September 26, 2022
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Richmond baseball coach Ryan Gardner reaches 300 career wins

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RICHMOND – Richmond High School baseball coach Ryan Gardner always knew he’d be in the game for a decent amount of time. After all, it runs in the family — his father, Peter, has roamed a soccer sideline for nearly 50 years.

On Thursday, the younger Gardner notched victories No. 299 and No. 300 with a doubleheader sweep of Forrest Hills in Class D action, 13-3 and 20-0.

“Yeah, I figured I’d still be coaching at this point or at least until they ask me to leave. I was raised by a teacher and it’s what I do,” said Gardner, who has taught special education at the elementary school since 1996.

Born and raised in Richmond, Gardner has always embraced the small town feel that the Kennebec County town provides. That was apparent on Thursday, when many former players, joined his family and friends in attendance.

“I love what I do and love all of the smiles on the kids. Living here, knowing everyone, it’s like a family,” he said. “I get a big kick out of former players bringing their own kids to school. It’s all about being a teacher, coach and an influence to all of these kids over the years. It is what makes me.”

The Bobcats improved to 7-3 with the sweep of the Tigers, and are prepping for what they hope is a deep postseason run. After assisting his former coach Phil Houdlette for a number of years, Gardner took over the baseball head coaching duties in 1998. Since then, the Bobcats have won five regional titles while taking home the state championship twice, most recently in 2018.

Gardner credits a number of people who’ve helped him along the way.

Fans cheer on the Richmond High School baseball team and coach Ryan Gardner on Thursday in Richmond. The Bobcats swept Forest Hills to give Gardner career victories No. 299 and No. 300. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“I started assisting Phil in 1992 and then (former athletic director) Gary Carter gave me the chance and hired me,” said Gardner, a University of Maine at Farmington graduate.

Both remember the young Gardner, as a player and coach, and were on hand Thursday for the milestone.

“What an accomplishment, and what an honor for a truly good man,” Carter said. “I had the opportunity to coach him as Phil’s assistant, the opportunity to hire him as the athletic director, but most importantly, I had the gift of having him coach my son. A true gentleman and now a close friend, so wonderful.”

“I would like to congratulate coach Gardner on this prestigious milestone,” Houdlette added. “His caring and dedication has had an impact on countless kids’ lives both on and off the field. I could not be happier for Ryan, he has done a fantastic job for many years,” Houdlette said.

Gardner also said he learned a lot from former Richmond softball coach Rick Coughlin.

“I learned so much from Ricky Coughlin. He motivated everyone no matter the situation. I’m very grateful to have learned from him as well as my kids played for him,” Gardner said of Coughlin, who passed away in December 2021.

But most importantly, Gardner’s biggest influence was right at home.

“My dad was my biggest influence. I learned to love to coach from Dad and I’m still learning,” Gardner said.

“It’s special winning 300,” added Ryan’s father. “He’s a coach that teaches them baseball. He challenges them to be the best they can be.”

Richmond High School’s Connor Vachon applies the tag to Forest Hills baserunner Carroll Frigon at home during a baseball game Thursday in Richmond. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Family is important to the Gardners. Both of Ryan’s sons, Ethan and Ben joined him on the bench throughout high school. Ben, a 2020 graduate, is an assistant coach. Ryan’s wife, Kerry, is always on the sidelines cheering them on.

“It started before we even had kids,” Kerry said. “I would go to all the games and cheer them on. We’d have barbecues together, always have a tight knit group.”

This year’s team seems to be no different from any other Richmond baseball team over the last two decades.

“We’re super young battling through some stuff and still have to develop some skills, but these kids love to play baseball. This is a team that you love to come to practice and coach,” Gardner said.

Many former players came out to honor Gardner. Current athletic director Jonathan Spear also recognized Gardner’s impact on the community.

“Coach Gardner is someone who has dedicated his life to helping and serving the youth of the Richmond community,” he said. “If you have ever had coach Gardner as a coach or a teacher, you know that he has clear expectations, he will tell you exactly what he thinks, he is fair, and he genuinely cares about each of his players and students. The entire Richmond community is so proud of coach Gardner and this great achievement.”

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