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Son of A’s, SF Giants legend Vida Blue thriving as Bay Area high school softball coach

Son of A’s, SF Giants legend Vida Blue thriving as Bay Area high school softball coach

HAYWARD – Mt. Eden coach Derrick Blue is everywhere and everything for his softball team.

He throws batting practice, coaches third base, chats with parents while scribbling the lineup onto a notepad, empties trash cans and locks the gates.

The son of Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants star pitcher Vida Blue grew up around America’s pastime, and he’s all-in as a first-year softball head coach for the Hayward school’s program.

“I love being on the field,” Blue said. “Sunflower seeds, chewing gum and hitting some balls around during batting practice.”

To many, Derrick Blue, 54, is the son of the late Bay Area baseball legend and forever the kid who spent part of his childhood wandering the Coliseum’s clubhouse and expansive foul territory.

To Mt. Eden senior Andrea Toledo and the rest of the Monarchs, he’s just “Blue,” their upbeat former assistant coach and the obvious choice to succeed longtime leader Nick Sanchez when the 69-year-old retired in December.

“I was thrilled when I heard that he was going to become our head coach,” Toledo said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s laid back, because he pushes us to be the best we can.”

Mt. Eden High School softball head coach Derrick Blue talks to his players between innings during a game against San Leandro High School on Thursday, March 28, 2024, in San Leandro, Calif. Mt. Eden won the game 8-3. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)between innings
Mt. Eden High School softball head coach Derrick Blue talks to his players between innings during a game against San Leandro High School on Thursday, March 28, 2024, in San Leandro, Calif. Mt. Eden won the game 8-3. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Blue described himself as a so-so ballplayer, and chuckled as he recalled the memory of his fifth-grade baseball coach in Alameda telling him, “I can’t wait to see you coach.”

Vida agreed with that prediction.

When Derrick, who had just moved back to the East Bay from Sacramento, was mulling over whether or not to get back into coaching a few years ago, the elder Blue was his biggest supporter.

Derrick, who works for the Department of Transportation as an analyst, had coached softball in different East Bay rec leagues and then at San Leandro High when Sanchez asked him to join the Mt. Eden staff.

“I remember he was like, ‘Do you like coaching?’ And I would be like, ‘Yeah, I do,’” Blue remembered.

“Do it, and do it the best that you can,” Vida told his son.

Mt. Eden High School softball head coach Derrick Blue throws practice balls before a game on Thursday, March 28, 2024, in San Leandro, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Mt. Eden High School softball head coach Derrick Blue throws practice balls before a game on Thursday, March 28, 2024, in San Leandro, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 
Mt. Eden High School softball head coach Derrick Blue watches the game against San Leandro High School on Thursday, March 28, 2024, in San Leandro, Calif. Mt. Eden won the game 8-3. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)between innings
Mt. Eden High School softball head coach Derrick Blue watches the game against San Leandro High School on Thursday, March 28, 2024, in San Leandro, Calif. Mt. Eden won the game 8-3. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Derrick threw himself into his role as an assistant at Mt. Eden, but had to take a step back last spring with his father’s health ailing. Vida Blue died on May 6 after a long battle with cancer.

After Derrick gave so much time and energy to the team, the Monarchs were there for the grieving coach when he needed them the most.

“We wanted to be a support system for him,” Toledo said. “We just wanted to be sort of a community that he could come back to and count on.”

Blue vividly remembered the day he returned to the team.

He said the players stopped what they were doing when they saw him standing by the fence, ran up to the man and then embraced him in a team group hug.

“That was probably the closest moment I came to crying, because they wore these blue wristbands for me,” Blue said. “That really got to my heart.”

He had a short but poignant message for the teenagers after that.

“Make sure you hug your parents tonight.”

Blue said his father had become his “best friend” over the last 15 years, the two sharing an obsession with both LSU football and Major League Baseball.

“We’d go to dinner a couple times a month, and I remember the last time we went to dinner, I had to go to the bathroom, and he says, ‘I’m paying for dinner, man. You don’t have to hide,’” Blue said. “He always had that sense of humor, and I’ll miss that.”

