Ridgefield HS softball coach following in her late father’s footsteps

In this High School Spotlight, FOX 12 highlights a coaching legacy at Ridgefield High School that has been planted from dad to daughter.
Published: May. 5, 2023 at 7:19 AM PDT
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RIDGEFIELD, Wash. (KPTV) - In this High School Spotlight, FOX 12 highlights a coaching legacy at Ridgefield High School that has been planted from dad to daughter.

Kelsey Anchors is in her fourth year as head coach of the Spudders softball program which her dad, Dusty, helped get back on track.

“When she came in, we all Googled her and looked things up, and I would talk to my parents and be like, ‘I am going to listen to every single word she says, she knows what she’s talking about,’” Ridgefield High School senior Madeline Smith said.

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The youngest of Dusty’s four kids, Anchors starred at Olympic High School in Bremerton, Wash. before becoming a four-year starter in centerfield at Oklahoma State University. She then bucked the system herself by becoming the first woman to lead a boys’ varsity baseball program at North Valley High School in Grants Pass.

“I went into it wanting to coach athletes and that’s what I did,” Anchors said.

Anchors’ baseball coaching life was put on hold to move closer to family in her father’s final days.

“I felt like it was maybe a little too close to home, taking over so quickly for... it was his dream for me to come in here and takeover the program, but I wanted it to be my dream too, in wanting to do something for myself,” Anchors said. “I didn’t want it to just be something like, ‘yeah, ok, dad. I’ll take over.’”

FOX 12 interviewed Dusty in 2018 while leading Ridgefield to a second straight 2A Greater St. Helens League Title and back-to-back state tournament appearances. The Army veteran, who was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, was given six months to live with a terminal heart failure diagnosis after battling various cancers for decades.

Dusty passed away at the age of 68 on May 15, 2019.

“Grief is funny, it comes in waves. The first year, obviously, was the toughest and having those things with the wins here, making it to state, and the one person that you want isn’t there... but these girls, they make it easier. They make it enjoyable,” Anchors said.

Enjoy every moment - that was a “Dusty-ism.”

“After my dad passed, there was always this hummingbird that came around that kind of showed its face at my sister’s house and we always made a joke, ‘Oh, dady is coming to check in,’” she said while showing a tattoo of family birth flowers with a hummingbird on her father’s flower. “There are little things that I find in the game that I can kind of look back and relate to that he’s out there having the best seat in town and just watching over all of us.”

It is a game, and Anchors makes sure the Spudders lead the league in laughter.

“We’re always dancing, practices are always fun,” said senior Mallory Vancleave. “We look forward to it. Roll Spuds!”

Phrases her dad pioneered, like “All gas, no breaks” and “Free bird,” line the dugout. Anchors and her assistant, Greg Ferguson, who coached with Dusty, have “Free Bird” forever inked on their arms.

“I am going to hold something with these girls for the rest of my life and this tattoo is one of them, and if I keep talking about it, I am probably going to get emotional now, so I am just not going to talk about it anymore,” laughed Anchors.

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No need to talk, Anchors walks the walk.

“Finally hearing that it’s not Dusty’s team, it’s my team now and with this senior class, it’s the greatest feeling to see kids grow from being a freshman to a senior and the strides with them all now going to college to play ball, that’s what I enjoy,” she said. “It’s passing my passion of softball to them, I mean, they already have it but just a little bit more oomph for them to get there.”

If you think you or someone you know deserves a high school spotlight, please reach out to Nick Krupke at nick.krupke@kptv.com.