Jack Anderson was never able to play high school baseball while growing up in Manistee.
His high school didn’t have a team because of concerns of the actual season being too short, forcing him to explore other options.
And that’s where fastpitch softball came in.
“That was something we did in the summer,” Anderson said. “I had a sister and four brothers and all of us played fastpitch softball. That was kind of how we were raised. We lived a block away from the field. We were up there watching it all the time when we were younger. That was what everybody did around there was play fastpitch softball.”
Several decades later, softball still remains a big part of Anderson’s life. After giving coaching a shot when the Portland High School softball position opened 36 years ago, he’s still in the same spot and has experienced plenty of success along the way.
More success is on the horizon for Anderson, who is close to becoming the 10th softball coach in state history to reach 900 victories. He enters Portland’s home tournament Saturday three wins away from reaching the milestone as the Raiders (18-2) are in the midst of another strong season.
“I’ll be honest, it is a big number,” Anderson said of nearing 900 wins. “Portland High School and I have been blessed with a lot of really, really good athletes that have been dedicated. I’ve had some outstanding coaches that have been on my staff for a long, long time. We wouldn’t be successful without those people involved with it.
“It’s the athletes you have. No matter what, you have to have good players or you’re never going to get 900 wins. And you have to have good coaching throughout your different levels in order to get them ready to play. I’ve been very fortunate to have had both of those throughout my career.”
Like most coaches who enter the profession, Anderson never expected to coach for more than three decades or accumulate the amount of victories that he has over the years.
But the 64-year old said being around the kids is the biggest reason why he has continued to coach.
“When I get out on the field, whether I’m at practice or at a game, they make me feel young to be honest,” Anderson said. “I enjoy being out on the field with them. I enjoy being a part of that. That’s one of the biggest things that has kept me in. It’s also the support that I’ve had from my wife and my family.”
Anderson hasn’t always been able to attend all the activities that his three kids have been involved with because of coaching, noting that he had to miss his son’s tennis matches. But one of the biggest thrills of his coaching career was getting a chance to coach his two daughters.
Last spring was another highlight of Anderson’s coaching career as he was part of a team that made an unexpected run to the Division 2 quarterfinals. Several players from that team are back and have Portland ranked No. 8 in the latest Michigan High Softball Coaches Association Division 2 rankings and in contention for another league title with a key CAAC White doubleheader Monday at Eaton Rapids.
“I thought that we would have the opportunity to be in the running for a league title,” Anderson said Wednesday. His teams have picked up two more since. “I thought that we’re going to have the opportunity to contend for a district and hopefully a regional championship going into the season, I think the kids had that as a goal. I’m not sure we thought we’d be at 16-2 right now because of some of the teams (we play) and the tournaments that we’re in. We were hoping again that we would get better every game and by the time we got to districts that we’d be ready to play.”
Contact Brian Calloway at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.