Phoenix College Softball is more than a Decorated Program
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 13:04
Phoenix College Softball Head Coach Heinz Mueller racked up his 1,000th win on March 17, and his squad this year
has the potential to earn the program its 8th national title.
But Coach Mueller, or Heinz, as his players affectionately call him, measures his success by the frames that hang on
the walls of his office.
In his 22 years at the junior college, his softball program produced 90 All Americans, 44 Academic All Americans, 11
academic All American teams and a roster of former players who now hold all sorts of professional jobs throughout the
Heinz keeps a picture of every player that has been on his team, and a brief description of where they are now.
“I see them everyday – every player from 1990 [to now],” he said. “The relationships you make with people during
that time supersedes everything else, because that’s what happens. You just interact with people and get to know them
and that to me is probably one of the most important things about coaching or playing.”
Heinz was born in Germany and came to America in 1953.
“I didn’t know English, so what I gravitated to was Wiffle ball and playing sports.”
Heinz said sports helped him bond and feel comfortable so he went on to play baseball and softball.
He began coaching after graduating college in 1972. He started with club baseball, moved to men’s softball then was
offered the job at Phoenix College around 1990.
“I take pride in being in the same place all these years,” he said, adding he also takes pride in the program he built at
the junior college. “When I first got into this league it was very difficult to win and have a good program. You had to go on
your academic promise to send the kids to four-year schools. Once we established that reputation, more athletes came to
It took about five years to get the program going because of competition for players among other schools, Heinz
said, but he was up for the challenge.
“I enjoy being competitive,” he said. “I’m noted to be pretty tough as a competitor, but I’m pretty mild around my
players and dealing with female athletes.”
Heinz said his players are fun to coach and keep him young.
“They work hard, and they’re pretty sharp academically and athletically,” he said. “One of the things I’m most proud
of is that. They want to do well in the classroom. There’s a few that haven’t, but overall the young ladies want to succeed.
They want to be good and this is an avenue for them to show that. I try to steer them in the right direction, along with the
Heinz’s fellow coaches include former players. Coach Christa Pfeninger was a catcher on the team in 2000. She said
was recruited by Heinz out of high school but decided to go to the University of Oklahoma her freshman year. Pfeninger
came back after she tore her ACL and had rotator cuff surgery.
“I really thought I was done,” she said. “Heinz came to me and said, ‘You’re going to come here and catch for me. I
don’t believe you’re done.’ I came out and he just instilled in me that I was a very good catcher.”
That year, PC won its first national title in softball.
“I had the time of my life,” Pfeninger said. She played one year, then went on to University of Utah then came
back when Heinz offered her a coaching position. “He believes that it’s a family atmosphere and if you played here, you
understand what PC softball’s all about and you bring that tradition. I think that’s what makes us successful.”
Pfeninger said there isn’t much of a difference between being a player and being a coach, but she has developed a
closer relationship with Heinz.
“He’s become my friend,” she said. “When I look at this program, it just reminds me of family.”
Heinz said he also thinks of the team as a big family, and each girl is important and special to him. They’ve gone on
to be accountants, nurses, educators, firewomen, policewomen and there’s even a fashion designer.
“You don’t always win championships, so the most important thing is [to ask], ‘How did that young lady get handled
here in the two years at Phoenix College, and did she make it to the four-year school and get her degree?’” Heinz
said. “That’s where we really say, okay, we’ve done our job as a college and an institution.”