A 10-day summer trip to Napa enabled Jodi Hoyer to visit with her family and re-connect with the town that she grew up in and excelled in as an athlete.
It also gave her a chance to call her former softball coach at Napa Valley College, Robert Maglione, who recently retired as the all-time winningest JC coach in California history.
Between Napa Valley and Sacramento City College, Maglione won 21 conference championships and made the playoffs 24 times, leaving the game with a .755 winning percentage (1,177-381 record).
Hoyer was one of the best to play at Napa High School, her alma mater, and Napa Valley College. The work of Les Franco, her coach with the Indians, and Maglione prepared her for the major college softball that she played on scholarship at the University of Kansas for three years.
“I think that hard-nosed kind of coaching style, in your face, really gave me the foundation to fit into a D1 program that was pretty much hard-nosed and in your face, that aggressive style of play,” Hoyer said.
Maglione turned Napa Valley into a top-10 program in the state.
He coached many of the top players to come out of Napa schools, including Barbara Wallace, Trudy Brown, Lori Cook, Shelley Bard, Cathy Overholser, Pam Pridy, Ricci Hayes, Kelly Cuney, Katie Thomas, Carrie Detter and Hoyer.
The other day Hoyer, who makes her home in Shawnee, Kan., called Maglione to congratulate him on his career and retirement.
“He sounded good. He was happy with his decision,” said Hoyer, a 1987 NHS graduate. “It was just good to touch base with him again. I can’t imagine that 20-plus years had gone by and this was the first time that I’ve talked to him.
“He’s definitely ready for whatever chapter opens next in his life. As long as he is internally happy, his next endeavor, whatever that is, will be as rewarding as his softball career as a head coach.”
There will definitely be some Hall of Fames that “Mags,” a resident of American Canyon, will enter in the coming years. He won 15 Conference Coach of the Year awards, seven Northern California Coach of the Year awards, and four National Fastpitch Coaches Association Coaching Staff of the Year awards. He went to the Final Eight 12 times and was part of the state championship team for Sac City twice. At NVC, he won six Bay Valley Conference titles and led the Storm to the state finals twice.
He was one of the founders, along with current Napa High coach John O’Connor, of the Napa Valley Express ASA softball organization, and served as head coach and organizational director for 12 years.
“The coaches that I played for with Les Franco and Coach Mags fit into the exact same style that we had there at KU,” said Hoyer, a P.E. major at Kansas and a team captain with the Jayhawks.
She was an All-Monticello Empire League and All-Napa County player at second base for the Indians. Hoyer played second base for NVC and she caught and played first and second base at Kansas.
During the 1989 season at KU, she started 53 of 55 games, including all 10 Big Eight Conference games, and batted .232 with 29 hits and 10 RBIs. She had a .964 fielding percentage and led the team with 341 putouts.
In 1990. Hoyer started 58 of 60 games and hit .236 with 35 hits and 15 RBIs. She had a team-leading 24 walks and finished with a .946 fielding percentage. She was also named Academic All-Big Eight.
She batted .231 in 1991, her final season with the Jayhawks, and started 41 of 50 games. She had 21 hits and 13 RBIs. She had a .997 fielding percentage with a team-leading 264 putouts.
“The experience of playing softball was amazing,” she said. “It gave me a fresh start leaving Napa. I could leave behind anything I wanted and just kind of rebuild myself into the person that I wanted to be out there, because I had such a brand new open door, where nobody knew me.
“The University of Kansas is an amazing institution with not only just its sports, but the academic influence that they have on their athletes. It is very important for their athletes to be successful in the classroom. It’s not all about what happens on the athletic field.”
Hoyer teaches P.E. at Washington High School in Kansas City, Kan., and is a former head softball coach for the Wildcats. She worked with players with little or no experience or background in the game, introducing them to the basics and how the game is played.
“I think I did OK. A lot of times it’s more about the introduction and the very fundamental skills. There was nothing fancy about us, but to watch some of those kids get some very basic skills or see that kid who finally gets their very first hit, it was rewarding.
“I love my job. I love teaching in the inner city.”
She keeps the official scoreboard during basketball games and organizes volleyball tournaments at Washington. On weekends, you can find her playing rec softball, indoor soccer or flag football near her home.
She also coached for a year as an assistant at Johnson Community College in Overland Park, Kan.
“As a teenager living here, I really didn’t know what I had. Just like any teenager, you’re kind of looking to get out and on your own and find out who you are. As an adult, looking back, I came from an amazing place and I had some amazing people influence me here in the Napa Valley, from Coach (Keith) Orr on the basketball court to Les Franco on the softball field to Mags at the junior college level. I had an opportunity that I know a lot of people would envy. I am very thankful from where I came from.
“Home for me, it’s definitely a Kansas thing now. But I know my true roots and my true home is here in Napa. I haven’t done a very good job cherishing that and maybe getting back in touch. But hopefully this will be a starting point where I kind of get back in touch with where I originally came from and get my feet back grounded here in Napa.”
Hoyer is invited by KU each year to return to campus for a women’s athletic reunion, during which she and other former Jayhawks get to go a men’s and women’s basketball game in Lawrence, Kan.
“They definitely treat their alumni well there,” she said.