The Meridian Star
Tim Anderson used to be a basketball player with two bum knees. Now, he’s the leading force behind the East Central Community College baseball team, batting .639 in the Warriors first nine games.
The 6-foot-1 shortstop out of Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala., came into Tuesday’s game against Pensacola State leading the nation in batting average as well as home runs (five). Anderson has also tallied five doubles and three triples to go along with 12 RBIs and is rated the top junior college shortstop in the nation by Baseball America.
Right now, incoming fastballs might look like beach balls to the streaking shortstop, but Anderson’s path to success has not always been so clear.
During his sophomore season at Hillcrest, Anderson blew out both of his knees playing basketball, keeping him out of sports for the remainder of the year.
“The knee injury was tough,” Anderson said. “I told my dad, I thought I was going to give up on sports after my second knee injury. I got tired of being injured, and I just got down on myself.”
Anderson’s father, Roger Brown, encouraged his son to press on, reminding him not to lose focus of his childhood dream of playing professional sports. Anderson listened, rehabbing everyday in order to prepare for a comeback.
Anderson did not play high school baseball until his junior year. Coming in late, due to the basketball season ending, he was given a spot in left field for the struggling Patriots. After hitting .333 his junior year, former Hillcrest head baseball coach Todd Agee promised Anderson a spot in the infield.
That promise had to be delayed, as Anderson was busy leading the Patriots to a 6A state championship at point guard. Anderson played a vital role in Hillcrest's championship run delivering the go-ahead assist to Perrin Buford in Patriot’s 54-50 semifinal win against Carver-Montgomery.
When Anderson returned to Agee later in the spring, he did not disappoint, batting .420 and tallying for home runs his senior season.
“I told him, when you put that basketball down for good, your best baseball days are ahead of you,” Agee said. “He was so athletic, you could just plug him right into the lineup after basketball season. He came back his senior year after missing a couple of weeks due to basketball and just picked up where he left off the season before.”
Between his coach’s advice and the success of his senior season, Anderson began to realize how much he missed the game he grew up playing. As the scholarships began to come in, many schools offered Anderson the opportunity to play basketball, but only East Central Community College saw him as a baseball player. Given the choice between the two sports, Anderson elected to ride his current momentum and sign with the Warriors.
“Basketball was my first love all the way up to my senior year,” Anderson said. “Then when baseball season started up again, I got back into the groove and baseball took back over. I have been playing baseball since I was four. When I sat out my freshman and sophomore years, it made me miss it a lot.”
While East Central head coach Neal Holliman saw Anderson as a star in the making, not even he could predict how fast the infielder would blossom. Holliman knows he took a chance on signing Anderson with little experience, although the head coach has since learned, believing in his shortstop usually pays off.
That trust came into play during Anderson’s freshman season during a close game against Hinds Community College. After reaching third, Anderson turned and leaned down towards Holliman.
“I can run on him, I can steal home,” Anderson told his coach. Holliman, surprised, looked back at Anderson and told him if he thought he could get it to go for it.
As the pitcher began his delivery, Anderson shot off, barreling down the line and swiping home while evading the catcher’s tag. If he didn’t already know it, Holliman knew then how special a talent he had on his roster.
“He’s not afraid of failure,” Holliman said. “He knows he is not always going to succeed, but he is going to always lay it out on the line and see what can happen.
“We are just very fortunate to have him. We thought we had a special player when we signed him. Can I say I knew he’d be this special, well nobody could have predicted that.”
During his freshman season at ECCC, Anderson hit .360 for the Warriors, belting in four home runs and 37 RBIs while stealing 30 bases on 30 attempts. Since then, scouts and coaches have kept Holliman’s phone ringing.
“The most impressive thing to me, is beyond what he has done on the field,” Holliman said. “All the attention and people coming in, it hasn’t changed him. You really wouldn’t know he was getting the attention, because he acts the same way as he did when he wasn’t getting any at all.”
Anderson announced in November, he will be attending UAB in the fall. However, there still remains a possibility a Major League team could sign him this summer. Either way, Holliman is certain his shortstop is destined for big things.
“He’s going to play at a very high level of baseball,” Holliman said. “He’s got a great opportunity, he’s not your average player.”