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From One College Offer to MLB Stardom: The Improbable Rise of Tim Anderson

Two seasons of high school ball. One college offer. And a lot of perseverance.

The story of how Tim Anderson went from two years of high school baseball to MLB star
Credit-MLB/AP/Joker Mag

Before he was bat-flipping walk-off homers in front of thousands of roaring fans, Tim Anderson was just a quiet kid from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

“Tim was timid,” said Scott Suttles, Anderson’s high school basketball coach. “I know it’s very difficult for people back in Chicago to be able to fathom that. But he was a shy, quiet kid.”

Growing up, Anderson says he played sports to stay out of trouble. Baseball and basketball were always his top two.

But after Little League, he stopped playing baseball to focus on basketball. And if it weren’t for a devastating string of injuries – and a nudge from a friend – he may have never given baseball another shot.

“There were knee injuries,” Anderson said in a documentary. “I broke one right before the Christmas break and then I healed up and came back and did the same thing to the other leg.”

Before his junior year of high school, Tim’s friend convinced him to try out for the baseball team.

“I missed the original [tryout] and the coach decided to leave it up to the seniors if they wanted to keep me on the team. They let me stay on the team and…for the first couple of weeks, I was like a cheerleader. Just cheering guys on.”

There he was – MLB superstar Tim Anderson – on the bench, eating candy and cracking jokes with his teammates.

He finally got a chance to start in left field and finished his junior season hitting .333. Zero college coaches or pro scouts were lighting up his phone. He only had one year left to determine his future.

MLB shortstop Tim Anderson quote: "When I step in between the lines, I know I’m the best. I believe it. So it’s on me to show it."

As a senior, Anderson led his basketball team to a state championship, which unfortunately ran into the beginning of baseball season.

“That kind of left me with half a season for baseball. And I went out and I played second for the remainder of the year and that was it.”

Despite missing the first ten games, Anderson had a spectacular senior season – batting .420 while showcasing speed and power.

One day, Coach Neal Holliman of East Central Community College (Decatur, Mississippi) was in attendance recruiting another player. As fate would have it, Tim Anderson hit two home runs that day, and Holliman offered him a scholarship after the game.

It was his only scholarship offer, so he happily accepted. But there were some rough patches in the beginning.

“He struggled when he first got here,” Coach Holliman said. “I think being away from home, and getting used to me…he told me he was calling some guys at basketball. He was thinking about leaving at the break and going somewhere to try to play basketball.”

After some moments of uncertainty, Tim buckled down and committed to getting better. And he did – at an unbelievable rate.

“You see players grow,” Holliman said. “But I have never seen anybody grow week, after week, after week. It was like, when’s the growing gonna stop? It just kept going.”

The work paid off. Anderson had a breakout sophomore season at ECCC, hitting .495 with 10 home runs, and earning NJCAA Male Athlete of the Year honors.

Pro scouts came out in droves to see the star shortstop in person.

Executive VP of the White Sox, Kenny Williams, still remembers the first time he saw Tim play.

“When I got there, he was easy to spot…I don’t think he made an out. And he exhibited some of the best hands, hitting-wise…I’ve saved that evaluation for very few people over the years – being athletic at home plate.”

Anderson was committed to UAB to continue his college career, but the White Sox called his name in the first round (17th overall). And just like that, he was a professional baseball player.

So, after parts of two seasons of high school baseball, one college offer, and two years of JUCO baseball, Tim Anderson became a top MLB draft pick.

“You never know where you might end up at. Keep being you and never let nobody label you,” he told The Washington Post.

“When I step in between the lines, I know I’m the best. I believe it. So it’s on me to show it. It’s the right mindset to have. Guys are good. If I tell myself I’m anything less, then I’m beat.”

Tim Anderson made his MLB debut just three years after getting drafted. In his young major league career, he’s already won a Silver Slugger Award and the AL batting title.

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Written By

Division III baseball alum (McDaniel College) and founder of Joker Mag. Sharing underdog stories to inspire the next generation.

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