Larabee makes a career coaching softball

Rachel Greve, Staff Reporter

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With three seasons, three GNAC titles, 17 records and one appearance in the NCAA Division II West Super Regional tournament under his belt, Mike Larabee has made a name for himself during his time as the CWU Softball coach.

Born in Spokane, Washington, Larabee moved to Kent when he was about five or six years old.

Falling in love with baseball as a young boy, Larabee continued playing throughout high school and into college. Playing at both MiraCosta Community College in Oceanside, California, and Green River Community College in Auburn, Washington, Larabee then transferred to Washington State University (WSU), where he was a graduate assistant for the baseball team and earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

It wasn’t until his junior year at WSU that he began to fall in love with softball.  

“Softball is just a faster paced game,” Larabee said. “A good baseball game can take three maybe four hours, but a good softball game could be over in an hour and a half.”

After graduating from WSU, Larabee moved back home to teach physical education and become a strength and conditioning coach, but was still looking to continue on with his passion and love for either baseball or softball. That was when he saw the opening for both a baseball and softball coaching spot at his alma mater, Kentridge High School, where he went on to taking the softball position in 1996.

“My dad thought I was crazy at first for taking the softball position, but he was always my biggest supporter going to all of my games,” Larabee said.

While coaching high school softball, Larabee did something many haven’t done: play for the US National Men’s Fastpitch Team, where he earned a bronze medal his second time around.

“I got to play with and against some of the worlds best players when I was on the team,” Larabee said.

After a few years as a high school coach and playing for the US National team, Larabee decided it was time to try for something bigger.

He applied and became the assistant coach at Illinois State University, a Division I Big 10 school from 2002 until 2004.

“The hardest part was getting used to all the NCAA rules,” Larabee said. “It was a faster paced game obviously but that wasn’t hard to get past, it was learning all the different rules.”

Once he transitioned to the collegiate level, Larabee hasn’t left.

Along with his extensive coaching list, Larabee was privileged to not only be one of a few team USA pool coaches but to also hold the assistant coach position with the 2011 Team USA. Larabee also held the head coach position at both Wright State in Ohio and the University of Arkansas and made NCAA tournament appearances with both teams before becoming the head coach at CWU in 2015.

In three seasons with CWU, Larabee has earned two Coach of the Year honors and landed more than 25 players on different GNAC, NFCA, and NCAA DII honors lists.

Larabee has become the biggest supporter of each and every one of his athletes. This includes finding a way to connect with those that were on their way out of the program when he first arrived three years ago.

“Coach Larabee brought back the confidence that had gone away before he arrived my senior year,” graduate assistant Alexa Olague said. “Having a coach who truly believes in you really helps with a player’s mentality, and with softball being such a mental game, that was huge for me, and allowed me to have the success I had senior year.”

With the high energy and support he shows each of his athletes, Larabee always brings excitement and new memories to the team. Whether it be jumping with excitement or singing along with the team in the car, Larabee always finds a way to enjoy his time with his team.

“My favorite story is about Coach Bee is all the car rides we had in Vegas. The other juniors and I all ride in his car and pick the music we listen to,” junior outfielder Rachael Johnson said. “Each time we are in the car, Coach Bee always requested the song “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus, and [he] sang it at the top of his lungs with us.”

Larabee’s passion for the game and excitement for changeup pitches is something that led sophomore pitcher Taylor Williams to CWU.

“I remember talking to him on the phone and he was so excited. I remember him talking about how much he loves changeups,” Williams said. “I’m a pitcher, changeups are my baby. And the fact that he loved them too made me want to play for him.”

Larabee is the team’s biggest supporter, but he is also fair when it comes to the team. Williams described him as someone she can always talk to when she has a question or concern about her performance on the field.

“I remember when I didn’t travel one weekend, I went into his office and asked him why,” Williams said. “He told me what I needed to do and the next weekend when I got to travel he was my biggest supporter when I played well.”

In each season since he has coached for CWU, Larabee has had the team read a new book together. He has also been known to play motivational talks and share his personal philosophy with each new team to continue to grow and learn more about the game and about being a person as a whole.

“I had never played under a coach who had an established philosophy. His intensity and passion for the game is not something you see very often. His passion for the game feeds off on his players,” Olague said.

As each season goes on and each graduating class passes, Larabee continues to make sure he teaches and helps prepare each of the women on his team to be the best humans they can be.

“I really want to see these ladies be the best moms, friends, employees and people possible when they are off the field and after they graduate,” Larabee said.

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