Thirty years ago, Matt Lindholm was a drill instructor at the California High Patrol (CHP) Academy in Sacramento. Kelly Lindholm was one of Matt’s last cadets during his tenure in the state capital. The two, despite growing up in the same hometown, had never met each other until this point.
They wouldn’t see each other again for 10 years, at which time they started a relationship that still goes strong today. Married since 1999, the Prunedale residents and CHP retirees are coaches at Anzar High School. Matt coaches the baseball team and Kelly the softball team, making for a highly unlikely yet unique situation: a married couple coaching sports at the same school in the same season on the high school sports calendar.
“It’s really special because we’re coaches by accident,” Matt said.
That’s right—the story gets even better when one considers how the Lindholms’ situation unfolded. Matt, who is in his second season as the baseball coach, and Kelly, who is in her first year as the softball coach, were assistant coaches when the previous head coaches of their respective teams quit.
Matt, 56, took over for former baseball coach Mike Dixon two weeks into the 2016 season. Kelly, 51, took over for former softball coach Dion Walker on the second day of practice this season.
“Life took them in different directions, and we were the last ones standing,” said Matt, who has also been an assistant coach for Anzar’s football team the last two years. “And that led Anzar High asking us if we would stay on as coaches.”
Fortunately for Anzar, the Lindholms have a passion for youth sports, and just as important, they’re not looking for a “better” job opportunity. They’ve already put in their time in demanding, high-stress jobs—Matt worked for 30 years at the CHP and Kelly 27—and their sole purpose now is to make a difference as coaches.
It’s extra rewarding since their two children, Jacob and Abigail, attend the San Juan Bautista school. Jacob is a starting junior shortstop on the baseball team and Abigail is a freshman catcher on the softball squad.
“We wanted to cheer on our kids, and it just happened we had lot of experience in the field,” said Matt, who along with Kelly spent several years coaching baseball and softball in the Manzanita Little League organization. “When the (Anzar) program faltered because the current coaches chose to go in a different direction, we were not going to let the program fail. Neither one of us would watch the program fail because there would be no coach.”
In addition to being able to have a positive impact on kids’ lives, Matt and Kelly love the fact they can literally hear the other holler during one of their games. The baseball field sits adjacent to the softball field, and there have been a number of instances in which the two have either had games going on at the same time or had practices running concurrently.
“The nice thing is we can share each other’s frustrations, joys and happenings of a game,” Kelly said. “I enjoy it. I’m pretty fortunate in that I get to see my kids everyday and work with my daughter and her friends. It’s always good to be around kids because they keep you young—and they’re always entertaining.”
Said Matt: “There are a lot of benefits to us both being coaches here. One of them is we get to be closer to each other. We’ve had a great time.”
The experience has been quite an adventure, never more apparent than on March 30 when the baseball team had practice and the softball team had a game. Matt took advantage of the opportunity to help out Kelly since she doesn’t have an assistant coach (Matt left assistant coach and athletic director Mike McKinney to run the baseball practice).
Halfway through the softball game, Jacob comes over with a broken nose after he was involved in a collision after attempting to field a popup. Matt had to take his son to the hospital, but it didn’t seem to affect Jacob the next day in the Hawks’ 12-0 win over Marina. Jake went 3 for 4 in the victory.
“Our greatest desire is to not only be with our kids, but we get to make sure all these other kids at Anzar get to play a sport,” Matt said.
Although it’s been tough in recent years for Anzar to field a softball team—numbers are always an issue—the Lindholms are optimistic for the future. The Hawks’ three pitchers—Ebony Telford, Mandy Greene and Cristina Dela Cruz—had never pitched at any level prior to this season.
Kelly said the team has also received strong contributions from shortstop Danielle del Real and left fielder Carley Ortiz, who are two of the team’s top players. Developing and gaining more experience are the team’s top priorities.
“We’ve got players who are new to the sport and learning,” Kelly said. “Everyone is trying 110 percent and making a go of it.”
The baseball team has a bit more experience playing their sport than their softball counterparts. In addition to Jacob, Anzar has experienced players in first baseman Austin Io, third baseman Miguel Arellano and pitcher Montserrat Sandoval, who threw a one-hit shutout in a 12-0 win over Marina on March 31.
“Monte has done wonderful for us,” Matt said. “Austin has been tremendous and is a really solid player. He along with Miguel are our power hitting guys, and Jacob is the fastest kid on the team with an on-base percentage of .600 or so.”
Matt and Kelly complement each other well. Whereas Matt is affable and jocular at times—he’s the pastor at First Baptist Church in Prunedale—Kelly tends to be more reserved. When asked if Matt had a great, romantic proposal, Kelly said, “There’s not really much to talk about there.” Matt, of course, had plenty to say.
“The story goes that I handed her a beautiful ring (on the day of the proposal) and said, ‘Well, you knew you were expecting it anyway, so pick a (wedding) date,’” Matt said. “Two things can be equally true. I may have said that in jest, but in my mind I was so much more romantic than that. I have plausible deniability.”
The Lindholms feel fortunate they’ve been put in a position where they can have a positive effect on kids’ lives. It’s a responsibility they don’t take for granted.
“As long as they need us, we’re gong to help Anzar in any way we can,” Matt said.