For the Raleys, game days at Cougar Softball Stadium are definitely a family affair.
Christa Raley holds down third base for the Cougars, while older sister Anna Megan reports from the press box and older brother James runs the family construction business so parents Greg and Pam can cheer their daughter on from the stands.
Christa Raley said love of sports ‘definitely runs in the family.’ In fact, it was her brother who inadvertently introduced her to softball in the first place.
‘I wanted to always play baseball with my brother, so I tried out for his T-ball team,’ she said. ‘I made it, but then one of my friends invited me to a softball tryout. I thought it was ridiculous, because why not just play baseball? I came out, though, and I made it.’
Raley initially questioned her decision to play softball over T-ball.
‘I didn’t like my first year of softball because it wasn’t competitive enough. I would hit people cause I’d throw it too hard,’ she said.
Eventually she settled into a niche on the team.
‘When I was eight, my coach gave me two options: you can play outfield or play catcher. Outfield was where you put the sucky girls, so I was like, ‘I’m playing catcher,” she said.
Raley honed her skills as a catcher, playing the position throughout middle and high school. As a senior at La Porte High School, where her mother taught, Raley earned All-State First-Team honors.
When the time came to make a decision about playing softball in college, it’s no surprise that Raley chose to stay close to home and play at UH.
‘I had five visits sets up. I went on one visit, to Arkansas, and I got homesick on my visit with my parents there,’ she said. ‘I knew that this was home for me.’
Another benefit of staying in Houston is having the support of her older sister, who works for the Houston Chronicle and Sportsradio 610, both in the stands and in the media.
‘She’s rowdy. She is loud. She’s not afraid to tell you, ‘Hey, you watch it!’ if I get hit by a pitch or something. It just shows how much she cares about me.’
In 121 games with the Cougars, Raley has hit 21 home runs, including six so far this season, which ties both the team high and Raley’s career record.
‘I played catcher all the way ’til I got here and I got injured my first game of my freshman year, and then I got moved to third,’ Raley said.’
‘My very first ball that I took at third base I blocked it like a catcher. Our coach is so amazing that she was able to transform me into a third baseman when I had never played there before. She’s just really good at transforming people. That’s why we have so many universal players – it’s cause she makes you.’
During her junior year, Raley was part of the team that led UH to back-to-back Conference USA Championships and its first super-regional appearance.
‘We raised the bar. It feels kinda good to know that I was an asset, I added onto something great,’ she said.
Although Houston’s 18-19 record (7-7 C-USA) is markedly different from last year’s performance, Raley refuses to give up on the season.
‘My mindset for the rest of the season is to fight to get back to where we need to be, just to say that I didn’t lay down my senior year,’ she said. ‘I want to help the girls grow so the program keeps growing.’