Rich Alday, one of Tucson’s most endearing coaching legends, passed away this morning at the age of 71.
“It was a shock to us just like everyone else,” said Brian Alday, a local coach and public-address announcer at Pima College, where his uncle became a legend.
“He was in a rehab place because he had surgery on his prostate but then he went home about a week ago and we thought everything was good until I just heard this morning.”
Rich Alday closed his Pima career with a record of 517-251 in 17 seasons when he retired in 2018. He coached the Aztecs for 16 seasons, from 1974 to 1989, before returning in 2017 aspiring to notch his 500th career victory with Pima.
Alday won his 500th game with the Aztecs during that 2018 season.
“I wanted to come back and lead the Aztecs baseball program for one more season,” Alday said at the time of his retirement. “It’s time for me to stay home with my wife (Norma). I have been out on the field for 40 years and it’s time to change my schedule.
“It was a special moment to get my 500th win here but it is time for someone else to lead this program.”
Alday coached at New Mexico for 18 seasons, becoming the Lobos’ most victorious coach, compiling 515 wins. He finishes with a total of 1,032 wins in his collegiate career.
Alday also was Ironwood Ridge High School’s softball coach from 2014 to 2017. He coached that team to state championships in 2014 and 2016. His record there was 107-33.
After all the accomplishments as a head coach, he showed his humble nature by also umpiring high school softball games locally, some at the junior-varsity level.
Bert Otero, a Pima County Hall of Famer who is coaching Tucson High’s softball program, welcomed Alday to his staff last year.
“We grew up across the street from each other, so Rich is a lifelong friend who I considered to be a mentor and a brother, like a big brother,” Otero said. “I’m just trying come to grips on what happened to Coach Alday. It’s pretty tough.”
Alday has been a fixture in Tucson sports since he was an all-state quarterback at Tucson High School in 1965. Not one local coach can top his success and longevity.
Otero, Tucson High Class of 1971, remarked that Alday had a “presence” about him that uniquely engaged the players.
“The kids just gravitated to him,” Otero said. “We were looking forward to have him coach again with us this year. We talked about that.
“Growing up together, it was a lot like Sandlot (the movie). We all played football and basketball and baseball. Coach was a presence in the neighborhood. It feels like I just lost someone in my family. The kids loved him right off. He always kept coming up with a way of motivating the kids. That’s just a part of who he is … I’m still going to stay with the present tense with him.”
Alday also coached the Olympic U.S. National baseball team in 1988, where it won the tournament as an exhibition sport. He took them back in 1996 when they won a bronze medal.
He was selected to the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame in 1994 and became part of the first Pima College Hall of Fame in 2013.
Alday is survived by his wife Norma and many family members in Tucson and other areas. He is preceded in death by his son Ambrose, who passed away at age 16 in 1995 from cancer. An Ambrose Alday Memorial Scholarship Fund was set up at New Mexico.
“Sad day for Tucson and the game of Baseball! Rich Alday was a man of integrity and a tremendous coach of young men and women! His wife Norma was his guiding light and my thoughts and prayers are with her today! RIP Coach and love you always”
Izzy Pacho. Former Ironwood Ridge softball player and current Arizona standout:
There are no words to express how grateful I am to have been coached by Coach Alday. It was truly an honor to have won the State Championship in 2016 at IRHS with him. He always reminded me to play the game at a high level and to have fun while I did it. One of my favorite memories from him was one day at practice he showed up and told us to huddle up. He then grabbed a toy toilet out of his back pack, flushed it and it made a flushing noise. He told us that we needed to learn how to “flush away” our bad at bats, errors, etc. He said that we held onto the negatives too long which affected the rest of our game. I still use that advice in my game today. I was greatly saddened when I heard the news of his passing. He will forever be missed. Sending my love to Norma and his family!
Former Ironwood Ridge and University of Arizona softball standout Merrilee Miller:
“Coach Alday was a very nice and charismatic human and I admired his desire to want to be a part of so many young athletes lives. My family and I send our love to his wife Norma, who matches Coach Alday’s incredible caring and warm treatment of others. Rest in paradise Coach Alday”
Former Pima athletic director and coach Edgar Soto, who played on Tucson High championship teams and was a standout at New Mexico when Alday coached there:
“Coach Alday always made a strong connection with his players and coaches. That is why him and his wife Norma still had relationships with his players beyond the time they were playing for him. He kept those connections and made connections with their families as well. He was a very special man to me and a lot of others and will deeply be missed.”
Rest In Peace Coach Alday.
— Nighthawk Beach Volleyball (@IRVB_BeachHawks) January 6, 2021
Former Canyon del Oro softball player and Grand Canyon softball standout Niki Gonzalez played baseball for Rich Alday as a freshman at San Miguel before transferring to CDO:
“As young girl I never would have thought that I would be able to say I played on a high school baseball team, but I can say I did because of Coach Alday. I remember meeting him the day I got to tour San Miguel High School. Our friendship began there and continued as I saw him on and off the softball field for years after. I have encountered many coaches, but he is one that shared that the game is more than sport. With that being said, he was more than a coach, he was a mentor and a friend. My condolences to the Alday family.”
Oscar Romero played baseball at Tucson High, coached baseball there and is now an assistant at Adams State:
“A Tremendous loss to our Tucson Community! He has touched so many Athletes lives both young women and men. He was one of my mentors who showed us how to be honest hard working competitive people. He was a classy man who had a calm demeanor. He showed us to respect the game and our opponents and always keep our emotions in the right direction! He demonstrated his love for family always He loved his Wife and Son with all his heart. Who will be truly missed but never forgotten. May his soul Rest In Peace! God Bless you Richard Alday. He will be truly missed but never forgotten.”
Former Pima, Arizona and MLB standout Jack Howell:
Coach Alday was about relationships. Cared as much if not more about the individual and his family then he did the athlete. He was a teacher, mentor , motivator and fiend. He was a huge part of my success, my family and I will miss him deeply. God Bless you and thank you Coach
— Cactus Jack Howell (@JRHowellJR) January 6, 2021
Albuquerque-based reporter Glen Rosales:
“I had the good fortune to cover Coach Alday during much of his time in New Mexico. Such an endearingly nice man. It was heart-breaking what happened with his son, Ambrose, but Coach was able to persevere.”
Local umpire John Mertes:
“I only met Rich once. We umpired a junior high softball game together. It was a horrible game, but we talked between every half inning and for about 20 minutes after the game. I had followed Pima baseball as a Tucson kid, and in one afternoon, I made a friend. Rich was a great guy and will be missed. R.I.P. Coach.”
New Mexico baseball coach Ray Birmingham:
God bless Rich Alday. A good man. Prayers. Gone too soon. Heart broken. pic.twitter.com/Hii5pZ1tMM
— Ray Birmingham (@BirminghamRay) January 6, 2021
RIP Coach Alday. I had the pleasure of meeting him at IRHS, when he coached softball and I was an assistant varsity baseball coach. On the many bus rides we shared I was able pick his brain about baseball and learned so much.
— victor olivares 6⃣⚾️ (@vivavictor6) January 6, 2021
Rest In Peace Coach Alday https://t.co/g7NHUE6FSe
— IRHSSoftball (@IRHSSoftball) January 6, 2021
We are saddened to learn of the passing of former @UNMLoboBaseball coach Rich Alday. Our all-time wins leader with 515, he also won 517 games with Pima College. He was inducted to both the Pima County and Pima College Halls of Fame. #GoLobos pic.twitter.com/olXoqtnrLt
— New Mexico Lobos (@UNMLOBOS) January 6, 2021
We are saddened by the passing of @BaseballPima coach Rich Alday. Our thoughts are with his wife Norma and their family. He had a record of 517-251 in 18 seasons at Pima. Check out the link to get a glimpse of who he was and his impact. #PimaBaseballhttps://t.co/rh1iDOC05n pic.twitter.com/EdaSF6iKt8
— PimaAthletics (@PimaAthletics) January 6, 2021
Pima coach Ken Jacome (assistant coach with under Alday at New Mexico from 2005-2007) told Pima’s media-relations department:
“I’ve known him since I was born. He played with my dad after high school. He hired me at University of New Mexico. He was a great mentor and I’m grateful for him. I owe a lot of my coaching career to him. When I took this job, I made sure nobody wore Coach Alday’s number (No. 26). This is his program and we’re all grateful to be part of Pima program. He means a lot to this place.”
Antonio Fernandez, who played for Alday from 1992-1994 at New Mexico and was an assistant with him at Pima in 2018, told Pima:
“I met him when I was in junior high going to a camp when he was coach at Pima. Being around him, he brought out the best of you as a player and a coach. His education and teaching never stopped. He was happy to share his knowledge with anyone. It says a lot about him, he had a positive impact on a lot of people who played and coached with him. A huge impact on a lot of people; people who played with him at Tucson High, played for him and were around him and just how humble he was. He made you feel like family.”
Former Pima softball coach Armando Quiroz mentioned to Pima:
“I am very saddened by the loss of my friend Rich Alday. I will miss our sports and life discussions. Rich, I’m so proud we came from the same neighborhood. You left your mark and set the bar for integrity and success extremely high for the rest of us. You will be missed my friend. My condolences to Norma and all your family. RIP COACH.”
Former Pima baseball player Steve Preble:
“Tough day. I played for Rich in 74 and 75. We worked together as two of the first slo-pitch umpires in Tucson. Rich was always kind and supportive, and a little nugget people may not realize, he had quite the sense of humor. He will be sorely missed. Godspeed, Rich.”
Kelly Fowler knew Rich Alday since she was a young girl since her father Norm Patton helped start athletics at Pima with Alday:
“I was shocked when I got the phone call this morning because we chatted not too long ago. I will miss him for so many reasons. He had the biggest heart and he was a giver. He loved the game of baseball and softball and he gave back more than we will ever know. He touched so many kids and he gave them guidance and direction. He cannot be replaced. I send all my love to Norma, his wife.”
PJ Ponce is the current wrestling coach at Mountain View:
“Coach Alday was a great man that impacted so many lives in our community. I will always cherish our Sunday talks at church. RIP Coach”
Paul Huitt, UNM player and coach:
“I’m so sad to hear that Coach Alday has passed. He coached me and gave me my first coaching job at UNM. I will forever be grateful for his friendship and guidance in my life. I already miss Ambrose everyday, now I miss Coach. The Alday’s will always be special to me.”
Louie Araiza played for Coach Alday in 1986-87 with the Pima Aztecs:
“It was so nice to have seen him many times upon his return to Tucson. All of us players felt and understood the importance of reuniting with him recently because of the huge impact he made in our lives as players and people. I truly loved this man and I will be forever grateful for everything he taught me. My deepest condolences to Norma and the entire family. RIP “Coach.”
Doug Valdez 1993-95:
“Coach Alday was more than a coach. He was a mentor, a father figure, a confidant, and no nonsense get your work done coach. Years after playing for him he always treated us the same – we were allowed more leeway – our talks would move to business and family. And he never once forgot our names or spouses. And he looked forward to hearing about our children. It’s unfortunate our kids and current players won’t be able to learn like we did from him, baseball as a community lost a great one today.”
Joe Romero 1989-1993:
“Coach Alday was a God sent Blessing in my life! He gave me a chance to play D-1 baseball and changed my life for the better. I also had the honor to know Ambrose. Glad to know Coach can now play catch with him again! Love you Coach!”
Mark Wulfert 1992-96:
“Coach Alday was not just a great coach, but a great mentor. The way he lived his life and carried himself was an example to all that played for him on how to be better men, husbands, and fathers. He will definitely be missed.”
Tommy Roe 1991-93:
“It was an honor to play for Coach Alday for three years at UNM. Although he was passionate about the game, he took more pride in raising strong solid young men . Will always remember, “There are no Bad Hops in Heaven.”
Local playing, coaching and officiating legend Jerry Gastellum:
“Met Rich in early 70’s, we played some baseball, and were teammates in a lot of slow pitch softball teams. What I remember mostly is that he was a good husband to Norma, a great role model, a great coach, a good listener, and a great teammate. He officiated basketball, softball, baseball for the North West middle school League, that I was commissioner of. He had respect of his players and peers. Was part of an outstanding family and was a great friend. We will miss him at fellowship. Love you Coach.”
