Memorial bench will honor longtime Claremont coach
CLAREMONT — A memorial dugout bench at Barnes Park has been installed by the Parks and Recreation Department to honor former youth baseball coach Ralph Silva, who passed away this fall.
"He touched so many lives," his friend, John Bly, said Friday. "Ralph was just an excellent human being to everybody."
The bench marks the spot Silva would always sit and where players knew they could find him.
Silva coached for nearly 60 years, Bly said, starting in Charlestown where he coached a young Carlton Fisk, who went on to be a Hall of Fame major league player.
Silva is well-known in Claremont for coaching multiple sports at Stevens High School and as the gym teacher there for decades.
A few years ago, Silva was inducted into the New Hampshire Coaches Hall of Fame, Bly said.
"Ralph was always about, 'How am I going to help this kid play the sport he wants to play,'" Bly said. "He could take a player with no talent and turn them into a superstar and I've never seen anybody else do that. He was unbelievable."
His son, Paul Silva, now coaches and teachers at Stevens High School.
"He took over his dad's legacy there," Bly said. "He is also the head football coach there, too, and a full-time teacher there."
Bly, a State Police dispatcher living in Concord, was raised in Claremont by his grandparents.
When his grandmother was apprehensive about Bly playing sports, Silva came to the house to talk to her. Silva coached Bly through high school, was his gym teacher, and after graduation encouraged him to be a youth baseball coach as well.
"He treated me like his own family," Bly said.
About 10 years ago, Bly started a summer baseball camp in Claremont in honor of Silva. The camp is now known as the Coach Ralph E. Silva Memorial Youth Baseball Camp.
"Coach Silva is my mentor and he was in my life since I was a young boy in Claremont and basically I came up with this youth baseball camp back when he was still alive," Bly said. "If it wasn't for Ralph I wouldn't be coaching 23 years later."
Bly continues to co-run the camp with Paul Silva.
Regarding the memorial dugout bench, Bly told Paul Silva, "Now you still have your dad in the dugout."