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Rich Alday: More than a coach, we all lost a decent and kind man

Rich Alday at Ironwood Ridge (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

Sometime, over a decade or so ago, I was coaching the JV softball team at Canyon del Oro and I noticed this “new” umpire standing behind the plate while we were getting ready to play. He looked very familiar so, during the pregame talk, I asked him if he was Rich Alday. He said yes. It was one of the best officiated games I had ever or will ever be a part of.

We talked after the game (he knew of my parents) and I asked him why he wasn’t umpiring baseball games and he said, “Andy, when we are done here, they are still playing over there.”

Alday as an umpire (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

He was motioning towards the baseball field at CDO and he had a great point. Softball games rarely go into the night in Tucson but baseball can seemingly go on forever. I had no idea that his time umpiring softball would grow a love of the game within himself and, after a brief stint coaching baseball at San Miguel High School, he returned to the diamond in Oro Valley to lead the Ironwood Ridge softball program.

LINK: RICH ALDAY PASSES AWAY

The Nighthawks knocked on the door of success several times before he arrived on campus and my worry was the families and softball players at the school would not understand what it meant to have a legend on campus. His legendary status was much more than results on the field, it also revolved around his calm personality and his almost fatherly approach to coaching – teaching really.

He led the program to two state championships before returning to the baseball diamond at Pima but it became clear the Ironwood Ridge community understood what they had and that program blossomed into one of the best in the nation.

Alday went up against longtime friend Kelly Fowler (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

I saw him several times over the years and the last time was last spring when he was getting ready to help coach the Tucson High softball team along with another legend in Bert Otero but the pandemic cut that path short.

Alday was hoping to return to his roots and help Bert Otero coach the Tucson softball team last spring (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

Through all this we had talks and more talks. My father told me before he passed on to seek out his friends for knowledge and I continually try to take advantage of that resource and I am glad my journey led me to Rich Alday so it was a severe shock to have my brother Javier message me Wednesday morning to help him verify his passing.

We were able to get family confirmation and, as I feared, several people I contacted for confirmation of Alday’s passing were unaware of his death and that made it even more difficult as one could imagine. One simply does not throw up notice of a death on social media without checking with the family first. Most of us have lost someone very close to us and, besides that, it’s common decency and the word “decent” can be used to describe Rich Alday.

Rich Alday kneeling, second from right with Team USA. Ambrose Alday is in red (Family Photo)

Without exception, his many friends and former players will use the words “decent” and “good guy” to describe him. I cannot think of another sports figure, or otherwise, in the Tucson area to have this kind of loving following. All kind words for such a kind man.

Alday is survived by his equally kind wife Norma but he was preceded in death by his son Ambrose, who passed away at age 16 in 1995 from cancer. The loss of a child is unimaginable and how one deals with it will always be a mystery to me and now we have to collectively find a way to deal with the loss of our friend.

For some of us, a lonely teardrop stings our face as it falls but, for others, a tear seems like a wave in an ocean that comes and goes and comes and goes. Each wave of emotion pulls at us and it takes strength to pull ourselves back.

It’s up to Rich Alday’s friends and former players to watch over and hold onto his family and help pull them back when needed.

With his late son Ambrose Alday (family photo)

Our AllSportsTucson Softball Coach of the Year will now be known as the Rich Alday Coach of the Year honor.

Alday led Ironwood Ridge to two state titles (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019 and he is a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

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