A former Orange County Register high school sports journalist and current writer for the ExtraInningSoftball.com national web site, Carlos Arias continues to work every day and hopes to be out at games sometime in the future. That he’s even alive is really a miracle. This article, in fact, was begun as an obituary in May of 2020 when Carlos suffered a massive stroke.
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Known throughout the country for his expertise in covering club and high school softball, Carlos Arias also was an Orange County high school sports journalist for many years and has contributed to CalHiSports.com through Hot 100 state player rankings. He almost died in Fresno in May of 2020 due to complications from diabetes, pneumonia and a stroke.
It’s really, really hard to find anyone interested in sports journalism who has a genuine passion for high school athletics. It’s then even harder to find someone with that passion for a sport like softball.
Carlos has that rare combination of both. He can compile player rankings among all the players he has seen over many months, he can write a biting column or he can come up with a poignant feature story.
Part 1: We begin the story about 20 years ago
We met Carlos for the first time at a CIF Southern Section championship game in softball in the early 2000s. We already knew he was the primary high school softball reporter at the Orange County Register. Over the years, he then became one of the two go-to sources for softball in all of Southern California (the other is Eric-Paul Johnson of the Riverside Press-Enterprise). He obviously had found a niche within a niche in his coverage of the sport. In addition to softball, Carlos also developed a following at the Register for his work on boxing and MMA.
Newspapers began to cut back on their staffing in the early 2010s. Not long after we began CalHiSports.com in 2013 due to a shutdown at ESPN, Carlos was a casualty at the Register. But he continued to strive toward working in the high school space, first by starting OCSidelines.com and then changing that format to SoCalSidelines.com. We talked several times about starting sites and his initial plan was to try to build as a free site with ads. That switched to subscriptions later on when SoCalSidelines became under the ownership of the PGF national softball events group.
Arias had always maintained contact with Brentt Eads in the softball world. Brentt had been a colleague of ours at Student Sports/ESPN dating back to the early 1990s. He in fact did recruiting for Student Sports before we hired Greg Biggins and Brian Stumpf to do that work later on. Brentt had a lot of different roles in those days, with one of them being to develop a softball vertical web site similar to the ones we were building in soccer (Sheldon Shealer), girls volleyball (John Tawa) and boys basketball (Ronnie Flores). Then after the ESPN breakup and many of us were on our own, Brentt went into softball work more full-time, first for the FloSports network and then in the last five years as the publisher/editor of ExtraInningSoftball.com.
After the SoCalSidelines site was discontinued, Carlos began to work for Brentt at ExtraInningSoftball.com and the two formed a great partnership that has helped that site add thousands of new subscribers around the nation. We have worked for ExtraInningSoftball.com as well, providing national high school rankings and worked with Carlos on a project in the fall of 2020 about the top high school coaches in the nation. As part of our own efforts to grow state softball coverage on our site, we had gotten Carlos to provide us with Hot 100 state player rankings for the Class of 2020, Class of 2021 (twice) and Class of 2022. We posted his Class of 2022 rankings just three weeks before Carlos was stricken and we were waiting for the Class of 2023. He was so excited about that group you wouldn’t believe it.
The first sign that anything was serious in May of 2020 wasn’t known until Brentt tweeted out a plea for prayers on a Sunday night that Carlos had gone into an ICU unit at a Fresno hospital. He had moved to that city not long after he began to work for Brentt where his parents and other family are living. His mother, Sue, was the conduit for Brentt and told him that Carlos had complained about a severe headache and he declined from there, even after being hospitalized.
On Tuesday of that week, the heartbreaking update from Brentt (who traveled to Fresno from his home in Idaho to be with Carlos’ family) reported that it seemed as if Carlos was gone. His body was just being kept functioning for organ transplants.
Brentt’s update was viewed as a death by many and obviously us as well as we had begun to write a salute about him. “Saddened and devastated like so many of you on the news about Carlos Arias,” said one tweet. Another said: “Before you go to bed tonight, make sure and say a prayer for Carlos Arias and his family. It’s a tough night for anyone who knew, worked or met Carlos. Softball season will not be the same without him.”
Part 2: “I was dead”
Although he says now that he doesn’t remember anything about suffering the stroke and being in the hospital, Arias does know how critical a condition that he was in.
“I was dead,” he said during a visit we had with him last August 19 in Fresno. “They were ready to send parts off from me, but apparently I opened my eyes.”
It turned out that it wasn’t just a twitch of muscle memory, either. Carlos gave some responses to questions that indicated several pathways from his damaged brain were firing off energy. A long road to recovery would be in front of him, but he didn’t die.
Eventually, Carlos came out of the ICU and he wound up at a long-term care and recovery center in Modesto. In the world of COVID, that meant there were difficulties for anyone to visit with him. He recalls his 50th birthday on August 18 of 2021 when his mom, dad Will and sister almost had to force their way in to give him an outsized card.
“I’ll never forget that day,” he recalled. “They were all going in, no matter what.”
All throughout the year it also was understood that Carlos would have a place waiting for him at ExtraInningSoftball.com. The softball community had grown to love him.
“When I came back from Modesto to here, there were tons of messages from people and I’m just so appreciative,” he said. “I hope to get back out there to games and events, but I can’t go do everything yet. I didn’t expect that kind of response or anything like it. Brentt kept me on and he didn’t have to do that. All the support from parents and coaches and some of the guys I used to work with down south was great, too.”
What Arias likes best about softball is being able to follow a girl’s career from the 12-under level all the way through college. He used UCLA’s Megan Faraimo (San Diego Cathedral Catholic) as an example, which of course caused us to mention during our visit how we just wrote up Megan’s younger brother Madden (a current sophomore at Cathedral Catholic) for a football story the day before.
It’s much easier for him to do the job that he does for ExtraInningSoftball.com with all of the games being streamed on the internet, from all of the parents, coaches and players who readily and easily get back to him through email, text and Twitter direct messages, and from ever-improving wireless devices.
Carlos still has to use a wheelchair, but can use a walker. He still has issues with one of his legs, but goes to physical therapy twice per week and everywhere he needs to go is close to where he lives in Fresno. His parents (who he lives with) also offer unbelievable support. Anyone with a child can only imagine being told the things they were told by doctors about their son.
Like many sports in the internet site vertical model, softball is year-round. There are constant recruiting updates, key coaches moving around and human interest stories everywhere. There is even a fall high school season currently going on in Georgia, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and Colorado in which there are tournaments every week.
Carlos will always have plenty to write about. We’re pretty sure, though, he wants to get to the point where his own story has become a distant occurrence of the past and that it has been overwhelmed by all of the amazing players and coaches of today.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: