GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tim Anderson’s laughter and chirping is the soundtrack for White Sox spring training 2021.
On the backfields during infield drills and batting practice, he brings energy, good humor and joy.
It comes from the perspective of a 27-year-old husband and father of two who knows where he came from — and that he easily could have taken a wrong turn, missing his calling and the “abundantly blessed” life he has found as the Sox’ star shortstop.
“I enjoy life, baseball — everything you can think of, I’m enjoying,” Anderson said Thursday. “Too many good things going on to be on the other side of things, so I try to be positive and be happy about everything, every day. It’s a blessing to be in a position I’m in, so I don’t take that for granted.”
Anderson’s voice was also heard loudly during camp recently when he boldly proclaimed, “F--- it, we’re the best team in the American League” during a radio interview. The sound bite reverberated everywhere, and if it found its way to the rest of the league, no problem.
In fact, that’s a good thing, Anderson said.
“I hope everybody sees it,” he said. “It should motivate everybody to compete and come in and try to whup us, and that’s what we want. We want you to be at your best when we whup you so there is no excuse.”
The Sox are talking big during spring training — perhaps too much for a group that has only accomplished a 35-25 record over an incomplete schedule against teams from the AL and NL Central divisions.
Anderson isn’t the only one talking.
“We know every team is coming after us, and that’s OK,” he said. “It’s a game, and we’re competing. Only two things can happen — win or lose — but we’re going to give it our best shot and keep pushing and not get sidetracked by anything else.”
Anderson, the major-league batting champion in 2019, followed that up with a 2020 season that saw him finish seventh in AL MVP voting. He’s pushing to be an All-Star for the first time (he got hurt before the All-Star Game in 2019 and there was no game in 2020) along with MVP. He realizes his fielding, despite his quickness and range, is behind his offense. He committed his fourth error in 12 Cactus League games Thursday.
“Defense,” Anderson said. “Defense is always at the top of my chart. If my defense catches up to my offense, we have a real good package. Then I am a tough cookie. But I’m working to even that out and catch up on my defense. A lot of room to get better, to be the best shortstop, and I will be that if I put that work in. With the attitude I have and the energy, man, the sky is the limit.”
Growing up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Anderson had bad choices at his fingertips that could have brought the sky crashing down on his adolescent head. His father was incarcerated and not around for guidance and protection, but Anderson beat all that.
“You grow up, and you see a lot of things, and you’re in the mix of a lot of things,” he said. “There were a lot of things going on. Those moments are the reasons I draw from, why I am who I am today. I’m just thankful, very thankful, always thankful.”
All of it shaped a talent who practices
and plays with an edge — and lets you know he’s there.
“He has the ability and the right and the respect of guys to speak up and talk and a lot of is playful, and a lot of it’s him just letting his voice be heard,” outfielder Adam Engel said. “But then you guys probably don’t get to hear it as much, you guys are a little bit more on the sidelines, but when he needs to say something to somebody, he’ll say it. Like ‘hey man, if you did this rather than that, it would be better, or I think it would help if you did this.’ When he says stuff like that, it carries a ton of weight. Timmy’s gotten really, really good at that.”
“T.A. is one of those guys, you hate to play against him, but you absolutely love him as a teammate,” left-hander Dallas Keuchel said.
Being open and honest — always — goes a long way. Anderson is always good for a quote, but it’s not by design or for the purpose of enhancing his brand.
He knows he was egged on with a leading question in that radio interview about who he thinks the best team in the AL is. But he believes it.
“I speak from the heart,” he said. “That situation was put in a weird moment, and [670-AM host Danny Parkins] told me to say what was on my mind, and that was it. That was the honest truth. I’m not going to say we’re the sorriest team in the league.
“You have to speak those things into existence. And the only way you’re going
to be the best is if you talk about it, and that’s what I strive on — being the best. So why not share it? I want to be the best. So when I do become the best, you heard it here first.”