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The Debut: Nick Anderson

From incarceration to redemption

Colorado Rockies v Miami Marlins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

It was the summer of 2011, and 21 year old Nick Anderson was in trouble.

Anderson had just been arrested and was about to possibly be charged with second degree assault. During some late night heavy drinking with buddies out on the town, Anderson got into a heated altercation during which he struck another patron of the bar in the head with a bat, allegedly in self-defense.

Anderson got off relatively easy. He was charged with a misdemeanor, spent eight days in jail, paid restitution to the victim, and was on probation for several years. And this incident became Nick Anderson’s wake-up call.

Following this incident, Anderson transferred schools to finish out his collegiate career. He showed some promise on the mound, but teams were afraid that his run-in with the law might make him a too big a risk, and he fell to the 32nd round of the draft. He was picked by the Brewers but the did not end up signing him.

Anderson knew he could pitch, but now he needed to find an opportunity, so he did what many unsigned or undrafted players do. He went to the Independent Leagues.

However, despite the confidence in his ability, Anderson stunk. He didn’t much enjoy playing the game, and his results were abysmal.

But he didn’t entirely walk away. He spent the 2014 season playing in a local league with some friends and regained his love of the game.

With new confidence and enthusiasm, Anderson returned to the Indy Leagues in 2015 and dominated; he allowed two runs over 27 innings pitched. This caught the attention of the Minnesota Twins and after their scout questioned Anderson’s probation officer, the Twins signed Anderson to a minor league deal.

Anderson was finally a professional baseball player and made his debut in Single-A at the age of 25; he was phenomenal. Pitching in just 9 games, Anderson registered a 26.7 K% and didn’t walk a batter, and allowed just one run.

He continued to dominate as he slowly and unceremoniously crawled his through the Twins system and finished the 2018 season on the cusp of reaching the Majors after easily dismantling hitters in Triple-A.

However, Anderson was certainly going to be taken in the Rule 5 draft and not wanting to lose him for nothing, the Twins traded Anderson to the Miami Marlins.

During Spring Training, Anderson made an excellent impression on the Marlins and he won one of the final roster spots and be named to his first Opening Day roster.

On March 28th, 2019 — Opening Day — Nick Anderson at 28 years old, would finally make his long awaited Major League debut.

With the starting pitcher, Jose Urena, getting shelled by the Colorado Rockies, Marlins Manager, Don Mattingly, just wanted to close out the inning. He pulled the struggling Urena and Nick Anderson came to the mound, completing an improbable run to the major leagues.

Anderson came into the game with the Marlins trailing, 6-0, in the 5th inning. Two outs, a runner on second and Ryan McMahon is at the plate.

Anderson took the mound and set his feet on the extreme first base side of the rubber. Looked in, got his sign, set his target, lifting his leg and delivering a 96mph bullet right to the glove of his catcher, hitting his mark perfectly for a called strike.

With his next offering, Anderson missed his mark considerably, but still enticed a swing from McMahon. The pitch was well below the zone and McMahon sliced the pitch towards the left side of the infield where the was a lone infielder covering that side. Miguel Rojas scooped up the sharp grounder and lobbed the ball to first to record the out, ending Anderson’s big league debut with just two pitches.

Following the game, Anderson admitted he was pumped up about the debut, but more out of excitement then nervousness.

“I’m not going to lie, my heart rate was a little up, but honestly it was more excitement, like, hey, I’m here. Here’s my opportunity.”

Anderson took the opportunity and flourished, quickly becoming one of the best relievers in all of baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays became so enamored with him that when the trade deadline loomed, the Rays traded away one of their top prospects, just so they could have Anderson at the backend of their bullpen.

In his first big league season, Anderson posted a ridiculous 41.7 strikeout percentage and a minuscule 6.8 walk percentage over 68 games. Despite his efforts, Anderson would be snubbed from the Rookie of the Year voting. Nonetheless, the Rays knew Anderson was incredible and as the 2020 season approached, it was pretty much a forgone conclusion that Anderson would be serving as their closer during the upcoming year.

Enjoy Nick Anderson’s full Major League debut below, all 80 seconds of it


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