Former Oriole outfielder likely to be in left field in opener against Tucson
Brady Anderson turns 40 in January. The three-time All-Star outfielder played 14 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. Few players of his magnitude, at his age, would accept playing minor league baseball.
Anderson is different, in a very good way. He probably will be in the Portland Beavers' lineup tonight for their 7 p.m. Pacific Coast League home opener against Tucson at PGE Park, batting second and playing left field.
'I don't find the minor leagues humbling,' Anderson says. 'Never have. If you are sulking or thinking you are being treated unfair, you are missing the point. You are playing pro baseball for a living. How many people get to do that?
'I am on a personal quest to prove myself as a player, just like I did when I was initially in the minors. Maybe I can enjoy it a little more this time. The interaction with my teammates is probably the most refreshing thing I have experienced this spring. It has not been about a big-leaguer to minor-leaguers. It is about teammate to teammates as equals.'
No wonder Beaver Manager Rick Sweet has found Anderson almost too good to be true as a person and team leader.
'He is very professional, a very hard worker, and he has been very good with the young players,' Sweet says. 'I mean everything from telling stories to showing them how to go about your business and how to play the game.'
Anderson has 210 home runs in the majors, and 50 came during a glorious run in 1996, when he hit .297 with 110 RBIs, 117 runs scored and 21 stolen bases as Baltimore reached the American League Championship Series. Before that year, Anderson had never hit more than 21 homers in a season; since then, he has never hit more than 24.
A year to remember
Anderson set a franchise record in '96 for homers and extra-base hits and a major league record for homers by a leadoff hitter. He also became the only player to have both 50 homers and 50 steals in a season and one of three players (Ken Griffey Jr. and Willie Mays are the others) with 50 homers and 20 steals in the same season.
'I had a decade of hitting leadoff to compare with most any leadoff hitter who ever played, but that one year is what people want to talk about,' Anderson says.
'My explanation is, it is just another example of the fine line between success and failure at a high level. The difference between 25 and 50 home runs is so slight you can hardly tell. You are hitting one more home run a week. In other words, it is one more good swing per week for six months. With that comes the confidence that will propel you to greater things.
'The weird thing is, it wasn't one of my healthiest seasons. I had appendicitis midway through the season, and they wanted to take my appendix out. I pulled my quad, and for nine weeks I didn't have a stolen-base attempt. I was pretty banged up, but my swing was there from Day One of spring training. I had seven homers that spring, and my swing never left me.'
In spring training the next season, Anderson cracked a rib. He wound up playing 151 games, batting .288 with 18 homers.
'I had to compensate and alter my swing a little,' Anderson says. 'And it kind of stuck. I have had solid years since, but nothing like that year.'
Goodbye to Baltimore
After the 2001 season, in which he hit .202 with eight homers in 131 games, Baltimore gave Anderson his release. Last year, he signed a free-agent deal with Cleveland but hit just .163 with one homer and five RBIs in 34 games before being released in May. He then injured an Achilles' heel playing basketball and sat out the season.
The 6-1, 200-pound left-hander signed last December with the San Diego Padres.
'They were the first ones to contact me,' Anderson says. '(General Manager) Kevin Towers is a very straight talker. My family lives in San Diego. It was a pretty simple decision.'
Anderson might have been able to stay on as an extra bat and outfielder with the Padres. He felt it was better for him to play every day at the Triple-A level with Portland.
'When I spent my first four years with the Orioles platooning and not having a regular spot in the lineup, I made up my mind I never wanted to watch another game from the bench,' he says.
'When I'm at my best, I am out there every single day, through slumps, through everything. For me to get the right feel, I need to play a lot. Plus, there is a joy I get playing. It doesn't matter the level.'