By RENE ESCOBAR
As the Major League Baseball season begins its final stretch, the Aztecs’ baseball season is beginning to take shape.
New head coach Rich Alday looks forward to leading a Pima Community College baseball program into a new era, where players are molded into well-rounded men.
“For my ball players, it will always be studies and academics first,” said the PCC Hall of Fame coach. “Baseball doesn’t last forever.”
Alday graduated from Tucson High School in 1968, where he was an All-City football and baseball player for the Badgers. He was a part of the 1968 champion football team of THS.
After graduation, Alday took his talents to Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, where he would become a two-time All-American in baseball.
After graduating with a teaching degree, Alday took off to the pros where he would spend one year as a professional baseball player.
Alday has been with Pima since 1974 when PCC established a baseball program. After an “incredible” 17 years, Alday left coaching at a junior college and moved up to Division 1, serving as head coach for the University of New Mexico.
In between seasons at UNM, Alday coached his way to the world games. In 1986, he was the pitching coach on the gold medal-winning USA Baseball Team of the Olympics in Seoul, Korea. In 1996, he returned to the Olympic stage as an assistant, helping the team win the bronze in Atlanta.
After retiring in 1991, Alday returned to Tucson where he would serve as high school baseball and football official.
But he missed coaching, so he decided to get back into it. He landed at Ironwood Ridge High School, where Alday lead his team to two state championships in softball.
After four years and two championships, Alday decided to retire from softball.
Soonafter, PCC called and asked if he would like to coach baseball again.
“I’m going to have to ask the boss,” said Alday, referring to his wife. “The boss said I can coach again.”
During a recent practice, Alday and his team hit the field, full of enthusiasm and excitement for the new season.
Alday often coaches from his chair, offering words of encouragement as well as admonitions such as, “You’re on your own.”
“Coach is chill dude, brings that vibe to practice,” said sophomore Martin Garcia, who plays third base for the Aztecs.
Fellow sophomore Kristian Samorano said he admires his new coach.
“He brings a lot of experience to the team,” said Samorano, who plays shortstop.
One assistant coach noted that Alday doesn’t make players pay for their mistakes, but rather encourages them to fix them.
With his experience, Alday brings an air of assurance to the team. “I’ve had a successful career as far as baseball goes,” Alday said. “That’s why I’m coming back.”