Editor’s Note: This story was written by and republished with the permission of Ithaca Week, a weekly magazine produced by the students of the Advanced Multimedia Journalism class at the Roy H. Park School of Communications, Ithaca College.
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Pitchers and catchers huddle together in matching red hats, gray shirts and brown gloves on the turf inside Cornell’s Bartles Center. In the middle, head coach Dick Blood instructs the girls to get in 100 pitches each. As they break out, Blood observes his players, as he has for the past 20 years, knowing this season will be his last.
“I didn’t want to do a disservice to the program,” Blood said about his choice to retire at the end of the 2015 season. “I thought stepping down at the end of this year was a good time to do it.”
Blood first started coaching at Cornell when the varsity softball team was only in its second year in existence. Associate head coach, Julie Farlow, who will be taking over as head coach next year, was there to see it all both playing for and coaching with Blood.
“The impact he’s had [on the program] is almost indescribable because he’s been here so long that everything that this program is, is because of him,” Farlow said.
Blood has won five Ivy League titles and has captured four of the last six Ivy League South Division crowns. With an impressive record of 606-323-2, Blood is currently the winningest coach of a single sport in Cornell University history.
Julie Westbrock ‘99, a former Cornell pitcher who holds multiple individual records including most wins, said her coach was one of the best she encountered in her career. Both his love of the game paired with his soft-spoken personality make him such a good leader for the team.
“He’s going to push you to make you work hard and yet enjoy every minute that you have there,” Westbrock said. “I reached beyond what I thought I could do, and everything I learned, I took with me. He sees potential in people, and he’s very good at bringing it out.”
Junior outfielder Michiko McGivney said one of the biggest things she believes her coach is going to leave behind in Cornell’s program is his passion for the game.
“He’s impacted the program because he is Cornell softball,” she said. “…In the past two and a half years, I have learned to be respectful, focused, and humble in practice, in games, and in the classroom.”
Westbrock said it’s hard for her to believe that the program she was a part of from the start was losing the man who served as its founder. Now residing in Minnesota, the Cornell alum runs her own law firm, but still had time to start her own fastpitch softball team.
Her decision to start the program was in large part due to her time at Cornell and her head coach.
“I took what I learned from him and implemented that into what I’m doing with kids in the Minnesota-area,” Westbrock said. “The whole technique I’m teaching I learned from Coach Blood. I had such a great experience with what I learned from him, and I love being able to pass that on to even younger generations.”
Both the stats in the book and the lives he has touched show Blood has left a lasting impression on Cornell softball and its players. Whether through his endless knowledge of the game, or the values he has always advocated as a coach through his words and his actions, his legacy will live on in the program and beyond.