases were a hundred yards away. That’s when it was time to go to softball.”

“My heart was in baseball, but that’s what I needed to move on and do, and I ended up loving it,” Peek said.

She helped the Lady Falcons win league titles in 2003 and 2004, and won League MVP as a senior. She received a scholarship to play at CSUN and, while the Matadors weren’t any great shakes, Peek was a top performer. She started all 47 games as junior, and led the team in hits, home runs, RBIs and total bases.

After college, she played two years in Italy, a time in her life when she could be independent, let her hair down, as she put it. Now that she’s back home, she and Menefee are focused on giving life lessons to the current Falcons, who are 15-8 overall and 8-3 in league as of this week.

“It’s more important that the girls have good experiences and learn about life,” Menefee said. “We’ll teach them everything we know, but within that [Peek] incorporates life lessons, what’s going to be down the road.”

“This year’s been great,” said senior centerfielder Melanie Abzun. “It’s everything I could have wanted. The coaches have really turned everything around for me.”

Torres said he’s watched Peek conduct practice. Because of her experience in two sports and playing all over the world, the girls are getting a coach who has instant credibility.

That credibility has had an effect on senior Hailey Cookson, who is not only the shortstop and pitcher, but also the team’s best player.  The way Cookson plays, you wouldn’t think she needs any instruction. But this year, she’s taken to Peek’s direction.

During a Falcon baseball game, Cookson noticed one of the CV infielders take a ball the wrong way, off the to the side rather than squaring his body to the ball. Cookson said she told Peek about her observation.

“Before, I was going through the motions. Now I know what I need to work on to get better,” Cookson said.

Whether it’s Falcon Pride or regular pride, those moments let Peek know her past is helping someone’s future.

“Now that she can watch players and notice that,” Peek said, “I know that she’s learning, and buying into the program. It’s a great feeling.”