Chicago Sun-Times (Sunday)


with social media, youtube, anderson letting fans inside sox’ circle to learn who he really is — whether his teammates like it or not

- By Steve Greenberg

GLENDALE, Ariz. — This time, Tim Anderson played along. And why not? The man has a personalit­y the size of Tuscaloosa County in his home state of Alabama, and these days he feels a whole lot like sharing it with the world.

So when the 26-year-old White Sox shortstop was beamed, at the start of spring training, into an MLB Network show touting the channel’s 2020 list of the top 100 players in the game, he sat behind a desk in a small office at the team’s Camelback Ranch and brought the fun.

But the focus of the interview with ex-big-leaguers Sean Casey and Ron Darling and studio host Greg Amsinger wasn’t so much on Anderson’s massive improvemen­t at the plate in 2019, when he led all of baseball with a .335 batting average. No, it was — predictabl­y and, frankly, kind of boringly by now — on his much-talked-about bat flipping.

“If we were doing a show called ‘Top 100 Bat Flippers’ right now … ” Amsinger began.

Anderson cut right in: “I’d be No. 1, baby!”

Big laughs all around, courtesy of the new him — a bolder, louder, more brandconsc­ious extension of the old him.

“I’m just being myself, being comfortabl­e, letting people inside of my personalit­y,” Anderson said 11 days later, seated at the same desk in the same office for an interview with the Sun-Times. “I’m in control. Just being in control of those moments, being me in those moments and being real in those moments.

“But, honestly, I’m at a point now where I really don’t care about nobody’s opinions. I don’t really care what nobody’s got to say. But, yeah, man, when I walk into a room, you’re going to know I’m here.”

With all due respect to Anderson’s use of the word “real,” a reality check is in order. Simply put, he scoffs at MLB Network’s player rankings, in which he’s 95th overall and 13th among shortstops.

And by “scoffs,” we mean he takes a bat to them.

“Man, let me tell you, there’s nobody better than me,” he said. “There’s nobody who can stop me. I’m coming for whatever [there] is. I don’t care if other people say they’re better than me. I don’t care.”

Meaning what, exactly? Does he feel like he’s the best shortstop out there? “I am the best,” he said.

Such starkly positive talk might not be the easiest thing to back up in a season when all eyes will be on the batting champ and his seemingly equipped-towin team.

“It’s just confidence, man,” Anderson said. “I could say I’m going to go out there and go crazy. It may not happen, but I still believed in myself. And if it doesn’t happen, guess what? We play again next year.”

ANDERSON SAT AT HIS LOCKER at Guaranteed Rate Field, his head spinning. He’d been pulled off the field in the fifth inning of the 2019 finale against the Tigers, the batting title sewn up. Hugs came in the dugout, one after another, and then he walked up the

tunnel and into the clubhouse and found himself alone. The solitude was blissful.

“They were calling me back out, but I just sat there. I couldn’t move,” he said. “The craziest thing just happened. Who would’ve thought that I would win a batting title?”

He sat with a hoodie on, his phone blowing up with texts that he wasn’t ready to answer. He thought about a journey that included a .240 batting average in 2018. He thought about all the work he’d put in and the many who’d doubted him along the way.

And he thought about what might come next.

“I was like, ‘Man, this is crazy, unbelievab­le stuff,’ ” he said. “Nobody thought I could do that. But I also thought about how there’s so much more for me to get. There’s so much more out there to go get.”

Anderson sprained his right ankle in late June and missed more than a month, costing him a shot at his first All-Star Game. It was a disappoint­ment he tried to turn into a positive.

His pursuit of the batting title began then and there.

“Once [the injury] happened, I just knew: What can I do?” he said. “What can I do to prove myself to these people? I missed this and I was supposed to be there, so what can I do?

“The All-Star Game is voting. You can’t control who’s voting for you, but you can control what you can earn. So, all right, let’s go get the batting title. How do you get that? You’ve got to have the highest batting average. Who controls that? Me.”

He hit .364 in August and .374 in September, a brilliant run that stood apart from the onrush of promising young Sox Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez and others. Anderson stamped himself — in his own mind, most importantl­y — as a star on a meteoric rise, nothing but possibilit­y at his fingertips.

“Obviously, you don’t think you can do something until you do it,” he said. “That’s where the confidence comes. Why can’t I be whatever I want to be?”

His 2020 sights are set on the All-Star

Game and beyond.

“I believe I’m going to go out and have a crazy year — an MVP-type year,” he said. “Like, I believe that because we’re going to set the bar that high, and that way everything else just trickles right up under it. If I don’t reach the MVP, cool. I get another shot at it next year. I didn’t say when I’m going to win it. I said I’m going to go get one, though.”

NOT ALL THE SOX necessaril­y love Anderson’s big talk, his bigger bat flips or — yes — his YouTube channel. Anderson had a cameraman with him all through spring training, with clips from his desert home, his trips to Camelback and his doings all over the practice fields. It isn’t going to stop anytime soon. The TA7 brand will roar on Anderson’s Twitter and Instagram accounts all season.

As Anderson sees it, the same teammates — and those on the outside looking in — who aren’t behind his selfpromot­ion can just plain deal with it.

