Miami Marlins

This Marlins pitcher has overcome these personal and professional hurdles to be here

The path to the majors for most players follows the same trajectory. They work their way up through the minors before landing on the big stage.

Nick Anderson’s journey, though, has been anything but typical.

The 28-year-old pitcher spent three years pitching in the unaffiliated Frontier League, took a summer off to play amateur baseball in Minnesota, and — oh, by the way — served jail time on a felony assault charge after hitting another person over the head with a baseball bat.

He regrets the physical harm he caused.

“I would never wish any harm on anybody,” Anderson said. “That part, I’m sorry about.”

But if not for the lessons he learned from his past mistakes, Anderson said he might not be the person he is today.

He might not even be alive.

“I don’t regret anything in my life because I’ve learned so much from the things I’ve been through,” he said. “And, honestly, I might not be in the situation that I’m in right now. I might have never learned. Who knows? I could be dead. You never really know.”

Anderson is a reliever who has a chance to make the Marlins’ Opening Day roster. The Marlins, impressed by the eye-popping numbers he put up last season at Triple A, acquired the right-hander from the Minnesota Twins in a minor trade in late November.

“He’s been a leading performer,” said Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations. “He dominated Triple A last year.”

Anderson went 8-2 for Rochester, striking out 88 batters in only 60 innings.

“He has an unorthodox delivery,” Hill said. “It’s a high slot — not a traditional three-quarters slot — which you don’t see a lot of these days. But that’s what makes him unique.”

Anderson’s baseball path has been even more unique.

A native of Crosby, Minn., which is located about 125 miles north of Minneapolis, Anderson attended St. Cloud State University, which counts former Marlins outfielder Jim Eisenreich among its list of baseball alums.

But in 2010, Anderson was charged with drunken driving and, one year later, landed in jail for eight days on an assault charge involving the baseball bat, an incident that was also fueled by alcohol.

Anderson was placed on probation and ordered to attend Alcoholic’s Anonymous and anger management classes. Those days in jail became a time of self-reflection.

“It was a good reflection time,” Anderson said. “That’s really all you have time to do. I took the time and kind of thought to myself, kind of started planning on what I needed to do and what I needed to change.”

Anderson hasn’t been in trouble since.

But his baseball journey hasn’t been easy.

He pitched in the independent Frontier League for a couple of seasons, stepped away for a year to play amateur baseball, and then rejoined the Frontier League in 2015 with the Greys, a team that played all of its games on the road -- just like the Port Ruppert Mundys in Philip Roth’s “The Great American Novel.”

It was toward the end of the ’15 season that Anderson was discovered by a Twins scout and signed by Minnesota. Ironically, Marlins pitcher Trevor Richards was pitching for another team in the Frontier League that same year when he, too, was discovered and signed a pro contract.

Anderson proceeded to put up gaudy numbers. In four minor-league seasons, he has gone 16-7 with a 2.55 ERA while averaging 11.4 whiffs per nine innings.

Now he has a chance to make the Marlins.

“I really don’t look at how close I am,” he said. “I feel like when you try to think about how close you are to something, you kind of end up pushing yourself further away.”

But Anderson is in a better place now than he was before.

“I’m a totally different person now,” he said. “Everybody has made mistakes. Everybody has a past. Unfortunately, I went through all that to grow up and make changes. I’m happy with who I am now.”

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Clark Spencer is one of the nation’s most experienced baseball writers and has covered the Miami Marlins since 1999. He is past-president of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Along with baseball, Spencer has also covered the Summer and Winter Olympics, NBA Finals, NCAA Final Four, College Football Playoffs and Triple Crown.
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