By Andrew Forsyth, Vancouver Canadians
Most ballplayers remember exactly where they were when their name was called in the
draft. But in spite of having a good chance of being selected, Kyle Anderson did not watch the 2012 draft with friends and family agonizing over where he would be going. Instead he was in his dorm room in San Louis Obispo, California with his books, agonizing over his upcoming finals.
It turned out that his name was on a different list with the California Polytechnic (Cal Poly) University receiving a call from Toronto asking if he would sign with the team following the draft. For Kyle it was the opportunity that he had dreamed of. “I didn’t know much about the Blue Jays or their minor league system,” said Anderson. “I grew up in Washington so my first major league experience was watching the Mariners at the Kingdome when it was all about Griffey and Alex Rodriguez.”
He knew a little bit about the Blue Jays past success having had former relief pitcher, Mark Eichorn, as a coach in High School, and he knew the basics about the Jays from watching games in the past few years, but of the minor league system that he would be joining or where he might be sent Kyle had no idea. Within days of his semester ending he was flown to Florida, put through a condensed training camp and assigned to the Jays’ Gulf Coast League team.
He spent eight grueling days in Florida, determined to prove himself and stand out enough to earn a promotion. “It’s hot, humid, there are no fans, it’s more like backyard baseball,” explained Anderson of the grind that players endure in the GCL. From there he was sent to Bluefield for three days but had to repack to fly to Vancouver before he could be added to the roster. It is that experience that he had prepped himself for throughout college and he credits his coaches for having prepared him for the tough times.
Asked about his time as a Cal Poly Mustang, Anderson spoke about how much he learned from the coaching staff. “Our pitching coach concentrated on the mental side of the game. The biggest lesson I learned was how to pitch without fear and not worrying about the outcome.” It was a lesson that he was taught early in his junior year – that there is no point in dwelling on the pitch you can’t change the so focus on the next one.
And there were days when that focus was put to the test. “There was one game during my sophomore year that we were playing against UCLA and we got absolutely crushed,” Anderson remembered. “It was the kind of game that makes you doubt yourself and whether you have what it takes to be playing.” But the coach’s answer was blunt. “We had a hard nosed coach and he kind of picked us up and made us believe that the only thing that mattered was the next day’s game.”
It is that thinking that he has put to practice during his first professional season and echoes the mantra of his Canadians coaches – just make one quality pitch at a time. His having been signed as a free agent has given him a valuable chip on his shoulder that has not gone unnoticed by C’s Manager, Clayton McCullough.
“You’d have no idea that he was a drafted guy or not,” said McCullough. “He approaches it as though he’s got the same opportunity as everyone else out there and wants to show the organization that he’s a guy that can be valuable going forward.”
And so far the Canadians have seen plenty of value in the young left-hander who established himself as a steady contributor and earned a spot in the C’s starting rotation. McCullough went on to describe him as a good worker with a lot of confidence. “He’s got a very quiet confidence to him and when he takes the mound he’s got a lot of competitiveness to him. He’s a bulldog out there and it means something to him to be playing.”
“He’s done a very good job and has been a very intelligent pitcher,” added Canadians’ Pitching Coach, Jim Czajkowski. “Because he’s not a power guy he has a very good feel for his off-speed pitches – his changeup and breaking ball – and when to use them. All that has equated to him being able to keep us in the game.”
His ability to play the deceptive left-hander and frustrate batters is a skill that he takes pride in. But what does Kyle Anderson want from his first professional season? “I want to get as much experience as I can and end on a high note. We all want a strong finish and to hopefully make it to the playoffs.”
When asked who he would like to be able to pitch like and Cole Hamels entered the discussion because of his ability to deceive batters. “At the end of the day,” Kyle said “I just want to go out there and be myself on the mound.” Hopefully, like so many others who came before him, he can find his place to grow at Nat Bailey Stadium and continue chasing his major league dream.
For those wanting to catch Kyle live at The Nat he is expected to start tonight (August 14th) versus the Yakima Bears at 7:05. For tickets call 604 872 5232 or visit http://www.canadiansbaseball.com
By KP Wee
The Vancouver Canadians defeated the Spokane Indians 4-0 on Friday afternoon, and pitching was the key for the C’s.
C’s RHP Taylor Cole threw four shutout innings, and spoke later about his comeback from a strained oblique and working with trainer Drew MacDonald during this post-game interview. His performance marked the second straight start where he hasn’t allowed a run. Five nights earlier in Boise, Cole had worked three hitless innings in the C’s 5-4 victory over the Hawks, followed by the four scoreless frames today where he didn’t give up his first hit until the fourth inning.
LHP Kyle Anderson, who followed Cole with three shutout innings of his own, earned the victory – the second of his pro career. Anderson allowed the first two hitters to reach base in the top of the fifth inning, but calmly got the next three outs to get out of the inning unscathed – including a big out at third base on a bunt play where the left-hander got off the mound and made a strong throw to retire the lead runner, Indians catcher Joe Maloney.
The C’s-Indians five-game set resumes on Saturday night at Scotiabank Field with first pitch beginning at 7:05 p.m. Pacific, as Vancouver tries to win the series on Fireworks Extravaganza Night.