Johnny Baros 1990-93:
“With time to reflect almost 30 years after he coached us on what a positive impact he had on my life. He not only taught us the game of baseball but more importantly how to become a better person. He prepared us for life after baseball. He was not just a great coach but a great man.”
Remembering a Tucson High legend tonight. It didn’t get much better than talking shop with Rich Alday and Bill Dawson. Coach Alday was one of a kind! #onceabadgeralwaysabadger pic.twitter.com/cFvQv5eN2D
— Justin Argraves (@CoachArgraves) January 7, 2021
Gerardo Yepiz Pima 1988-89 New Mexico 89-92:
“Coach Rich Alday: A coach, friend, even a father to most of us. Tough person on the field, will make you get the most out of yourself. Gentleman off the field, a mentor, a lovely man that will get the respect from anybody. Beautiful family Rich, Norma and Ambrose. We love you all”
Former Salpointe standout JC Velazco, son of Antonio Fernandez:
Aaron Santini graduated from Santa Rita high school and was a standout quarterback:
“Coach Alday marked my life in significant ways as a man, husband, father, friend, and athlete. He was the ultimate coach as he cared for his players both on and more importantly off the diamond. His love, influence and legacy will ripple through generations!”
Matt Byers, high school teammate of Ambrose, who became close to the Alday family at Albuquerque:
“I grew up in Albuquerque, and played ball with Ambrose in Little League and high school there. We had a tight group of kids, and Ambrose’s passing was obviously a very challenging thing for us to get through, but it formed a bond with these guys and we are all still very close today. Through all of that, we were at Ambrose’s house often, and relationships developed with Norma and Coach as well. They treated us all like we were one of their own kids. Norma and Coach both were damn good ping pong players too!
“Ambrose would take a few of us, while we were in high school, down to the field at UNM and Coach would let us take batting practice with the college guys. He’d do soft toss with us in the cages. He was the best. When our Little League team from Albuquerque won the state championship, as 13-year-olds (in the summer of ’92), we went to Sahuarita for the regional tournament. Coach pulled some strings and we were able to use the Pima field for practice. When we lost our second game of the regional (Green Valley beat us, and went on to win the U.S. championship that year), the whole team snuck in, through some nudging of the Alday’s and their family in Tucson, to a big outdoor pool area and had a big ol’ potluck, and we swam and (played) around for hours. It helped us get over that loss real quick.”
Kelsey Buechler, Ironwood Ridge softball 2016:
“I was lucky to have been coached by Alday through my high school softball career at IRHS. I was on both his state championship teams in 2014 and 2016. He was an amazing coach who cared deeply for all his players. His love for the game was inspiring and I am a better softball player and person having known him. Thank you for all the lives you’ve touched, Coach Alday! You will be missed dearly.”
Lexi Adelberg, Ironwood Ridge Softball 2015:
“Coach Alday was a wonderful man. He coached me for two years, one of those was leading the Ironwood Ridge softball team to a state championship. His kind words and his gentle coaching style helped us succeed. Not only that, he showed me that softball could be fun again. After many years of playing, the sport started to become more of a hassle rather than a game I loved. My junior year of high school, Coach Alday became my softball coach and everything changed. He brought out the fun of the game and he made me realize that you can take time to rest and still succeed. He showed me the importance of taking a step back to change my perspective because some things could be greater than the way you are currently looking at them. He will be dearly missed. He was a loving husband, a great coach, and someone who will always be admired.”
Kelly Decker, Ironwood Ridge Softball 2016:
“I had the privilege of playing for Coach Alday for three years at Ironwood Ridge. Coach Alday had a big heart and cared immensely for each one of his players. He demonstrated and instilled in us the concepts that you can work hard on the field, respect the game, and still have fun. The lessons he taught us in high school (“Pick up your target late!”) led us to win championships, and many to go on to play college softball. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to know and learn from him, both as a coach and person. I will always remember how Coach Alday and his wife, Norma, made us girls feel like family. Rest easy Coach, you will be missed!”
Funeral arrangements are pending.