The Tampa Bay Rays dominated the 2020 regular season and cruised into the playoffs as the #1 seed in the American League. Firing on all cylinders, they finished with the second-best record in baseball with help from their bullpen’s biggest weapon: Nick Anderson.

The towering 29-year-old right-hander was six for six in save opportunities, striking out 26 batters across 16.1 innings. In 19 games, he faced 58 batters and surrendered three walks and just one earned run.

One.

Without question, Anderson’s high-velocity 4-seam fastball and devastating curveball make him the most important piece in Kevin Cash’s ‘Stable’.

A Hidden Gem

In 2019, Nick Anderson was a big reason why the Tampa Bay Rays collected a bunch of wins in August and September to propel them into the postseason. And after being dealt from the Marlins to the Rays at the deadline, he completely dominated hitters.

In just 21.1 innings for the Rays, Anderson managed to strike out 41 batters while only walking 2, a boon for DFS baseball players everywhere.

The crazy thing about his success, however, was that nobody knew where Nick Anderson came from. He was a 28-year-old rookie – something you definitely don’t see every day.

It makes you wonder, “Why did it take so long for him to get noticed?”

The Downward Spiral

Nick Anderson fires a pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays during the postseason
Credit-Doug Clifford/Tampa Bay Times

Nick Anderson traveled a long and bumpy road to The Show. As a high school player, he received almost no recognition and ended up staying in-state at Division II St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.

During his time at St. Cloud, Anderson couldn’t get out of his own way. Alcohol slowly took over his life. In 2011, shortly after turning 21, Anderson’s friends were in an altercation and he decided to join in.

At one point in the fight, someone pulled out a knife. So Anderson grabbed a baseball bat and hit the guy over the head.

In an interview with Rays beat reporter Marc Topkin, Anderson stated, “I could have ended up killing myself somehow. Or killed somebody else.”

Anderson was charged with second-degree assault and spent eight days in jail before being placed on probation and undergoing counseling. One year prior, Anderson also found himself with a DWI conviction.

This latest incident was the wake-up call he needed to make some serious lifestyle changes.

In the same interview with Topkin, Anderson claimed, “I wanted to play in the big leagues. I wanted to keep playing baseball. In order for me to do that, I had to stop drinking.”

Taking Back Control

Nick Anderson gets his sign in a packed house in Tampa
Credit-USA TODAY Sports

After the conclusion of his incidents in St. Cloud, Anderson transferred to Mayville State in North Dakota. He pitched well enough there for the Brewers to draft him in the 32nd round in 2012. But due to his legal issues, the team didn’t sign him.

Instead, Anderson bounced around the independent Frontier League and, at one point, found himself playing on a Minnesota men’s league team.

Then, in 2014, he couldn’t find a professional gig. Instead, he worked full-time remodeling houses in Brainerd, Minnesota, and giving pitching lessons on the side to keep his arm fresh.

“I had a couple of things lined up for independent baseball, but I found out shortly before spring training that I wasn’t going to get an invite,” Anderson told The Gazette in 2015.

“I kind of put my eggs all in one basket…I tried using some of the connections I had, but nothing panned out.”

The following spring, he went to an independent league showcase where he caught the eye of a Frontier League manager.

After signing with the team, Anderson posted eye-popping numbers in 2015. Then, finally, a breakthrough came for Nick Anderson.

Big league scouts took notice of his blazing fastball. And, after speaking with Anderson’s probation officer, the Minnesota Twins made the first move – signing the 25-year-old to a minor league deal.

From there, he worked his way up through the system before the Twins shipped him to Miami prior to the 2019 season.

On March 28, 2019, Nick Anderson made his MLB debut at 28-years-old for the Miami Marlins. Now as a 30-year-old, Anderson holds the keys to ‘The Stable’ for the Tampa Bay Rays.

From bar fights and blackouts, to saves and strikeouts; Nick Anderson has finally made it.

The Lesson

“I don’t regret anything in my life because I’ve learned so much from the things I’ve been through,” he told the Miami Herald.

“And, honestly, I might not be in the situation that I’m in right now. I might have never learned. Who knows? I could be dead. You never really know.”

Sometimes we need to make mistakes in order to grow as individuals.

For some, it’s getting into trouble. For others, it’s failing a class or staying in a bad relationship for too long. Whatever the case may be, we can’t dwell on the past. We must push forward while taking the necessary steps to change our own lives.

Nick Anderson made mistakes that many of us would look down upon. But he paid his dues and forged ahead towards what meant the most to him: his dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player.

Above all, he took control of his own life and didn’t make excuses, becoming the ultimate underdog for the ultimate underdog team.

Keep tossing up zeroes, Nick Anderson: millions of dollars and a World Series await you.

Want More Underdog Stories?

Join our Underdog Newsletter for a bite-sized rundown of the best underdog in the sports universe – delivered every Tuesday.

Invalid email address
100% free, unsubscribe anytime.

Want More Underdog Stories?

Get a bite-sized rundown of the best underdog stories in sports – handpicked from across the web & delivered to your inbox every Tuesday.

Join 2,055+ Weekly Readers