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"The boy's not right." - Diamondbacks' pitcher Russ Springer on teammate Brian Anderson
by BRIAN BUJDOS
Arizona Diamondbacks Magazine
Of all the ways to prove the widespread belief that Brian Anderson is a little off-center, one of his own inventions works best.
It's called power shagging. And unsurprisingly, it's a one-player game.
Every game day that Anderson doesn't start on the mound for the Diamondbacks, you can find him in the outfield during batting practice. Even if he's wearing a warm-up jersey, you can't miss him. He'll be the guy who's either flopping around on the turf or replacing large chunks of it.
Instead of just milling around the outfield swapping stories like all the other pitchers, Anderson sees batting practice as a perfect opportunity for a workout.
"That hour can start to drag," he said, "but if you're actually doing something and going after things, it speeds it up a little bit."
So he roves the outfield, chasing down every ball he can get to. Making a catch, apparently, earns bonus points. So Anderson throws his body around like it's worth $2.99 instead of the hundreds of thousands the Diamondbacks pay him for his services.
"You definitely think about getting hurt," he said. "But on the other hand, I want to have fun. I don't want to have to lock myself in a room and only come out on days that I pitch. If that's what my career comes down to, I don't want that."
By the time batting practice is over, Anderson has shagged more balls than the rest of his pitching buddies combined, both sides of his pants have a dark green stain from knee to hip, slide marks scatter the outfield, and a small portion of the turf has been uprooted.
Head groundskeeper Grant Trenbeath said he's aware of Anderson's antics in the outfield at Bank One Ballpark. And he can't bear to watch.
"I see it happen and I kind of cringe a little bit," he said.
Diamondbacks' coaches worry a little, too. But Anderson has assured them he's no longer prone to injury. After a bad power-shagging episode last season with the Indians, he toned down his game a little.
"I used to be a real bad power shagger," he said. "I sprained my knee last year in Spring Training power shagging and missed two weeks of the spring. I would dive, slide, everything. And the Indians started fining me a hundred bucks every time I left my feet.
"I ended up paying 500 bucks for five dives. They were good ones, too. You have to make them good if you're going to pay a hundred bucks for them."
Since then, Anderson has managed to curb his aerial urges.
"I realized it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, to have a guy they count on going and laying out for a ball that doesn't count," he said. "So I've kind of shut off doing that, but I still like to run them down. It's probably a better workout than you get by doing the strength coach's workout. Go try and do it. Go try and power shag for an hour, and you probably can't even breathe.
"It's an awesome workout. I mean, they hit them pretty rapid-fire, and you go after them hard."
Brian Anderson seems to do everything that way - hard.
Seeing bits and pieces of Brian Anderson isn't enough to get a read on him. In small doses, you'd think he needs to be the center of attention every minute of the day. Watch how he carries on with his teammates, and you'd think he makes a conscious choice to be the biggest Bozo he possibly can. But that's not true.
There's a common thread that runs through every stitch of Anderson's life, and that's intensity. The same energy he takes into a power-shagging session, he takes into an interview, into a workout, into a game, into a photo shoot, into a meal, into everything.
"I just have an inordinate amount of energy," Anderson said. "I've been thinking about maybe getting my adrenal gland tapped and selling the stuff, because it's pretty good. It's all-natural."
Anderson runs on the treadmill before, during and after games. And he rides the stationary bike between running sessions. He lifts weights religiously. He might pitch only one out of every five days, but he does nothing to promote the notion that starting pitchers have it made. First off, Anderson doesn't spend much time in bed.
"I don't sleep that much," he said. "There are days when I need to catch up and get seven, maybe eight, hours of sleep. But typically, I would say five or six hours, a good stiff cup of coffee, a little bit of Howard Stern in the morning, and I'm good to go."
With Anderson's mouth, it's easy to understand his loyalty to Stern.
The pitcher often vocalizes his stances on touchy issues in front of many people - it takes no prodding. Depending on the audience, many stances might be better off left unsaid.
"If he's got a topic on his mind," said pitcher Barry Manuel, "he'll tell you about it. He's not scared to say anything."
When Anderson explains his fondness for Stern, he might as well be describing himself.
"The guy speaks his mind," he said, "and he says a lot of things a lot of us think but would never have the guts to say. And he just comes right out and says it. I think some of the stuff he does is interesting; it's funny. The best Howard Stern is when he does the news. It gets pretty funny sometimes because he chimes in with his two cents. That's the best part of the show."
Anderson and Stern definitely go together.
But Anderson and coffee? That's enough energy to cause a meltdown.
"He's definitely got a high energy level," said Diamondbacks' pitcher Russ Springer. Anderson throws down 20-ounce helpings of java, and a bagel - almost every day. A sweating session ensues, even in the air conditioned Diamondbacks' clubhouse.
"It's too hot here," a wet-shirted Anderson explained soon after arriving on a seasonably mild day. "This isn't the place for me. I better be traded by June."
In truth, Anderson seems to like his new home as much as getting a caffeine high. "He lives off coffee and Howard Stern," Springer said. "That's basically it, Howard Stern, baseball and coffee."
Anderson's caffeine high might wear off. But he gets refueled just by showing up at the park. The thought of taking the mound for a living makes him want to do it for a long time. And that's what allows him to work just as hard on non-pitching days as on the ones when he starts. Anderson gets so pumped up, he said, because a daily goal is to "try to get tired" so he can go to bed.
"It's an exciting line of work we're in, so you come in pretty pumped up every day," he said. "It's exciting. You come to the field, you've got a game and you look forward to it."
