Anderson pays tribute to father with every start
Rookie right-hander draws father's initials in dirt behind mound before first inning
Chase Anderson's father, Robert, never got to see his son pitch in the Major Leagues. But in ways both big and small, Anderson makes sure his dad is out there on the mound with him each time he takes the ball for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
When Anderson takes the mound in the first inning of each of his starts, he draws his father's initials in the dirt at the back of the mound, along with those of his two grandmothers who also have passed away.
Anderson was called up to the big leagues in early May, and he made his Major League debut on May 11 against the White Sox.
Anderson knows his dad would have loved to have been there for it, but unfortunately Robert passed away March 19, 2012.
"He was just a great person," Anderson said. "He treated everybody right. he was a hard worker and he instilled a work ethic in me at a young age. I didn't always have the most talent, but he told me that I could achieve great things if I worked hard at it."
It was Robert who was there for Anderson after an injury-plagued 2011 season.
"That offseason, I went home after instructional league and we had about four months where we did everything together," Anderson said. "We went fishing, we did yard work together. It was just me and him in his big old house in Arkansas. I look back now and I'm very thankful for that time with him. It was special, because in some way, it was closure for me. It's something I can look back on."
Anderson is especially thankful for a conversation he had with his dad in November or December that year after the two had dinner at their home. Anderson cleared the dishes and his father asked him to come sit back down so they could talk.
"It was kind of awkward," Anderson said. "And when I sat back down, he said, 'You know when I'm not around here, you're the man. I raised you the right way and you have to go about things. Don't feel sorry for me, just live your life and do the right thing and try to achieve your goals.' It was a pretty crazy conversation. I mean, I look back now and I figure that subconsciously, he must have known something was going on with himself."
Robert spent a week with Anderson at Spring Training in 2012 before heading back to Arkansas on March 17. Two days later, Anderson got the news that his dad had died. The news hit him hard, but Anderson used it as motivation to help turn his career around after the disappointments of 2011.
Anderson compiled a 2.86 ERA in 21 starts for Double-A Mobile, helping to lead his team to the Southern League championship. Then, he excelled in the Arizona Fall League, which led to the D-backs adding Anderson to the 40-man roster.
"It inspired me more just knowing that he was up there," Anderson said of his dad. "In the back of my head, I could hear his voice, 'Stay focused, stay focused, keep working hard and you can achieve great things in your life.' It was definitely very motivating and inspiring."
Win or lose, Anderson would always get text messages from his dad after his starts, and it took a while after his dad's death to remember not to look for those messages.
Still, he does feel like Robert is with him. That was especially the case earlier this month in his start against the Rockies.
"I really felt my dad's presence in Denver when I walked the leadoff batter Charlie Blackmon," Anderson said. "I could hear him giving me a kick in the butt and saying, 'Let's go, boy.' In Little League, he would stand behind the fence and kind of point to his head to remind me to stay focused when I would go through some trouble. I could feel his presence that day in Denver."
Through five starts for the D-backs, Anderson is 5-0, with a 3.14 ERA and 22 strikeouts.
As Father's Day rolls around, Anderson knows that the day will be tough for him.
"It's still a pretty emotional day for me, because I always tried to do something cool for him on Father's Day," Anderson said. "Now he's not here, so it's just a day that I've got to think that he's here next to me, but obviously he's up in heaven. So it's just a tough day."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.