Bled­soe’s state cham­pi­onship soft­ball teams

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Kyle New­man

When long­time Erie soft­ball coach Bob Bled­soe stepped down in 2015 and moved to Grand Junc­tion to take an as­sis­tant coach­ing po­si­tion at Colorado Mesa Univer­sity, he had no in­ten­tion of ever re­turn­ing to the prep ranks.

Af­ter all, it seemed to be a ca­reer tran­si­tion that made sense at the time: The CHSAA Hall of Famer had noth­ing left to prove with the Tigers — their 11 state cham­pi­onships are a record. Bled­soe’s teams were an as­tound­ing 405-87 over his 20 sea­sons.

But the itch to get back to preps never went away for Bled­soe, who in May ac­cepted a job to be the new head coach at Fruita Mon­u­ment.

“I spent my whole life as a high school coach, and I started miss­ing it,” Bled­soe said. “I talked to my fam­ily, my wife, to (CMU head coach) Ben Gar­cia — I wanted to give it an­other shot, and I got per­mis­sion from ev­ery­one so I went ahead and did it. It feels right to be back at this level.”

Fruita Mon­u­ment’s lone state cham­pi­onship came back in 1989, in just the third year of sanc­tioned play when the state tour­na­ment was still un­clas­si­fied. So it won’t be the usual front-run­ner po­si­tion that Bled­soe’s team as­sumes head­ing into this fall. The Class 5A Wild­cats are com­ing off an 11-10 sea­son.

But Bled­soe knows that if his team can bring heart and work ethic to the di­a­mond, they have a good chance at tak­ing a leap for­ward this fall.

“The num­ber one fac­tor in my suc­cess at Erie was that the pro­gram was blessed with some re­ally tal­ented play­ers who were pas­sion­ate about soft­ball,” he said. “They came with some skill lev­els that were pretty ex­tra­or­di­nary at times, and then over the course of years as I learned and grew as a coach, that helped our pro­gram find solid foot­ing. I know there’s tal­ent here at Fruita to grow that same sort of cul­ture.”

The sea­son’s first of­fi­cial prac­tice is Aug. 14, at which time Bled­soe said he will start se­ri­ously eval­u­at­ing the play­ers he has. In the mean­time, he’s sim­ply try­ing to learn ev­ery­one’s names as he com­mu­ni­cates his vi­sion and goals to the girls.

“First, we come to Den­ver for the Don Mc­call Tour­na­ment to open the sea­son, and then we come back the next week for the Dave San­ders Tour­na­ment — there’s 10 games right there where we need 1998, Erie, Class 3A 2000, Erie, Class 3A 2001, Erie, Class 3A 2002, Erie, Class 3A 2003, Erie, Class 3A 2004, Erie, Class 3A 2005, Erie, Class 3A 2007, Erie, Class 3A 2008, Erie, Class 3A 2009, Erie, Class 3A 2010, Erie, Class 4A

to show well and prove our­selves,” Bled­soe said. “We’re going to see teams with good tra­di­tions, which is great, be­cause I al­ways want my teams to be chal­lenged dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

“Then, on our side of the moun­tain, our sec­ond goal is to win our league. There’s a strong chance that if we do that, we could host re­gion­als in­stead of hav­ing to travel to one. And since they went to re­gion­als last year and were elim­i­nated, I al­ways like to set a goal of tak­ing one step be­yond what you achieved the pre­vi­ous year — we’d like to make it to state, and I be­lieve we can do it.”

Kyle New­man: 303-954-1773 knew­man@ den­ver­post. com

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