March 1, 2006 - In the world of baseball, nothing is better than getting "the call." Whether it's the call up to the majors or calls to the bullpen, both are greeted with the zeal of an opportunity to make good.
Last week, Brian Anderson, the leading candidate to win a starting role in centerfield for the Chicago White Sox this spring, got "the call."
It didn't come from a general manager or a scout. It came from old friend and high school teammate, Ian Kinsler.
At the conclusion of the upcoming baseball season, Kinsler, the Texas Ranger's prospective second baseman, will tie the knot when he weds his Canyon Del Oro High School sweetheart. Anderson and a handful of future pro ball players from CDO's 2000 state championship team will stand up for Kinsler in a Murder's Row of groomsmen.
Before the November nuptials, however, Anderson, 23, will join an equally dangerous lineup, one also loaded with major league talent.
In just three seasons of professional ball, Anderson's career has taken him on a whirlwind tour that began in Tucson and ended up with a visit to the White House with the World Champion White Sox.
"I like winning," said Anderson after a morning workout at Tucson Electric Park, spring training home of the White Sox. "So anytime you're on a team that knows how to win, it makes it a lot more fun."
That bodes well for Anderson, who joins a White Sox team that won 110 games in 2005 en route to winning the franchise's first World Series in 88 years.
Although he was left off the team's post-season roster, Anderson got to enjoy the title run from the best seat in the house: the dugout.
"It was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life," said Anderson of the Pale Hose's post-season run. "Hands down it was one of the coolest things you can go through. I know I'm on the team, but it was almost like I was a fan getting to hang out with the guys."
This year Anderson will play a more active role in the White Sox's title defense. When the White Sox traded starting centerfielder Aaron Rowand to the Philadelphia Phillies in the off-season, the organization opened the door for Anderson to take over as an every day player.
"He's got a chance to be a pretty good ball player," said eccentric White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "He's got all the ability. He's going to get a shot, hopefully he can take advantage."
Last year Anderson hit .295 and slugged 16 home runs while driving in 57 runs for Triple-A Charlotte of the International League. Anderson got in 34 at bats in 13 games toward the end of the year for the Whites Sox - playing in place of the injured Scott Podsednik. On Aug. 27, he declared himself major league ready when he slugged two home runs off of Seattle's Felix Hernandez.
This year, the 6-foot, 2-inch, 205-pound former University of Arizona slugger will take on a different role. The opportunity is there for Anderson to bat ninth and play centerfield everyday, said Guillen.
To prep for his new role, Anderson, who has hit toward the top of the lineup throughout his college and minor league career, is working on his intangibles this spring. Basically, that means hours of bunting practice every day during spring training.
"I'm getting paid to stink at bunting right now," quipped Anderson. "It's something I've never done, so I don't know if I'm good or bad at it. I've never been asked to do it; now that I'm in that situation I need to get it done."
As for the bum wrist that has slowed him down toward at times over the previous two seasons, it's now "good to go," said Anderson.
The lasting remnant of the steel plate and screws removed from his right arm in November is a five-inch merlot-colored scar that runs vertically up his inner arm. Those that catch a glimpse of the scar that don't know him may think he has suicidal tendencies, when in reality, Anderson is a fun-loving kid about to make good on a life-long dream to play in the major leagues.
"Most people knew I had it," jokes Anderson about the surgery and scar. "If you don't know that I had it then, I guess I'd be put on watch."
When Anderson gets serious, he explains that the pain from a "messed up" bone in his wrist was at times hampering his swing.
"It was to the point where I was barely able to swing with my top hand," he said.
With his wrist now at 100 percent, Anderson is ready to embark on his major league career. On opening day he'll receive his World Series ring, which will sit on a shelf and serve as motivation to earn another one.
Christopher Wuensch is a staff writer covering sports. He can be reached at 797-4384 ext. 112 or by e-mail at email@example.com.