Former NHS baseball coach earns Hall of Fame honor

Former Newport High School baseball coach Ken Riley, front-left, who during his 17 seasons at the helm compiled a 302-160 record and led the Cubs to a 2008 state championship, recently learned he’s a member of the five-person 2020 class of the Oregon High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall off Fame. (News-Times file photo)

Ken Riley led Cubs to 2008 championship

NEWPORT — If there was a name synonymous with Newport High School baseball during the previous 20 years or so, that name was Ken Riley.

Last week, the former Cubs player, assistant and head coach learned he’s a member of the five-person 2020 class of inductees to the Oregon High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

“It really is a tremendous honor,” Riley told the News-Times earlier this week. “I’m very honored and humbled to be a part of a great group in the Hall of Fame. To be a part of that group … I can’t even put it into words.”

Riley, who stepped away from managing the Cubs following the 2018 season, went 302-160 losses, multiple conference championships, earned nine state quarterfinals berths, six state semifinal appearances, three state championship berths and won a 2008 state title during his 17 seasons at the helm in Newport. 

Riley played his high school ball and learned the coaching ropes under another Newport baseball legend and 2002 OHSBCA Hall of Fame inductee, John Voorhies, who managed the Cubs from 1976-2000 and posted an overall 449-205-2 record in 27 seasons coaching Oregon high school baseball.

“For me, first and foremost, what makes this honor most special is that I’m mentioned in the same caliber as Coach Voorhies,” Riley said. “To think that I’m even close to that, it’s a lot to take in.”

Taylor Plesha, who played and coached for Riley at Newport High School before taking the reins as head coach of the program in 2019, said his mentor’s approach to coaching stretched far beyond game strategy.

“When I played for him, when our relationship first started, he became the most influential person in my life during that time,” Plesha said of Riley. “The relationship started as player-coach, but as I played for him and gained his respect, he became more of a father figure to me, and that relationship grew into my college years and became a friendship. 

“He’s become a member of my family and has been the most influential person in my life outside of my parents.”  

Riley wished to thank countless former players, assistant coaches, school administrators and most especially the Newport High School Booster Club for the support he and his teams received during his time in the NHS dugout. 

And though Riley balked at specifically naming many of those whose help he couldn’t have done without along the way for fear of leaving someone out, Riley made sure to mention the unwavering support he received from his wife, Yoli, 

“I sure as heck don’t want to dismiss all the work my wife did all those years,” Riley said. “She worked the snack bar at games for a number of years. We had team meals that she cooked every week, but it wasn’t just the cooking and the cleaning. She did all those things that wives of coaches do and more, which I’m guessing can be a pretty miserable experience.”

Plesha reiterated that Riley’s coaching prowess is matched only by his passion for the community.

“The thing I want people to understand is that when I played for Coach Riley, I knew how important he was to the players because we listened to every word he said on the edge of our seats,” Plesha said. “But it wasn’t until I coached underneath him and worked for him that I realized just how important to the community he is and how much he does for people outside of baseball. Coach Riley is a Hall of Fame coach, but also a Hall of Fame person. 

In most years, OHSBCA Hall of Fame classes are inducted during a November banquet in Wilsonville. Plans for a ceremony this year are on hold until officials determine the safety of hosting a banquet during the pandemic during the course of the next several months.

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