Lisbon head coach Randy Ridley reacts to Nick Ferrence reaching third base during the third inning of last week’s Class C South quarterfinal win over Oak Hill in Lisbon. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

For high school coaches Bob Blackman and Randy Ridley, baseball is like sustenance for their souls.

Blackman, 63, the St. Dom’s baseball coach, plans on being in the dugout and calling the shots for the Saints for another 10 years, at least. Lisbon’s Ridley, 53, isn’t stepping down until he retires from teaching.

St. Dominic Academy baseball coach Bob Blackman talks to his players between innings during Tuesday’s playoff game in Buckfield. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Both men see coaching young athletes as a way to express their passion for the sport.

The pair of veteran coaches have the privilege of overseeing their teams in state title games on Saturday. The Saints (9-8) square off against Machias (16-2) in the Class D title game at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham at 1 p.m. The undefeated Greyhounds (20-0) face Bucksport (19-1) in the Class C showdown at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor at 2 p.m.


Blackman wants another decade mentoring the Saints for several reasons. 


“My new goal — believe it or not — is I have a 2-year-old grandson (and) I want to coach until my grandson gets up at St. Dom’s and I can coach him in high school,” Blackman said. “I don’t know if that is doable, but it will at least keep me going. “I’ve got to get to 73 and still be doing it. If that happens, I will be able to coach my grandson (Easton). He loves baseball, even at 2.”

When he first took the job at St. Dom’s in the early 2000s, Blackman said the prevailing thought was that he was coaching because his son Brady was playing for the Saints.

“So I surprised them when I elected to continue to stay, and I am still doing it,” he said. “They will have to force me out.”

But there is another, obvious reason why he wants to stay in the game.

“I enjoy the sport,” he said. “Always enjoyed teaching it to be played the right way. I continue to stick to that philosophy. I just hope every year the kids buy into it and want to get better. That’s what keeps me going. I have mellowed a little bit over the years, but I just enjoy it.”



Under Blackman’s direction, the Saints have enjoyed prosperity, including playing in 10 consecutive Western Maine finals, beginning in the 2000s, and winning seven of them.

“We won five state championships in that span,” Blackman said. “After that 10-year run, we had a year that we missed, and we won the state championship in 2015. Been dry since then. We lost a year to COVID-19, and last year, we had only 11 kids come out for baseball. We had a team of one sophomore, nine freshman and an eighth-grader. We went 0-14 and that was a rude awakening for me.”

St. Dom’s had recently moved to Class D, but still played primarily a Class C schedule in 2021. After the 0-14 regular season, they did win two D South playoff games before falling in the regional semifinals.

The Saints, still young and still playing a Class C-heavy schedule, were much better this year, and now find themselves in the state title game.

“It was a tough learning season and numbers wise, but all of those kids came back and we added five freshmen this year,” he said. “The kids were much more mature this year — really focused — and I saw a big difference. As the year went on, everything seemed to come together. Playoffs came around this year and we felt we were in pretty good shape.”

This is St. Dom’s seventh appearance in a state title game during Blackman’s tenure. They won championships in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2015.


Sophomore first baseman Ethan Pelletier and junior outfielder Miles Frenette appreciate Blackman’s coaching and devotion to the Saints.

“I think he is a very good coach,” Pelletier said. “He teaches things how they should be taught.

“Our team was so immature last year. It wasn’t that good as we are this year. The way Coach Blackman has taught us to play … and we’ve gotten better because of him. Everyone gets along him. He is a great man. He wants us to be the best we can be.”

St. Dominic Academy baseball coach Bob Blackman calls pitches from the dugout during an April game against MCI in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Pelletier said St. Dom’s turn-around this season proves the Saints have the grit, maturity and determination to make things happen.

“You know the job is not done,” Pelletier said. “We’ve got to keep going.”

Frenette said Blackman’s stories during practice reveal the coach’s experience and devotion to the sport.


“(The stories) show you the experience he has, and that kind special thing you can have playing for Coach Blackman,” Frenette said. “It kind of allows you to have confidence in him. He is a likable guy.”

The junior outfielder added that Blackman is a good man who is fair and that he is one of the reasons for the Saints’ success.

“I think last year’s bad experience makes us try harder and not want to lose,” Frenette said. “We are a young team, but we are all good friends. Being close to each other and not having much drama definitely helps.”


This is Blackman’s 18th season with the Saints. He started coaching Little League when he was 19 years old. The venerable coach has seen a variety of changes in high school sports.

“There are only a handful of coaches (left) that I coached against,” he said. “The younger coaching fraternity don’t seem to stick with it long enough in my mind.


“The kids’ attitude toward the sport has changed, too. I continue to teach old-school philosophy. Sometimes, that is difficult to get (today’s athletes) to buy into. I think that frustrates a lot of coaches.” 

Blackman watched as the introduction to lacrosse take a piece of baseball’s pie, but he said there was more baseball players than lacrosse players at St. Dom’s this year. 

“Maybe the tide has changed a little bit in that regards,” he said. “Sometimes baseball gets a little bit of a rap as a boring sport. Like I tell my kids, ‘Baseball is only boring if you make it boring. You’ve got to be thinking all the time. There is always a play after a play.’”

Lisbon head coach Randy Ridley reacts to Nick Ferrence reaching third base during the third inning of last week’s Class C South quarterfinal win over Oak Hill in Lisbon. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal


Ridley, who teaches physical education, has been the Greyhounds’ coach for the past 22 years, and after over two decades of filling out batting orders and endless practices, his zeal for coaching has never waned. His entire varsity coaching career revolves around his precious athletes.

“I love it,” he said. “I seriously love the competition. I still enjoy going out there teaching and managing a team. I mean, I stress myself out a lot, but I still love going out there and competing with the other team. I love going to practice and seeing my players every single day. 


