The Times’ All-Star softball team: Anahi Arreola is player of the year

Anahi Arreola gets set to throw during a softball workout at Oaks Christian High.
Oaks Christian High softball first baseman Anahi Arreola hit .514 with 10 homers this season.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Share via

A couple of weeks ago, Westlake Village Oaks Christian High’s Anahi Arreola sat down with her parents, plugged in a VHS tape and reminisced.

There she was at 4 years old, taking aim in front of a tee through grain and static, sporting a blue Hello Kitty T-shirt. She swung. Missed everything.

Embarrassing, said the Oaks Christian star while sitting in the dugout in early June. But everyone starts somewhere.


“Honestly, was pretty emotional,” Arreola said of watching her younger self. “Because it’s like — how much I’ve grown.”

She grew most in her senior year of high school, at once the most successful and challenging season of her prep softball career. In December, her world — along with the rest of Oaks Christian’s returning core — was rocked when legendary coach Pete Ackermann died unexpectedly, a new season looming as the grieving process had begun.

When she first came to Oaks Christian, Arreola was racked with nerves; the same jitters any prospective high schooler faces when entering a new world, a new culture. In her first scrimmage as a freshman, she recalled a couple of months ago, she whacked a triple. When she pulled into third, Ackermann was there, telling her good job. She told him she was nervous.

Anahi Arreola tries to make a diving, backhand catch on a grounder during a softball practice at Oaks Christian High.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“Why are you nervous?” Arreola recalled Ackermann saying. “You’re here for a reason.” In the days after he died, an emotional Arreola recalled, she locked herself in her room. Family was the only comfort.

“When I was lost for a little bit,” she said, “I had to make myself know that I am OK and I will be OK.”


The 2023 season was one of affirmations for Arreola — through competition, through tragedy. She started to believe in the concept of the “growth mindset” through a global leadership course at Oaks Christian. She read Kobe Bryant’s book “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play.” She started stepping into the batter’s box without fear, without doubt, with only the thought that she was the best and nobody was going to beat her.

Arreola kicked off the year by hitting a ball over the fence in seven consecutive games, going on to hit .514 with 20 homers and 60 RBIs for 28-2-1 Oaks Christian — tied for the second-highest single-season home run total by any player in Southern Section history. Her dominant year at the plate earned her The Times’ softball player of the year for 2023.

“She was by far the hottest hitter around,” coach Cheyenne Coyle said.

Justin Lee and Anahi Arreola are The Times’ baseball and softball players of the year for 2023. Check out the rest of the All-Star teams here.

June 11, 2023

She’ll always miss her former coach. She’s at peace with that.

“I’m glad it didn’t eat me up,” Arreola said. “I’m glad I was able to find happiness in a room of sorrow.”