“‘Oh, he’s tasting himself too much. He’s cocky.’ That’s what they say,” he said. “Those are the people who don’t understand real. Those are haters. I don’t care, though. Don’t care about nobody’s feelings about that. All I can do is try to be the best teammate and let people know I’m more than just a bat flip.

“I don’t care. They can holler about it. Tell me. If they don’t like it, so what? What are you going to do about it? I already did it.”

Anderson is the biggest star on the team. One could argue whether he’s the team’s best player — it might turn out that he isn’t — but these days he’s clearly the biggest celebrity.

“Yeah, I embrace that,” he said. “I have some guys [in the clubhouse] who aren’t comfortabl­e with speaking out, and they’re able to talk to me and I’m OK with it. Some people are afraid to be themselves. That’s true in the world, you know? A lot of people afraid to be themselves, but I’m here to show people what’s real and let you know that don’t nobody stop me, can’t nobody. You can say whatever you want to anybody, but what’s going to happen? Nothing. They got a problem, we can fix it.”

Pitcher Lucas Giolito was an All-Star in 2019, a workhorse who shot down one power lineup after another. His “fame” reward for that during the offseason in Davis, California, where his wife is in school, was getting recognized twice at a supermarke­t by fantasy baseball nerds.

“I’m no LeBron James or Tim Anderson, even,” he said.

Giolito, for one — and he has a big voice in the Sox’ clubhouse — is all for

Anderson’s personal outreach plan.

“It’s been a lot of fun to watch,” he said. “I have to shout out: Subscribe to Tim Anderson’s YouTube channel. He is really, like, coming into his own and being himself on all levels, and that’s fun to see. So many baseball players, you’ll see them be themselves in the clubhouse, be themselves when they’re with their family. But a lot of times, when it comes to media or putting yourself out there, they’re more reserved. That’s kind of the way it’s always been. He’s going a completely different direction than that. He’s just showing his true self.”

And those old-schoolers who grind against it?

“I think jokes will get thrown around, but I don’t think anyone should be really cynical about that,” Giolito said. “Timmy puts in the work. I don’t think T.A. lets any of that other stuff get in the way of the actual work that needs to be put in in the weight room, in the batting cage, on the diamond. It’s all just extra side things to have some fun.”

ANDERSON ISN’T DOING ALL THIS for the fame, anyway. At least, that’s his contention. Let him explain.



“I don’t want people going crazy or anything like that,” he said. “I would like for people to be like, ‘Hey, that’s Tim.’ I’m not trying to put myself out for the fame. I’m putting myself out to be connecting with people, to make people feel me.

“It’s easy to be famous. I could’ve been famous with my mouth shut. But I want to be connecting with people and motivating people and inspiring people. I’m not worried about people running up to me and being famous. That just comes with my job, but it’s not what I’m chasing.”

Derek Jeter, the mother of all famous shortstops, was famously bothered by fame. He put off the media, to put it mildly. He snuck out of back doors to avoid reporters and fans alike. Anderson is nowhere near that level of public demand, but he aims to get there — and promises it won’t change him.

“Scared of people,” he said. “I ain’t scared of nobody. I’m not running from no autograph. If I don’t want to sign right now, ‘Hey, look, I’m with family, can you respect this moment?’ And we keep going. If I don’t want to sign, ‘Love you, but not right now,’ and we keep moving. I’ll just tell them how I feel, just be honest with them. I’m not running.”

But Anderson is putting himself out there on YouTube, and in general, and not running from that, either. It’s all part of a plan that makes perfect sense to him.

“That way you’ll be there with us, you’ll see the grind we put in, you’ll see the practice and everything we do,” he said. “So when we go out on the field and be killing it and having fun — or if we do, you know, mess up — then you’ll understand: ‘He’s been working hard. He might’ve struck out this time, but he’ll get ’em next time. I’ve seen his work.’ Sometimes you can’t tell people. You’ve got to show them.”

And the biggest picture of all, a Sox World Series?

“I’m motivated to win a championsh­ip,” he said. “I can speak on it, right? You know we’re going for a championsh­ip, so why can’t I say it? I’m just saying stuff that people are scared to speak on.”

There’s no fear in Anderson. If you don’t realize that by now, it’s time to start listening.

 ?? TONY GUTIERREZ/AP ?? White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson led all of baseball last season with a .335 batting average.
TONY GUTIERREZ/AP White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson led all of baseball last season with a .335 batting average.
 ?? MARK BLACK/AP ?? Tim Anderson waves to the crowd following the 2019 season finale after becoming the third White Sox player to win a batting title.
MARK BLACK/AP Tim Anderson waves to the crowd following the 2019 season finale after becoming the third White Sox player to win a batting title.
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 ?? DUANE BURLESON/GETTY IMAGES ?? Tim Anderson, celebratin­g a victory last season with Yolmer Sanchez, might not be the best player on the team, but he’s the biggest star.
DUANE BURLESON/GETTY IMAGES Tim Anderson, celebratin­g a victory last season with Yolmer Sanchez, might not be the best player on the team, but he’s the biggest star.
 ?? MARK BLACK/AP ?? Tim Anderson signs autographs for young fans last season.
MARK BLACK/AP Tim Anderson signs autographs for young fans last season.
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