In Bob Bledsoe, Fruita Monument got a softball coach with more rings than fingers.
But, don’t remind him of that.
“Even when those accolades were coming in, it was never about them. It was about the kids,” Bledsoe said. “There’s something in me that I enjoy helping other people achieve things that they want to achieve. The accolades came to me because our teams did well. I never played in any game, I didn’t hit or pitch anything. It was the players that did it.”
Fruita hired Bledsoe to take over its softball program last month, bringing him over from his role as a volunteer assistant at Colorado Mesa. Before that, he built a powerhouse at Erie, winning 11 state championships and compiling a career record for 405-87.
In 2010, he was inducted into the CHSAA Hall of Fame.
But what matters to Bledsoe is passion. The satisfaction that comes from being a part of something greater than yourself.
“My personal philosophy is that you have to have a passion for whatever it is you’re doing,” he said. “You have to be prepared — that’s my job, to prepare them and let them know what’s going to be necessary. Their job is to work hard on those necessities.
“Hopefully we can instill some of those values in these girls and make people take notice in 5A.”
And he’s going to bring that philosophy with him to the Wildcat softball team, which went 11-10 last season and reached the regional round.
“That’s what I’m about. Getting the most out of kids — more than they think they can give,” Bledsoe said. “Then, they can sit back and say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we really did this.’ That’s the satisfaction. It’s not in trophies or rings or accolades or whatever. It’s when they sit back and think, we really did something this year.”
Fruita Monument and athletic director Denny Squibb tried to get Bledsoe aboard as the head coach previously.
“It’s never about him. He’ll be quick to say he has 11 state championships because he had great kids,” Squibb said. “He has a tremendous respect for kids and shows that right from the first meeting. He’s very thorough, very calm, but very sure of himself.”
Squibb said the timing never worked out, but he stayed persistent.
“This year, because I knew he was still at Mesa, I just ran him down and knew he was the right person for the job,” Squibb said. “He could help us and would help get our program some stability. I think he is here for a while, but a year of him or whatever is more than most people could ever hope for.
“We took the approach that we had a need and we felt that he was the right person and if he chose to come back — and we would want it to be his choice — that it would be a good fit for everybody.”
And so Bledsoe mulled it over with his family. His mother and sister, and most importantly his wife.
“I was missing high school,” Bledsoe said. “There’s a difference between high school and college, and as much as I enjoy college, I was missing high school and there was an opportunity. I talked to my wife and she was supportive of me giving it another go.”
Fruita Monument got its man.
“My question to you would be: Why not hire Bob Bledsoe? He has a track record,” Squibb said. “Winningest coach in the state record-wise and 11 state championships all speak for themselves. It gave us instant credibility because of him. As soon as we named him.”
And in that man, they got a symbol of what it truly means to be selfless.
“To me, the team is more important than the individual,” Bledsoe said. “I didn’t do it for the accolades.”
Bledsoe didn’t always have that mentality.
“When I was a young coach, I did,” Bledsoe said. “When I first got my first coach of the year award, I thought I needed it. As soon as I saw that I was going to win it and saw on the chalkboard that all the coaches voted for me, I said to myself, ‘I thought I needed it, but I don’t need that.’ What I need is to know that I’m doing something good for the players.”
Bledsoe has pieces to work with in seniors Brandi Haller and Lexie Didonato as well as junior Katie Sparks.
“How can we go from where they are to something bigger and better? It’s a challenge, that’s the pleasure of it,” Bledsoe said. “Every year, you see where they’re at and you see how far you can go. Some years you go really far and some years you make a little improvement.
“But it’s that satisfaction of knowing that you had a part in something greater than yourself. That’s what I want them to know, that you can have a part in something greater than their own accolades.”
Haller hit .565 with 14 runs-batted-in and five home runs in the 2016 season. She also went 2-1 on the mound.
“What I bring to them is that I have the experience. I hope that it brings some renewed success for Fruita,” Bledsoe said. “We’ll do our best to make something happen this year in Fruita and maybe affect the whole school, not just softball. Get everybody inspired and get after it.”
Time will tell what type of year Fruita Monument will have, but one thing is certain: Bledsoe isn’t going to judge the team’s success by wins and losses alone.
“The wins and losses are not as big of an issue as giving it their best effort,” Bledsoe said. “The thing I had at Erie was the kids were always willing to give it everything they had. Sometimes we had a lot and sometimes we didn’t have a lot, but we always gave our best and it paid off for us in the long run.”
He’s going to judge it by the passion his athletes play with and the effort they put forth.
“That’s my philosophy: To work hard and give it the best you can,” Bledsoe said. “I don’t worry too much about errors and things like that because that’s what we’re supposed to do in practice is fix those things.”