Coach “Guy” Anderson, head coach of the Cordova High School baseball team (suburb of Sacramento, Calif.), calls himself “old school.” In 40-plus years he has coached the varsity team to 840 victories, the most wins of any high school coach currently in the nation. Anderson believes his “old school” methods have played a role in the development of the young men who won those games for Cordova High on the ball field.
One of those players is Jerry Manuel, manager of the New York Mets, who was a first round pick in 1972. Another is Geoff Jenkins, who won a World Series ring with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008. Each can attest to Anderson’s winning ways. In all, 24 of Anderson’s players have been drafted by major league teams, and many more have gone on to play at the college level.
As with most established coaches, Anderson has developed a routine of conditioning and practicing that leads to team victories. His players begin each practice with a series of stretching exercises, then running. When they conclude their running the team participates in a Cordova High tradition of each player running to the center field fence and touching the 360 foot sign.
But it takes more than conditioning and tradition to field a winning club these days. It starts with players who have what Anderson terms “God-given ability,” and he admits to seeing fewer players with that kind of skill these days. For instance, this year just 12 students made the Cordova High varsity. In the glory years of the 1980s and ’90s, when Anderson’s teams won three Sac-San Joaquin Section baseball titles, he often carried up to 22 players on his squad and turned away many more. Today, an intra-squad game is out of the question.
Anderson says one reason for the lack of talented players is that fewer kids play catch with fathers, an outgrowth of single-parent families. Moreover, there are a greater number of distractions-from mobile phone video games to club sports such as rugby and lacrosse, that didn’t exist in California in prior decades. Consequently, when they come out for the team now, Anderson says, some players have to be taught even the most fundamental baseball skills.
But if mostly average players is what a coach ends up with, then the kind of program Anderson has developed over the years is crucial to success.
Following warm ups, the team then begins regular throwing. The players begin by taking a knee and throwing a short distance. Once they’re limber, they begin throwing in earnest, eventually extending out their throws to 110 feet, and then shortening the throws. Next, they do a tossing drill Coach Anderson calls “quick fire,” that requires hand-eye coordination and quick foot movements. Then the players go to their individual defensive positions.
Anderson says he got the idea for these types of drills from “Bud” Wilkinson, who led University of Oklahoma football teams to national championships in 1950, 1955 and 1956, and amassed a 47-game win streak, an NCAA Division 1 record that stands today. Wilkinson was known as an ultra-organized coach, who broke down practices in 10-minute concentrated segments; not a minute wasted and purpose driven. Adopting that concept has garnered Anderson election to the prestigious National High School Hall of Fame and the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and Easton Sports voted him “Master Coach” in 2003.
Asked what one thing he would do different in his coaching career, Anderson offers that he would show more “compassion” while still adhering to his standards. He also advises young coaches to develop a written agreement, spelling out the coach’s rules or expectations and requiring both players and their parents to sign off.
This type of attention to detail, and love of the game, helps to build a winning program. It doesn’t hurt to have the consistency of a head coach with 40+ consecutive years, either.
“(Baseball) is a special game to me,” Anderson says proudly. And Guy Anderson will surely go down as a “special” coach.
Rick Cabral is a Sacramento baseball historian. To listen to his interview with Cordova High School Coach “Guy” Anderson visit http://BaseballSacramento.com and navigate to Teams > High School.
To learn more about Cordova High baseball, visit http://cordovalancerbaseball.com
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