Coach Guy Anderson Honored by the ABCA
Discusses Storied Career and the Current State of Baseball
SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - “I’ve been accused of being old school; which I am,” professed legendary baseball coach Guy Anderson.
I sat down with the winner of 927 high school ballgames for a cup of coffee in Gold River on what was a perfect day for baseball. I showed up early, but Anderson was already there, sitting outside. Meeting with him for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had only heard stories.
Despite the crowded patio, I knew exactly who Anderson was. You can always tell with baseball guys. We quickly jumped into conversation, as if we’d picked right back up from our last one. The spry, 85-year-old had freshly returned from a Spring Break tournament in Anaheim. Now the assistant coach for Capital Christian High School, Anderson led the Cordova Lancers program for 45 years, winning 17 league titles, five section titles and coaching 24 players who would eventually be drafted by Major League organizations.
Earlier this year he received the American Baseball Coaches Association Dave Keilitz Ethics in Coaching Award. He attended the awards ceremony at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis to accept the award last January. Anderson told me what an honor the award was and how much it meant to him, but also how fortunate he is to have been able to coach such great players throughout the years.
“I compare coaching a little bit to being a jockey,” he explained. “You don’t win on a donkey; you’ve got to have a stallion to win the big ones. I’ve had some pretty good guys that could play the game very well.”
For a man who has dedicated much of his life to coaching and teaching others, he has enjoyed the fact that this award is not just about him, but a recognition of who he is and what he so proudly stands for. “This award was outstanding for me, I’ve been fortunate to be put in a few Hall of Fames. Like I said, you’ve got to have the stallions - it’s important to have the players - but this one here was more, to me, about who I am.”
I asked the self-proclaimed “old school” coach how the game has evolved over the many decades of ballgames that he has taken part of. “If you start at the Major League level, it’s the money. The money is a big difference now and it’s an entertainment rather than a sport.”
Anderson then addressed the collegiate level, summarizing a recent game that he and his Capital Christian team attended when they were in Southern California for their tournament. “The college level is still good baseball and I’ll give you an example. The leadoff batter gets a base hit and the next guy lays down a sacrifice bunt. Early in the game, go get that first run.”
What Anderson stressed throughout our conversation about today’s game was that sacrifice bunting, or any sort of personal sacrifice at all, is a dying art – especially at the pro level. In last year’s 2017 MLB season, a record 6,105 home runs were hit, topping the 5,963 belted in 2000 at the height of the Steroid Era. Strikeouts set a record for the 10th straight season at 40,104 and sacrifice bunts fell to their lowest level since the year 1900 at 925. To put that last number into perspective, there were only eight teams in 1900 and they played anywhere between 140 and 146 games compared to the 30 teams and 162 game schedule in today’s game.
But individual numbers can mean a lot more than team wins and the kind of contributions that won’t show up in the box score to today’s young players. The pressures to perform at a high level have trickled down to a lower age group, making the game a more individualistic sport. Whereas only seniors used to worry about playing at the college level, now underclassmen are receiving recruitment letters and are forced to think about the future rather than living in the moment.
“Play now, play the best you can and good things will happen,” said Anderson. “Don’t worry about next year or you may not get there.” From early recruitment to travel ball to personal coaches and trainers, there are new politics in the game of baseball.
But Anderson also understands that when you’re in the game as long as he has been, things are bound to take on a different shape over time. That’s part of life. “We lost one thing in basketball a few years ago, and we’re losing it in baseball now, and that’s the same color shoes,” Anderson joked. “You go back to the military. You’re a team when you all look alike. And that’s why I’ve always liked the Yankees; they never put the name on the back.”
Coach Guy Anderson is the very embodiment of America’s pastime - a true throwback in every sense of the word; rich in history and accolades, but willing to accept the evolution of the game, whether he fully agrees with it or not. And that’s what great coaches do. They lay down a stern foundation of the history and fundamentals of the game, and the rest, the improvisation, is up to you. And when it comes right down to it, Anderson and the game of baseball may have evolved, but they’ll never truly change.