Upon Anderson's arrival, the clubhouse perks up a little. Teammates who've been silent for minutes might speak up, knowing if they don't, Anderson may jump on them.
"You're a jerk," one player said as he passed by Anderson's locker. Anderson didn't flinch.
"I guess I have been a jerk my whole life," he said. "I don't deviate. I'm a jerk one day, I'm a jerk the next. You don't get any in between."
Diamondbacks' Manager Buck Showalter knows his starting lefty well. "He does take his job seriously," the skipper said, "but he doesn't take himself too seriously."
Anderson's wisecracks can turn a simple drink at the water fountain into a near-death experience, and his "shocking humor," as Showalter calls it, only gets a night off if he's pitching.
"He's great to be around," said catcher Jorge Fabregas. "He has great one-liners when you least expect them. He's fun to talk to. He does have an opinion on everything, and you always want to hear what it is to see if it's way out there."
The Phoenix media realized rather quickly that Anderson is fair game on any topic. So his words continue to appear in print with reliable consistency.
"I think it's safe to say he's the most-quoted player on the team," said the Diamondbacks' manager of media relations, Bob Crawford. "He'll talk to anybody. He's definitely one of the most-approached players on the team."
But Anderson usually doesn't try to draw a crowd. He just spends his days trying to empty a full tank of energy - and the crowd forms on its own. Even though some of his outlets are a worthy cause for attention, Anderson doesn't try to act like a clown on purpose. He just is one. "He's very real," Showalter said. "He's not putting on some airs about some personality. Brian is himself, and we like him. The last thing you want to do is to try and harness a great personality like that. It's not an act. He is himself."
THE LIFE OF BRIAN
Even at the beginning, Anderson had a tough time staying quiet.
"My mouth's the thing that's always gotten me in trouble," he said.
"I never was one to disobey my parents, but I would run at the mouth a lot and get it smacked a lot. It was always something. I was always trying to say shocking things - not overboard shocking things, just off-the-wall humor. I guess that's been my trademark, really, since grade school and right on up."
Now, it's a dream come true for Anderson. He says whatever he wants, and plenty of people want to hear all about it. During the course of an interview with Diamondbacks Magazine, he had plenty to say on several interesting topics. Following is some of what he shared.
On being a single pro ballplayer:
"Being young and having fun playing a game definitely has its drawbacks, as far as relationships go. It's also hard to be in a new city and to be looking for a girl because at this point, unfortunately, a lot of times, you wonder what they're really after.
"Do they really find you, the person, interesting, or do they want to meet you because of what you do? And many girls want to meet you because they hear you're at a place. They're obviously going to meet you because you play ball, you've got some money, you've got whatever, and it's just hard to know what their motives are.
"That's why I don't really look, because I figure somebody will come along and something will go right. But I'm not actively pursuing because it's tough. People think you get all the girls. And if that's what you want, if you want some shallow, quick relationships, you can have all you want. That's a very empty lifestyle I think. I don't really see the point in it - unless she's really hot."
On what he'd do if he were commissioner:
"The DH would be gone. Even though I've always been an American League guy, we'd play by National League rules. That's the best thing in the world. I played in the American League, and coming over here for a month, the games are so much better. The games move along at a quicker pace for the most part. It's just a better game, I don't get so much into the strategy of it, but I just think it's a better game. It's a lot more fun.
"As a pitcher, you're more involved in the game, you can come out after a bad inning and have to hit. So you can get your mind off pitching, and get it on how you can help yourself out offensively."
On whether he'd allow Pete Rose back into baseball:
"No, he would never get back in the game. You know, the bottom line is rules are rules. If it's proven that he bet on baseball, then he broke the rules. And I don't care if he has 8,000 hits - that's tough, you messed up. You were great on the field, but part of the Hall of Fame thing is off the field, too."
On what's wrong with the game:
"I think so many players in this day and age get bad raps for being stand-offish and egotistical. They just care about one thing - getting their paycheck. They don't play for the love of the game, for the fans. If some guys don't want to do it, I will. I think any time you can be personable with the fans and media, you're just helping everybody else out.
"Anytime I get a forum to talk, I feel honored to do it and I like to do it. It can be negative sometimes with the timing of it. But if the timing works out, I don't really have a problem doing anything."
LAST, BUT NOT LEAST
Yes, Anderson does spend a lot of time on the mound. With his third major-league team this season, the Angels' third-overall pick in the 1993 draft sped out to a good start for the Diamondbacks as their third starter. Through the early part of the season, he was one of the team's most consistent pitchers.
Catcher Jorge Fabregas may have eased Anderson's transition to a new team this season. Both players debuted in the majors with Anaheim and spent two seasons together in 1994 and 1995.
"He's a good friend," Fabregas said, "and he's a good pitcher. He has developed a pretty good slider that's working good for him. He locates great. Location is everything for him, and he's always down in the zone."
Last season, with the Indians, Anderson appeared in three League Championship games, and three World Series games, allowing only two earned runs in 10 innings of work. The lefty, who turned 26 in late April, stayed near home for college, attending Wright State University. He posted a 10-1 mark and was named a 1st team All-America by Baseball America in 1993 before being drafted.
It's hard to recognize Anderson's on- field success because of his off-field antics. And it's hard to picture any common sense inside a guy who's constantly a comedian. Actually, Anderson does practice selective reasoning.
He'll never bungee jump or parachute, he said.
"My chute doesn't open, I end up six feet under in somebody's flower bed," he said. "I like to know when I fall down, the worst thing I'm going to get is a bruise."
Power shagging, naturally, lives on.
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