Baseball coach using past experience to lead young team

Maher Kawash, Staff Reporter

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The Eastern baseball team has a new coach. Jason Anderson was brought on as head coach this year after serving as the team’s pitching coach the previous three seasons.

Anderson has had a storied career as he has plenty of experience with the game of baseball such as playing Division One baseball, and playing professionally in the MLB.

Anderson is from Shelbyville, Illinois, and found a passion for the game at a young age.

He said that, although it was frowned upon, he played in two different little leagues as a kid because his passion for the game was so strong.

During his senior year at Danville High School, Anderson boasted a 14-1 record as well as earning all-state honors.

He also tied the Illinois state record at the time for most consecutive shutouts with six in a row that season.

Anderson was drafted by the Kansas City Royals coming out of high school in 1997, but made the decision to go to school and play collegiate baseball at Illinois.

“It was a tough decision to not sign out of high school, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made,” Anderson said.

During his time at Illinois, Anderson earned All-American and Academic All-American honors as well as earning awards such as Illinois Newcomer of the Year, George Huff Academic award, and Big Ten Pitcher of the Year in 2000.

After two years of playing for the Fighting Illini, Anderson was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 10th round of the MLB draft in 2000.

He made his major league debut for the Yankees on March 31, 2003 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

“Nothing can really top the feeling I had during my major league debut,” Anderson said. “The feelings and sense of accomplishment you get when you run out to the mound for the first time is a special thing.”

Anderson went on to play 12 years of professional baseball for the Yankees, Mets, and Indians, as well as some of that time spent in the minor league with the Cubs, Phillies, and Padres.

As a relief pitcher, Anderson and posted a 2-0 record with a 6.39 Earned Run Average and 19 strikeouts over his three seasons in the MLB.

In 2004, Anderson was designated for assignment by the Mets and would return to the MLB once more in 2005 with the Yankees.

After the 2005 season, Anderson spent the rest of his career in the Minors, then would go onto retire in 2011 due to the birth of his son.

After a short coaching stint with his alma mater, the Fighting Illini, Anderson joined the Panthers’ baseball program as a pitching coach.

Anderson comes from a family that was never really into the game of baseball, as he is the only one in the family who has played the sport.

Although his family wasn’t familiar with the sport, they were still his biggest fans.

He has strong family ties, and he said his family is one of the reasons he chose to coach at Eastern as he is close to his hometown, Shelbyville.

“They have always been there for me despite not knowing much about athletics,” Anderson said.

As he has officially taken over the program as head coach, Anderson will be able to use his experience as a ballplayer to guide his players.

“I just try to use my experience to give them some perspective,” Anderson said. “I utilize the journey as a way to teach them about the process it takes to get where they want to be.”

The game of baseball has taught Anderson plenty throughout his career.

“The game of baseball has taught me patience more than anything,” Anderson said. “It taught me to understand that everything is a process in baseball.”

Anderson comes into this season with plenty of expectations to turn this program around, as the team is coming off a season where they posted a 13-36 overall record.

According to Anderson, winning everything across the board will be the key to rebuilding this program.

“Of course we want to win games and championships, but we want to win all the little things first,” Anderson said. “We want to win in the weight room, and we want good grades in the class room so we can represent our school in the right way.”

The team does not have much experience as they are coming in as a young team with 22 underclassmen on the roster.

Although, they come in with little experience, Anderson is confident in the talent he has on the team.

“We have the ability to win games sooner or later once these guys can figure it out,” Anderson said. “It’s going to take some time, but we have the horses on the field so we just need to get them that experience.”

 

Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]