By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Most young baseball players hoping to hear their names called during the MLB draft are glued to their televisions and smartphones, trembling with anticipation. It's the moment all of their hard work leads up to and a day never to be forgotten for a handful of aspiring players.
That moment came for Penn State alumna Jack Anderson on the third and final day of the 2016 draft, but he didn't even know it at the time.
Anderson was actually swimming while on vacation with a few teammates in Palm Beach, Florida when the Seattle Mariners selected him in the 23rd round with the 687th pick. He found out from his old coach Rob Cooper.
Cooper called Anderson after hearing the news to congratulate his former closer. He had no idea he would be breaking the news to Anderson for the first time.
Anderson then realized he missed a call from a Mariners scout and quickly called back in excitement. He and the rest of the crew celebrated that night as Anderson returned home the next day to a surprise party at his house.
Anderson spent his first professional year bouncing from A-ball in Seattle, Washington to the rookie league in Peoria, Arizona He spent most of the year in the rookie level before getting called up for the Everett AquaSox playoff run.
In 21 innings pitched, Anderson surrendered just four earned runs in his rookie season for a 1.71 ERA between both teams. He was a key contributor to the Mariners' rookie team winning the Arizona League championship.
As is typical for minor leaguers, Anderson finds himself far away from his home in Chicago, Illinois. His living arrangements have varied from host families to hotels.
While in Seattle, Anderson stayed with a host family who lived right next to a lake. They even had a jet ski for his amusement. In Peoria, however, Anderson lived in a small Hampton Inn with one roommate. You never know what you're going to get as a minor league ballplayer.
"Life has been a whirlwind ever since I got drafted, moving place to place, but it's all been good stuff. It's been fun," Anderson said.
On the field, Anderson is working on adding a changeup to his repertoire to compliment his sidearm, frisbee-like slider. He also wants to become more of a multi-inning pitcher next season.
Anderson continues to improve each year by adding new wrinkles to his game and flat-out working harder than anyone. He did just that in his four years in Happy Valley, and he hasn't slowed down.
At Penn State Anderson improved his ERA and increased his total appearances each year. He closed out his career with the most appearances in Nittany Lion history with 98. His 25 saves is also a school record.
Anderson isn't just reliable, though. He was a shut-down closer virtually his entire Penn State career. He didn't allow one home run in college and did the same in his first professional season.
"I just think that Jack has really worked hard and understands who he is as a pitcher, and he really relishes that role of pitching to contact and getting ground balls," Cooper said. "If you understand who you are and you don't try to do too much you can have a lot of success."
A lot of Anderson's steady improvement over the last few years is a credit to Cooper and pitching coach Brian Anderson. He gives both coaches plenty of praise for his accomplishments in college.
"[Cooper] really pushed the mental game on us," Anderson said. "That was a big time adjustment for me, and I think that the mental game is always going to push baseball players over the edge. He really pushed that on me."
With the guidance of Cooper and a strong work ethic, Anderson has a realistic opportunity to climb the ranks in the minor leagues and make a splash for the Mariners.
He may not have that special moment of hearing his name called on draft
day, but Anderson is living out his lifelong dream of playing professional