Coach’s commitment: Palisade’s Kirby drives for UPS at night, coaches softball during the day
The Palisade High School softball team doesn’t have to look far to find inspiration.
All the girls have to do is look at their coach.
Tony Kirby, who became the head coach this fall, works all night so he can coach the Bulldogs. He was an assistant coach the past four years.
“We were all having a slack-off day and not practicing our hardest, and he goes, ‘I’ve been up for over 24 hours and you don’t see me slacking,’ ” senior catcher Kendra Barnes said. “It was an eye-opener for us to see he really is sacrificing a lot for us.”
Kirby works for United Parcel Service, driving a delivery truck from Grand Junction to Denver and back five nights a week to provide for his family.
Kirby doesn’t see the long nights as a sacrifice.
“It’s no different than anybody else,” Kirby said. “It’s just another job. You’ve just got to work (coaching) in your schedule.”
He often begins his work day at 10 p.m. and drives to Denver. He usually returns home by 8 a.m.
“During this time of year, it’s not bad because I get back early enough in the morning,” Kirby said. “I’ve coached baseball in the past and it was still snowing.
“I’m not working that many hours right now, so it works out well.”
He said he took the delivery position with UPS so he could have time during the day to coach the team.
“I’ve always wanted to (coach softball),” Kirby said. “Plus, I can think about softball all night.”
He uses the drive time to mull over ideas of how to provide opportunities for the team to achieve more success.
He sleeps when he returns home from work and starts his day with softball practice or a game, depending on the day.
So far, the schedule has worked well.
Palisade won the Western Slope League title outright for the first time in several years.
“That was our No. 1 goal,” Kirby said. “It’s our goal every year, to win the league and get a higher seed for regionals.”
The Bulldogs (11-6, 3-0 WSL) hosted Eagle Valley on Tuesday and play Rifle at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Although the Bulldogs have already clinched a Class 4A regional playoff berth, they can possibly get a better seed with two more wins. Regional pairings will be announced Sunday.
“We have a lot more skills training because (Kirby) has the experience of knowing how to play,” Barnes said.
“All of our coaches are experienced. It’s a great opportunity, especially for the younger girls and the rest of their high school career.
“He loves us dearly. After all our games he has to find a way home and drive all the way to Denver. He’s a very committed coach. We’re lucky to have him.”
Kirby loves coaching the Bulldogs so much, he uses three of his five weeks of vacation during the softball season.
“I wanted to be here for the girls,” Kirby said. “I talked to them after John (Vanlandingham) resigned. It’s a good group of girls.”