The first thing you notice about Guy Anderson these days, besides the triumphant grin, are the uniform colors.
The blue, gray and white of Capital Christian High School have replaced the striking red Anderson wore for decades as the all-time winningest high school baseball coach in Northern California.
Red defined Anderson at Cordova, where Anderson won 927 games and stuffed the school’s trophy case with championship trophies and banners spanning 45 seasons. Red is also the facial hue Anderson wore nearly one year ago when he was summoned to Cordova’s administration offices following a 6-21 season – his most trying year.
The meeting was brief. He was fired, told that the program was “going in a different direction.” During his final season, Anderson had come under siege by a small faction of parents who alleged that the coach’s old-school ways didn’t jive with new-wave thinking.
Anderson fumed, but he found solace in riding his bike and yoga sessions with wife, Karen. She appreciated the extra time but knew Anderson badly needed to get back in the game. Anderson, 83, didn’t anticipate leaving Cordova, and didn’t envision coaching at a small school like Capital Christian. But here he is, defying age, rounding another base, ready to slide in on another challenge.
Anderson was hired over the winter by Capital Christian to assist 12th-year coach Nelson Randolph, whose program had won the past three Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championships and is 15-2 this season. Anderson’s old-school ways have blended in just fine, Cougars players and coaches say.
“I’m here, happy, and loving every minute of it,” said Anderson, who coaches first base. “It was hard at first being an assistant coach, but I have so much respect for coach Randolph. Very impressive coach. I was crushed when I got fired. Hardest thing I’d gone through as a coach.
“But this is a new beginning. I no longer have to worry about scheduling, rainouts, running tournaments. I just coach, and that’s the beauty of it, and what a team we have.”
Anderson brought along an old friend to Capital Christian. Ralph Rago, 82, offers players decades of experience and wisdom as a coaching lifer. Rago has taught the game at Davis High, UC Davis, Cordova and through camps and clinics around the world.
“These kids,” Rago said after a recent game, looking at players, “keep Guy and me young. I’m very proud to be doing this. We need them.”
And the players need the coaches. Players marvel at how Anderson can still swat the ball to all fields with a fungo bat nearly as old as he. They soak up his stories and instruction.
“It’s great having (the old coaches),” said Capital Christian’s star player, Tiegen Jones, a 6-foot-3 center fielder/pitcher headed to Fresno State. Jones’ last-inning, two-run homer helped beat Marysville 7-4 on Tuesday.
“Coach Anderson, he has a lot of knowledge. He gives a really good vibe, definitely a legend.”
Randolph isn’t threatened by having Anderson and Rago in his dugout. He’s inspired by it. Anderson is in his 58th year of coaching and Rago his 57th. But Nelson is clearly the one in charge. Players gravitate to his every word.
“Veterans is what I call Guy and Ralph,” Randolph said. “They’ve been through all the baseball wars. Guy is a great champion, and we have Rago, too. To bring all of that experience here to a team that’s already come together, it’s great. I have to be humble, too. I have no problem surrounding myself with great baseball minds, and we’ve got that.”
Capital Christian is small in enrollment only. The Cougars think big, schedule tough opponents and field scholars headed to colleges large and small. A lot of the athletes excel in other sports, including Jones in basketball, and infielder/pitcher Jacob Norville, a star quarterback. And there’s youth. Xavier Carter is a 6-4 freshman pitcher and outfielder who beat Christian Brothers 3-2 with a walkoff single Saturday at Raley Field.
“We’re definitely starting to click, starting to roll,” Jones said. “We’re all coming together, coaches and players.”