Though Vida played on both sides of the Bay, where the former MVP and Cy Young winner’s allegiance lied was clear during their conversations.

“I remember he would text or call me when he was out golfing asking, ‘Did we win?’ And I knew who he meant,” Blue remembered. “‘Did we win’ meant ‘Did the A’s win?’”

Blue said he hopes the A’s will stay in Oakland, but that he understands the chances of that are slim. He added that he will represent his father regardless of where his favorite team ends up.

“My dad and I did discuss this,” Blue said. “It is a business. Unfortunately, whether you believe that the A’s did enough to build a fanbase, or the fanbase didn’t do enough to support them, it is a business.”

As the younger Blue noted, Vida wholeheartedly supported his son as both a young baseball player and later as a softball coach. However, he was only able to watch a small portion of one of Derrick’s games as a player.

Fans mobbed the ace pitcher shortly after he arrived at an Alameda diamond back in the 1980s.

While holding a bag with the McDonald’s fast food he and his son were going to eat after the game, Vida Blue had to leave after just a few minutes while his son watched from the field.

By the time Blue became an assistant at Mt. Eden, his father’s poor health prevented him from attending a game.

“One of those things I wish he had the opportunity to do was to watch me coach, and say a few things to the girls,” Blue said. “He loved softball.”

Mt. Eden High School softball head coach Derrick Blue directs a player during a game on Thursday, March 28, 2024, in San Leandro, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Mt. Eden High School softball head coach Derrick Blue directs a player during a game on Thursday, March 28, 2024, in San Leandro, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Derrick’s similar love of the sport is obvious when he coaches and was one of the reasons Sanchez felt comfortable stepping away at the end of 2023.

“He has that energy and that sweet disposition that kids love,” Sanchez said. “He’ll be a good coach. I’m proud of him. He’ll ask me for advice from time to time, and I’ll give it to him because I want Derrick to do well.”

One of Blue’s goals as head coach is to continue Sanchez’s mission of instilling a sense of pride in the Mt. Eden program.

Blue and the players put up blue and gold Mt. Eden banners around the recently repainted softball field. The outfield is still uneven, and the fence is bent out of shape, but the coach said the facility is in far better condition than it was a few years ago.

“When I first got this job, I wanted to make this look like the other schools,” Blue said. “Let’s put some paint on this thing and make it playable. The girls take pride in it.”

Mt. Eden consistently shows why it’s one of the best teams in the West Alameda County Conference Shoreline Division when it takes the field.

The Monarchs haven’t had a losing season since 2014, and Blue said that making it back to the North Coast Section playoffs is all he wants.

  • Mt. Eden High School softball pitcher Andrea Toledo throws the...

    Mt. Eden High School softball pitcher Andrea Toledo throws the ball during a game against San Leandro High School on Thursday, March 28, 2024, in San Leandro, Calif. Mt. Eden won the game 8-3. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

  • Mt. Eden High School softball pitcher Annelise Burgos, left, runs...

    Mt. Eden High School softball pitcher Annelise Burgos, left, runs to home base during a game against San Leandro High School on Thursday, March 28, 2024, in San Leandro, Calif. Mt. Eden won the game 8-3. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

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With talented players such as Toledo, Annelise Burgos and Jasmine Cruz on the roster, that’s well within the realm of possibility.

“My biggest goal is to get us a NCS game, because I want them to be able to line up on the baseline and hear their name being called out,” Blue said.

And nobody should be surprised if that happens.

After all, winning in the East Bay runs in the family.

Mt. Eden High School softball players throw their wristbands to head coach Derrick Blue as they celebrate their win against San Leandro High School on Thursday, March 28, 2024, in San Leandro, Calif. Mt. Eden won the game 8-3. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Mt. Eden High School softball players throw their wristbands to head coach Derrick Blue as they celebrate their win against San Leandro High School on Thursday, March 28, 2024, in San Leandro, Calif. Mt. Eden won the game 8-3. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 
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