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In this July 17, 2011 file photo, Erie High School girls softball and basketball coach Bob Bledsoe.

When longtime Erie softball coach Bob Bledsoe stepped down in 2015 and moved to Grand Junction to take an assistant coaching position at Colorado Mesa University, he had no intention of ever returning to the prep ranks.

After all, it seemed to be a career transition that made sense at the time: The CHSAA Hall of Famer had nothing left to prove with the Tigers - their 11 state championships are a record and nearly double the six titles earned by Legacy, Wheat Ridge and Arvada West, and Bledsoe's teams were an astounding 405-87 over his 20 seasons.

But the itch to get back to preps never went away for Bledsoe, who accepted a job to be the new head coach at Fruita Monument in May.


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"I spent my whole life as a high school coach, and I started missing it," Bledsoe said. "I talked to my family, my wife, to (CMU head coach) Ben Garcia - I wanted to give it another shot, and I got permission from everyone so I went ahead and did it. It feels right to be back at this level."

Fruita Monument's lone state championship came back in 1989, in just the third year of sanctioned play when the state tournament was still unclassified. So it won't be the usual frontrunner position that Bledsoe's team assumes heading into this fall, as the Class 5A Wildcats are coming off an 11-10 campaign in which they went 0-2 in regional play.

But Bledsoe knows that if his team can bring heart and work ethic to the diamond, they have a good chance at taking a leap forward this fall.

"The number one factor in my success at Erie was that the program was blessed with some really talented players who were passionate about softball," Bledsoe explained. "They came with some skill levels that were pretty extraordinary at times, and then over the course of years as I learned and grew as a coach, that helped our program find solid footing. I know there's talent here at Fruita to grow that same sort of culture."

The season's first official practice is August 14th, at which time Bledsoe says he'll start seriously evaluating the players he has. In the meantime, he's simply trying to learn everyone's names as he also communicates his vision and goals to the program.

"First, we come to Denver for the Don McCall Tournament to open the season, and then we come back the next week for the Dave Sanders Tournament - there's ten games right there where we need to show well and prove ourselves," Bledsoe said. "We're going to see teams with good traditions, which is great, because I always want my teams to be challenged during the regular season.

"Then, on our side of the mountain, our second goal is to win our league. There's a strong chance that if we do that, we could host regionals instead of having to travel to one. And since they went to regionals last year and were eliminated, I always like to set a goal of taking one step beyond what you achieved the previous year - we'd like to make it to state, and I believe we can do it."


Bob Bledsoe's State Championship Teams

1998: Erie 3A

2000: Erie 3A

2001: Erie 3A

2002: Erie 3A

2003: Erie 3A

2004: Erie 3A

2005: Erie 3A

2007: Erie 3A

2008: Erie 3A

2009: Erie 3A

2010: Erie 4A