From High School Basketball State Champion to First MLB All Star Appearance: The Tim Anderson Story

The face of the Chicago White Sox makes his first All-Star Game appearance.

The 2021 Chicago White Sox are eyeing a World Series title at seasons’ end, but that would never have been the case without players like Tim Anderson. Anderson has been the “Go” guy for this team over the last three seasons and pushed himself to be one of the top players in not just the organization but all of Major League Baseball.

This past week, after originally missing out, Tim Anderson was named to the American League All-Star team for the first time in his MLB career.

This season, Anderson has once again found himself as of the top hitting shortstops in the league. His .309 batting average is the tenth best in MLB. To round out his stats, he has scored 55 runs to go along with 96 hits, 18 doubles, six home runs, 32 RBI, 14 stolen bases, a .345 on-base percentage, .424 slugging percentage, and a .770 OPS.

Nothing happened overnight for Anderson, and his success took time and dedication. His story starts way before the pros. It started as a two-sport athlete at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

As an Alabama high school student, Anderson played basketball and baseball but never hit the field for the Hillcrest baseball team until his junior year. Basketball injuries kept him away from the field but did not hurt his athletic success. He loved basketball and even won a state title in 2011, but his athletic aspiration would shift from basketball to baseball. During his junior year of high school, he hit .333 and played in left field. His senior, he made a move to the infield and saw his batting average jump to .420 that season.

His high school head coach Todd Agee once told WTOK, “You could just tell that if he’d ever just concentrate on one thing… that the sky would be the limit for him.”

Despite his success on the baseball diamond, his only college offer came from East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi. It was all baseball now for Tim Anderson. He hit .360 with four home runs, 37 RBI, and was a perfect 30-for-30 in stolen bases his freshman season. Even after this, still no other interests from other schools or MLB. So it was back to East Central for TA.

East Central’s head coach Neal Holliman knew how good Anderson was and could be even during high school. He said, “He was obviously good, but he’d get to baseball late,” Holliman said. “[As] soon as he rolled out there, he was in the lineup.”

Anderson continued to produce his sophomore season and be that everyday player. He paced all JUCO baseball players with his nation-leading .495 batting average, 10 home runs, 45 RBI, 18 doubles, 11 triples, .568 OBP, .879 SLG 41 stolen bases. However, Major League Baseball would soon be calling.

Anderson was set to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham heading into the 2013 MLB Draft. However, that would quickly change when his dreams would become realities when the Chicago White Sox came calling. Chicago took him with their first-round pick (17th overall) of the 2013 MLB Draft.

He took the signing bonus and opted out of a UAB to join the Chicago White Sox. Instead, Anderson went directly to the Kannapolis Intimidators (now Cannon Ballers) of the South Atlantic League. He hit .277/.348/.363 with 45 runs, 16 extra-base hits, and 24 stolen bases in his first 68 professional games.

TA began the 2014 season in Winston-Salem and wound up playing for three different teams that season. He suffered a wrist injury in June 2014 that required surgery but would return in August. Once he returned from surgery, he received a promotion to the Birmingham Barons. He slashed .364/.364/.500 in just 10 games. He finished off 2014 playing some games in the Arizona Fall League for the Glendale Desert Dogs.

His MLB dreams were getting closer and closer in 2015. He was invited to Spring Training with the Chicago White Sox but ultimately played the season in the minors. He hit .312 with 79 runs, 21 doubles, 12 triples, 5 home runs, 46 RBI, and 49 stolen bases in 125 games. Not too bad, but Anderson was not perfect; he did have 112 strikeouts to just 24 walks and 25 errors at shortstop. Something that would take time to see major improvements.

He was once again invited to Spring Training in 2016 but would not get the promotion as the Sox went with aging 37-year-old, former NL MVP Jimmy Rollins. Instead, Anderson was assigned to the White Sox Triple-A Charlotte Knights. He played 55 games before being called up in June of 2016. In his major league debut, Anderson went 2-for-3 with a run and a double. During his rookie season, he played 99 games while hitting .283 with 57 runs, nine home runs, 10 stolen bases, and 117 strikeouts.

White Sox saw enough in Anderson in 2016 that they were ready to commit to him for the long-term as their future shortstop. In March 2017, the Sox signed Tim Anderson to a 6-year, $25.5 million extension. His post-contract 2017 campaign would not be easy. His batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage would all drop significantly while increasing his strikeouts and leading the league with the worst walk percentages in 146 games. But he did hit 20+ doubles and 15+ home runs. He also did not fear well on the field. He lead the majors with 28 errors in 2017. During the 2018 season, he offensive numbers trended the same much like his defensive numbers. He did have eight less errors in five less games at short but was tied for the most throwing errors (12).

Anderson became the face of the White Sox in 2019 and made it known throughout that season. One might even say his home run against the Kansas City Royals’ Mitch Keller pushed the team into a new era of Chicago White Sox baseball. While still struggling defensively as well as trying to draw walks, he put himself on the map offensively. TA lead the league with his career-best .335 average to go with career-highs in runs (81), hits (167), doubles (32), on-base percentage (.357), slugging percentage (.508), and OPS (.865) in 123 games. He did all of this in 30 games less than his prior season.

Some wondered if his 2019 season would be a fluke year that would become an anomaly on the back of a Tim Anderson baseball card. Except it won’t be. Anderson won his first Silver Slugger award the following 2020 season when he slashed .322/357/.529 with 45 runs (tied for AL lead), 10 home runs, and 21 RBI in 49 games. And so far, has continued his hitting explosion.

It was not enough to be named an All-Star originally but that did not deter Anderson to finish the first “half “ of the season strong. From July 1 (day the rosters were announced) through the All-Star break, Anderson went 17 for 41 with 12 runs, five doubles, four RBI, three walks, and a .991 OPS over nine games. He also has a 12 game hitting streak and has hit safely in 15 of his last 16 games.

Anderson was initially left off this seasons’ All-Star Game roster but was given the opportunity after some players opted out of the game. Anderson will join Liam Hendriks, Lance Lynn, and Carlos Rodón at this year’s midsummer classic. He was ecstatic for this opportunity and had a lot to say. He told the Tribune:

“It’s even sweeter because I came up in this organization,” Anderson said. “To grow up in front of these fans in this organization says a lot. The grind is real. I put the work in. I continue to try to get better day in and day out. And it doesn’t stop. I have to keep pushing to be the best I can be.”

As a young college athlete, Anderson told reporters how when he sees ball, he hits ball. This has not only been a saying but a lifestyle for TA. Now when Tim Anderson goes, the whole Chicago White Sox organization goes.

Featured Photo: Matt Dirksen/Colorado Rockies/Getty Images