“It is truly the love of the game. I never lost that love.”

He added that he has never entertained the thought of stepping down at Lisbon, which is his hometown and inspired him to set an honorable goal for himself.

“It was one of my goals when I got my teaching degree,” Ridley said. “I always wanted to come back and teach and coach in the town I grew up and played for — and try to give back to the community what the community and the schools gave to me.”

Ridley has no problem being labelled a baseball lifer who still gets excited standing on a diamond under the lights.

“There are sacrifices to be made when it is the thing you have a true passion about,” he said. “There is a lot of things I have missed out over the years because of coaching. But I still wouldn’t change it because this is where my true passion lies. I am starting to coach kids of kids I’ve coached. I am at the point where, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve coached your dad.’ There is also a certain joy to that.”

The Greyhounds’ first baseman Ethan Brown and catcher Caleb Phillips — both seniors — enjoy playing for Ridley.


“I like the relaxed feel we have for the team,” Brown said. “Like, we are a very serious team, but at the same time, we are always calm and relaxed.

“Coach has always had our backs, for sure. He has his moments when he gets stern, but most of the time he uses everything as a teaching moment. He is always calm with us and uses it and shows us how we can get better.”

Phillips appreciates Ridley’s laidback style and how it makes the team comfortable.

Lisbon High School coach Randy Ridley talks with his players on the mound during an April game against Oak Hill High School in Wales. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“He takes the stress off before a big game, but at the same time let’s us know this serious,” Phillips said. “He is definitely old-school, but it is how he incorporates it. Like (Coach) as a guy is awesome. I get along with him really well. His coaching style is super.”


Ridley’s love of America’s pastime was instilled in him by his beloved father, Raymond.


“My dad always told me it started when I was 3 years old,” Ridley recalled. “I started swinging a bat, playing catch, things like that, when I was 3 years old.

He said his dad and uncle coached Ridley in Little League, and, “I still remember going to practices with a glove, running around the field and chasing balls while everybody else was doing their batting practice.”

The Lisbon coach pointed out that he has been involved baseball for half a century.

“(My dad) coached me all the way up until I got to middle school, and he was the one who instilled the love of the game in (me),” he said. “I’ve got my dad’s old baseball glove somewhere in my house. I did keep it.”

Every baseball season reminds Ridley of his devoted father, who shared his love of the sport.

“So it is always hard this time of the year, emotionally, because I am doing what he always instilled in me to do,” he said. “I do him honor by passing on knowledge as much I can and still have a passion for the game after, really, 50 years.”



Ridley’s Greyhounds won the Class C state title back in 2019, and of course, they are hoping to do it again on Saturday.

The Lisbon skipper said the Greyhounds’ dedication to their craft has been a driving force all season long.

Lisbon baseball coach Randy Ridley waves Hunter Brissette around third base while yelling to another player to stop during a game against Telstar in Lisbon in May. Brissette scored on the play, but his teammate didn’t heed the stop sign and was tagged out at second base. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“They want to get better,” Ridley said. “They have no problem being pushed to be better, and their mental approach and mental toughness are incredible. We have dealt with some adversity over the year, with close games and getting a behind a couple of times … and they are on point, mentally.

“They don’t let their emotions control them. They have all the physical skills in the world. They have been (playing baseball) since they were little kids. That’s a compliment to their parents for being with them, teaching them and coaching them.”

This is the third time the Greyhounds have reached the state title game under Ridley. They lost in 2017 when Orono scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh to win 4-3. Lisbon avenged that loss two years later by beating the Red Riots 4-1 to capture the 2019 championship.


Ridley said as a coach he always strives to steer the Greyhounds toward the state title game.

“To get (the chance to win) twice is an honor,” he said. “It is a testament to talent you have around you and how you guided that talent. It feels good.”


Ridley said he coached three sports for 16 years at Lisbon High School.

“That was a tough job to do,” he said. “As I looked around and seen coaches from all different sports — Bob Blackman is right, the young ones don’t seem to hang around very long; and some of the young ones are very good coaches.”

Ridley pointed out that Spruce Mountain boys basketball coach Scott Bessey has done wonders with Phoenix team in the Mountain Valley Conference.


“I am hoping he stays around because he is going to bring Spruce Mountain back to the top,” Ridley pointed out. “I believe he is a very good coach.

“Looking around, there are schools that go through revolving doors of coaches. Hopefully some of these (young coaches) will stay (in the Mountain Valley Confernce) and try to build their program. But it seems to me that when things start going, the program starts to go in the right direction, coaches leave and go somewhere else — or they just don’t coach (anymore), period.

“I look at our conference, and I am the second-most-tenured coach in our conference.”

Lisbon baseball coach Randy Ridley hugs Nick Ferrence after he drove in a run on a double and then advanced to third after a throw by a Mt. Abram player during a game last month in Lisbon. Ferrence also dominated on the mound, striking out 15 batters in the Greyhounds’ 6-1 win. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Ridley has seen other changes in coaching, too.

“I still remember my first year as a high school baseball coach, and meeting other coaches for the first time,” Ridley said. “It was like I was getting the cold shoulder some times. I always said when I am here long enough and we got new coaches coming in, I am going to be warm and respectful of these coaches and treat them like a peer. 

“When Eric Palleschi from Monmouth Academy came aboard, him and I seemed to hit it right off,” Ridley said. “Ever since he came in 17 years ago, we’ve built a great relationship with each other — and our players built a great relationship with each other.”

Ridley’s attitude reveals why he is one of the most respected coaches in Maine high school sports.

“We want to have a competition,” he said. “We want to get after each other, but at the end of it, it is just a game. Some people told me it takes away the competitive edge. I am like, ‘No it doesn’t.’”

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