Cathedral softball coach retiring after nearly 20 years on job

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cathedral High School softball coach Gary Blackwell once worried about having enough players to field a team, but has trained more than a dozen groups since.

Blackwell is retiring from coaching after nearly two decades with the Green Wave. He first served as the middle school girls basketball coach starting in 1998, then took over the softball program in 2002.

“I’m getting older, and the summer is getting hotter. It’s time,” Blackwell said. “We were able to build the program and get it running. We had a very successful program, with a lot of good times and good memories.”

Email newsletter signup

Athletic director Craig Beesley confirmed the retirement Tuesday and said he is thankful for the service Blackwell has provided to Cathedral students.

“He’s always been a steady coach for us with softball and basketball,” he said. ”We appreciate all the work he’s put in through the years.”

Since the beginning of the program, Blackwell said he has received support from the entire school, no matter the project.

He said one of his favorites was building a softball field at the school over five years ago.

“I always needed help, and there was always someone willing to pitch in,” he said. “When we talked about getting a field, we were breaking ground in a matter of days and were playing on it the next season. It was unreal how many people we had out there.”

Blackwell also said his supporting coaching staff was always very caring.

“Without the help of (assistant coaches) Mark Fortenbery and Tommy Milligan, my coaching wouldn’t have been anything,” he said. “Another person that really got me started and was a big inspiration for me was coach (Roy) Garcia. He was very instrumental in my beginnings at Cathedral.”

Blackwell first coached the softball team when it played slow-pitch, and it eventually moved its way to fast-pitch 10 years ago, he said.

Cathedral was able to win four district championships and a South State title in 2012 under the direction of Blackwell.

“We were always competitive. It was something we are very proud of,” he said.

Moving forward, Cathedral is in the process of approving a new coach to fill the position, Beesley said.

“We plan on having somebody in place by the end of this week. If not, it should be early next week,” he said. “We have some people in mind.”

Beesley said with the softball season fast approaching — set to begin toward the end of July — Blackwell has been extremely beneficial in the transition.

“He has already taken care of a lot of paperwork,” he said. “We will move forward from there.”

Out of all his experiences with the Green Wave, Blackwell said he will miss his players the most.

“Just being with the kids and watching them grow was great,” he said. “Coaching is about being a part of their life and watching them come up through school. It was a lot of fun.”