Fearless Pursuit


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"I started believing in myself instead of being scared. I believed I could make an impression on this program."




hen Oregon State Baseball made a trip to the College World Series in 2005, it ignited a spark in an 11-year-old Little League player that couldn’t be extinguished.

Jack Anderson attended the Regional game at Goss Stadium with his family. After the win, he met Jacoby Ellsbury, later a two-time World Series champion with the New York Yankees. Anderson asked the star center-fielder if he could have his sweatband. But Ellsbury had wanted to keep it for good luck in the Super-Regional. Anderson looked for Ellsbury after those games, but couldn’t find him in the excitement. He wasn’t disappointed.

“It was the coolest moment for me,” Anderson recalled. “I was like one of those little kids at the games now, asking for an autograph.”

After Oregon State won back-to-back College World Series titles in 2006 and ’07, Anderson never dreamed of playing anywhere else.

“I always thought that maybe I could be a Beaver one day,” Anderson said. “I just didn’t know how difficult it would be.”

In baseball, there’s a greater chance of failure than success when a player steps to the plate, no matter how great he is.

“You get out more often than you get hits,” Anderson said. “You can’t be too hard on yourself when it happens.”

When Anderson first came to Oregon State and tried to make the team as a walk-on, he didn’t succeed. But he didn’t give up. Failure can be your teacher or the undertaker. The key is to stay in the present. Focus on one pitch at a time. With grit, determination and pride, Anderson fought his way onto the 35-man roster and eventually into the regular lineup of a team with the most conference wins in Pac-12 history.

Anderson grew up in Lake Oswego where he excelled as a three-sport athlete in high school. Corvallis is his second home. His grandparents live here, and his parents met while attending Oregon State.

Anderson caught the attention of Assistant Baseball Coach Pat Bailey his sophomore year. Bailey let him know they were interested. As the 2014 recruiting class took shape, Bailey informed Anderson that there wouldn’t be a scholarship offered to play outfield. But he was invited to walk-on.

“I knew I would have to fight for my spot,” Anderson said.

Other programs were interested in him.

“Oregon State Baseball was the top of the mountain for me,” he said.

Except for ice-skating, horseback riding and swimming, sports have always come easy for Anderson. But when he reported for fall baseball his freshman year, he may as well have been trying to ride a horse underwater in hockey gear.

He wasn’t ready for this level of play.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” he said. “I was overwhelmed.”

He played hard, knowing the next day he might get cut. He wasn’t hitting well. But he tried to keep a positive attitude.

“I was just trying to make a statement,” Anderson said. “The biggest thing was to get noticed so I could have another shot for the next year.”

Being redshirted in baseball presents greater challenges than in other sports. Once the season starts, players can’t practice with the team or work with the coaches.

Making the team had as much to do with things beyond his control as it would with what he could do to improve himself on his own. The Major League Baseball draft and recruiting would determine if a position would be open.

At a crossroads, he asked himself, do I really want to do this?

“I had to look inside and figure out what’s best for me,” he said.

Anderson chose to pursue a degree in kinesiology with plans to become a physical therapist. No matter what happened with baseball, he knew he would stay at Oregon State.

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One morning, he woke up and decided to try again, whatever it took. If baseball didn’t work out, at least he could say he gave it his all.

“I started believing in myself instead of being scared,” he said. “I believed I could make an impression on this program.”

That spring, he lifted weights four days a week. He practiced hitting every day. A player he knew from Lake Oswego, Nick Rulli, then a senior for the Beavers, kept in close contact and advised him on what he could do to improve.

“He put me under his wing and helped me navigate,” Anderson said.

A friend and mentor Anderson has known since high school encouraged him to write to his coach. So he sent Pat Casey an email, asking for another shot.

“I told him I wanted to be part of the team, no matter what,” Anderson recalled. “I laid everything out to him.”

Casey replied and asked to meet.

An outfield position would be open, Casey said. Anderson had a shot if he kept working hard. There would be a second chance to make the team.

Anderson was invited to walk-on as a development player. The decision to redshirt him meant that he had to find a way to improve on his own. Players in similar situations have done it before. But not many.

When he came back for fall baseball, Anderson was more relaxed.

“I felt like I belonged,” Anderson said.

I can do this, he kept telling himself.

Anderson was pretty sure that he’d made it, but he wanted to be sure. So he went to Coach Casey’s office.

“I’m just making sure I made the team,” he said, more as a statement than question.

Yes. Even if it wasn’t the most glamorous route, he’d made it.


That first year was another learning experience. He didn’t play a lot. His first time at-bat, he watched three fast-balls zing past.

He thought, “That might be my last at-bat all year.”

But he found other ways to contribute. After a year on his own, he was part of a team again.

“Everyone wants to be on the field,” he said. “The bench role gets overlooked.”

So he was the first person out of the dugout, hyping up his teammates.

“I have to give Jack a lot of credit. He loves our team,” said Bailey. “Our players really respect him.”

There’s a saying among coaches that you play your nine best. That doesn’t mean those are the best nine players.

“Jack’s beat guys out that honestly have more talent,” Bailey said.

He does all the little things to help his team win games. In the outfield, he takes great routes on baseballs. At the plate, he gets in the count and forces pitchers. He can bunt.

“Jack is fearless,” Bailey said. “He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

People won’t remember your batting average, and so Anderson wants his mark to be the guy who led his team in a community service project installing a running track at a local school.

"We want guys who are hard workers," Bailey said. "That starts in the classroom and leaks out onto the baseball field.”

Anderson is a dedicated and personable student, said Gail Baggett, DPT, Physical Therapy Manager with Oregon State Student Health Services and instructor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

There are less rigorous degrees to pursue if someone wants an easier path. Students spend more than 100 hours in clinical observation. And baseball puts even greater time pressure on student-athletes with its road-game series and extended season.

Baggett has helped Anderson prepare to apply for PT school. He shadowed her in the clinic.

One of the things he does well is motivate people when they have an injury or setback.

“Through conversation, he helps them shift their thinking over from all they things they can’t do to highlighting the progress they’ve made,” Baggett said.

Anderson said he’s thankful to have another year to play for Oregon State. He’s ready for an opportunity to continue to play beyond college. He’s equally prepared to start physical therapy school when he graduates in 2018.

“No matter what he does, he’s going to be successful,” Bailey said. “He’s going to go at it with everything he’s got.”