Kevin Anderson played in the first-ever baseball game at Bridgeforth Field 43 years ago, and now his name will forever be attached to it.
On Monday, Shenandoah University announced that its home baseball facility’s playing surface will take on the name of the Hornets’ longtime head baseball coach. The ballpark will now be known as Kevin Anderson Field at Bridgeforth Stadium.
Anderson has led the SU baseball program since 2004 and has won 571 games, three regional championships, six league titles and taken the Hornets to two NCAA Division III College World Series (2009 and 2010) during that time.
SU took over the management of Bridgeforth in Jim Barnett Park in 2020 as part of a 40-year agreement with the city of Winchester. In December 2021, a facility name change was made possible by a city council resolution. Thanks to renovations made by SU, the 2022 season marked Bridgeforth’s first as an artificial turf field after previously featuring grass.
The 61-year-old Anderson was first informed of the decision in a private ceremony involving SU President Tracy Fitzsimmons and other university officials last week. Anderson had a chance to celebrate the honor in a public announcement with about 150 people as part of the baseball team’s annual year-opening picnic on Saturday.
“I’m very humbled, very surprised, and it’s very much appreciated,” said Anderson in a phone interview on Monday. “It’s the total gamut of positive emotions. I’m overwhelmed.”
Anderson graduated from James Wood High School in 1979 and played with the Colonels against Handley in the inaugural baseball game at Bridgeforth his senior year. Before Anderson took over as the head coach at SU, he played for the Winchester Royals in 1982 and 1983. Anderson later managed the Royals.
In a news release, Fitzsimmons expressed just how fitting it was to have Anderson’s name attached to the field. An inlaid piece of artificial surface containing the new name will be added in front of the third base dugout following the completion of the fall season. SU begins its actual collegiate season next February. Updated signage on the exterior of the ballpark is scheduled to be installed this week.
“Coach Anderson has built Shenandoah baseball into one of the most successful programs in the country on and off the field,” Fitzsimmons said. “Not only do his teams consistently excel on the diamond, but they also thrive in the classroom.
“I can’t think of a more appropriate namesake for our newly renovated baseball field. Kevin Anderson is Shenandoah baseball, and I thank him for his commitment to this university and for his dedication to shaping his players into model student-athletes.”
Anderson said Fitzsimmons and Greeley Myers, the assistant vice president for advancement, made the announcement on Saturday in front of the Hornet players, their parents, the team’s coaches, and Anderson’s wife and three children. It was the first picnic the team has held since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, so a special day for the program took on even greater meaning.
“It was very emotional,” Anderson said. “I really can’t put into words how much it means to me personally, how much it means to my family, my mom and dad.
“I think back to playing the first game on that field with [baseball coaches] Terry Shickle from Handley and Bill Beckman of James Wood. Those guys helped me manage the Royals and I have the utmost respect for them. Coach Beckman passed away a couple of years ago, and he would have loved to have seen that field. I think back to a lot of great people like [longtime Royals front office employee] Mr. [Jim Phillips], who’s been a huge influence in my life, and the Bridgeforth family. A lot of people put their heart and soul into that field, like Jim Barnett, who was the park director [when Bridgeforth opened], and Keith Lupton, who did a lot of the work starting the Winchester Royals.”
For Anderson, there’s almost too many people to thank for being in a position to receive the latest honor in his decorated career, and that group of people includes the countless players who have helped SU become a powerhouse. Since 2009, Anderson has led SU to at least 30 wins in 11 of 13 full seasons. The Hornets have the top winning percentage of any collegiate baseball program in Virginia during that time.
“I’m in a profession where I’m judged on the performance of 18-to-22-year-olds on the field, in the classroom, and in the community, and I’ve been so blessed at Shenandoah to have just tremendous young men,” Anderson said. “We talk a lot about the players that have laid the foundation for this program. We turn ownership of this program over to the players.
“The players, the parents, the alums, the administration, the assistant coaches ... when everybody is working together to accomplish goals, if you think of it as a big tug-of-war, when you’ve got people pulling on the same end of the rope, it sure is a lot easier to try and accomplish things.”
Anderson said the fact that his name will be on a playing surface that he’s quickly come to love also means a lot to him. After winning the ODAC Tournament last year, SU hosted an NCAA Regional Tournament for the first time in school history on its brand-new artificial turf.
“It’s the best playing surface that I’ve ever walked on,” Anderson said.
Anderson has no plans to stop walking on Kevin Anderson Field at Bridgeforth Stadium anytime soon.
“I have a passion for Shenandoah University baseball,” Anderson said. “I really don’t have a timetable for when I will retire. The new complex has definitely added to my career where I’m not mowing, putting a tarp on, taking a tarp off. This surface has allowed us to spend more time working on other things rather than working on the field.”