The baseball community of Southern Arizona and New Mexico — a representation of the many impacted by the late Rich Alday — gathered at El Rio Golf Course on Saturday to pay homage to the legendary coaching figure.
About 120 people consisting of Alday’s family, former players and friends gathered to play 18 holes with proceeds from entrance fees going toward the Pima baseball program, of which he was an integral part for 17 seasons.
Alday, one of Tucson’s most respected coaching legends, passed because of health reasons on Jan. 6 at the age of 71.
Saturday’s event brought many local luminaries together with Alday’s wife Norma for food and an opportunity to reminisce in the clubhouse after the rounds were complete.
“I know they are honoring Alday and they love him, and hopefully now they pass it forward, too. because there is a lot of things in this life we have to realize — family, friends and our community,” Alday’s wife Norma said. “Look at all the locals that are here and they are beautiful young men. I’m proud of them. Alday always was. We’ve been blessed.”
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George Arias was there with his son George Jr. (a member of the Arizona baseball team). Longtime softball coach Bert Otero, who grew up in the same neighborhood as the Aldays (part of the “19th Street Gang”), took part. Former Arizona player Jason Hisey, now the CDO baseball coach, was also honored to be there.
Local high school standouts B.J. Clifford (Santa Rita) and Edgar Soto (Tucson High), who went on to play for Alday at New Mexico, gracefully spoke of their former coach. Another former Lobo great who is like another son to the Alday family — Antonio Fernandez — offered praise of his late mentor.
The Jacomes — Ken and Jason — who are carrying the torch of the Pima baseball program as head coach and assistant, respectively, helped organize the meaningful event.
“He gave me an opportunity to coach at the Division I level, the highest level of college baseball” Ken Jacome said of his time as an assistant of Rich Alday’s at New Mexico. “I’m forever thankful for that opportunity. He’s my mentor. This is something we needed to do.”
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.
He closed his Pima career with a record of 517-251 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. 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 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.
.@BaseballPima coach @kjacome22 standing with Norma wearing his blue Aztecs shirt and Rich’s oldest brother Albert Jr. is holding up the shirt recognizing Rich’s No. 26 at Pima. https://t.co/HifnC7RfVW
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) September 18, 2021
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.
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.
Former Santa Rita standout B.J. Clifford, who went on to play at Pima and then New Mexico, was with the Lobos with Ambrose passed away.
“It was probably the first time in my life that I had a true understanding of perspective in the way that Coach Alday and Ms. Alday handled it, carried themselves … a time I will never forget,” Clifford said. “I think the world of the man.
“It was amazing, the dignity, the faith, the camaraderie the team held for him, and then the compassion he had, not only for his son but his immediate family, and still with us as a team. He still maintained priority with us. It was heartbreaking and something I will never forget.”
Those in attendance Saturday and many more family members and associates of Rich Alday, a coach with one of the most storied careers in Southern Arizona, will celebrate his life at the Sheraton El Conquistador Resort with a reception to follow on Oct. 10 at 3 p.m.
The family is asking for Alday’s former players to send photos via e-mail to Fernandez at email@example.com.
Here are more interviews of some of those who participated in the Inaugural Rich Alday Memorial Golf Tournament:
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District