Revered baseball coach dies
Bledsoe, 65, never regained consciousness at Saint Agnes Medical Center after suffering a heart attack Jan. 17 at his northeast Fresno home.
"Baseball around here is not going to be the same," former Roosevelt coach Fernie Garcia said.
Bledsoe coached at Madera and Roosevelt high schools before closing his career with 23 years at Clovis West -- the last in 2002, when Stan Bledsoe Field was dedicated to him.
And, despite hip replacement and knee surgeries, he continued to throw batting practice at the school for his successor, Tim Thiessen.
"I was very fortunate to learn the game from him," said Thiessen, who played three years for Bledsoe at Roosevelt and also assisted him at Clovis West. "I feel if I had not gone through his program, I wouldn't have learned the fundamentals to play the game at a high level, nor would I have obtained the fundamentals to coach."
That Clovis West's field was named for Bledsoe was fitting, for he considered it his sanctuary. He groomed and treated it as he did the game -- with unconditional respect.
"Once you get to the ballpark, everything seems OK," he once said. "It's very rewarding. It gives you time to look back and look to the future."
Bledsoe's reverence for the game and its fundamentals grew out of his experience as a player under coach Pete Beiden from 1962-63 at Fresno State. Bledsoe was inducted into the Bulldogs' Hall of Fame 40 years later.
"Losing Stan is not only a big loss to the baseball community but, more important, to all of us as a friend," said Garcia, who replaced Bledsoe at Roosevelt in 1980 and had him as best man for his wedding the same year.
Garcia shared some time with Bledsoe last Christmas and found him to be in good spirit and health.
"He was fine," Garcia said. "He looked good, was dressed up and had that Jimmy Johnson hairdo going. I just thank God I got to see him, and it was pretty special because it was Christmas."
In practice, Bledsoe set a standard for work ethic. Then, on game day, he turned it over to his players while standing in the background wearing jersey No. 31 -- a number that hasn't been worn since.
"His players were a reflection of the type of guy he was -- no showboaters, quiet and true to the game," Garcia said.
Mike Noel epitomized that model as a center fielder under Bledsoe from 1984-86.
"He was one of the true baseball men," said Noel, who also coached under Bledsoe for two years before turning Clovis' softball program into the Central Section power it is today. "He was the type of guy who wanted you to play hard for the respect of the game -- not just to win the game, to respect it."
A picture of Bledsoe on the day the field was named after him joins frames of Noel's wife and children behind Noel's desk at school.
"He reminds me of what's important, how to conduct yourself with pride for the game, how you play and who you are," Noel said.
Vince Wesson, who played outfield for Bledsoe in 1982, found the coach to be "a breath of fresh air."
"He put the onus on the players to be accountable," Wesson said. "He wasn't a guy to put shackles on you and baby-sit you. He did everything in practice to prepare you, then it was on you to grow up.
"The education world has lost a true professional, and our Central Section baseball world has without question lost an icon."
Bledsoe is survived by his wife, Sally, and daughters, Jennifer, Julie and Jill.
Services are pending.