BEMIDJI – Simon Anderson will be a senior when North Dakota State University resumes its baseball season next spring, but the former Bemidji Lumberjack hopes that his career will extend beyond his collegiate days.
“I’d like to play baseball until somebody tells me that I can’t,” Anderson said. “Baseball is a sport I love and my ultimate goal is to take the next step, which is pro ball.”
The past two summers the 2009 Bemidji High School graduate has played for the Walla Walla (Washington) Sweets of the West Coast League.
The level of play in the West Coast League is similar to low Class A and many players use this experience as a springboard to professional baseball.
“I have faced many guys in this league who have been drafted by the pros or who will be drafted,” Anderson, who is a closer with the Sweets, said. “You face Division I guys on every team. You face guys from USC, Oregon, Hawaii and many of the other Division I programs on the West Coast.”
An assistant coach with the Sweets spent seven years in the minor leagues and he compared the Sweets’ schedule and competition to the minor leagues.
“In terms of playing every day, the teams we face, the long road trips and the routine, he said this reminds him of his time in the minors,” Anderson said.
“But the trips are nothing new. When you play for NDSU you get accustomed to the long bus rides.”
Anderson’s road to Walla Walla began two years ago when his pitching coach at NDSU was contacted by Sweets officials who were wondering if he knew of any players who would be able to contribute.
Anderson was one of the players who was recommended and that summer he headed west.
Players have three years of eligibility but they cannot play past their college graduation. As a result, Anderson officially is a graduate of the West Coast League.
Anderson was a closer with the Sweets. This summer he pitched 18.2 innings in 16 appearances and compiled a 4.82 ERA. Anderson went 1-0, earned three saves, struck out 15 and walked seven.
As a Lumberjack Anderson was the team’s ace and when he wasn’t pitching he played centerfield. The NDSU coaches want him solely as a pitcher and his role with the Bison is to be the late set-up man who works the seventh and eighth innings.
Sweets management took that relief role a step further as the coaches used Anderson in a closing role.
Anderson enjoys all three jobs and believes that he has benefitted from each.
“I was a starter in high school but when I pitched in college I found out that I was a bit timid,” Anderson admitted. “But at Walla Walla I developed the bulldog attitude. My role is to be a closer and it’s a role that is fun to fill.
“Being a closer takes a special kind of person,” Anderson continued. “It’s tough to sit for two hours and start warming up in the eighth inning. But when I do go on the mound I use the adrenaline as fuel.”
Last spring Anderson had a memorable year at NDSU, posting a 2-1 record and a 1.83 ERA in 39.1 innings over 25 appearances. He fanned 25 and walked only nine and opponents managed a puny .242 batting average against him.
Anderson is anxious to return for his senior season and help the Bison build upon last season’s 40-20 record.
“NDSU has a great program,” Anderson said. “The staff has put the work ethic into me. They make you want to work out every day to get better.
“And if you have a goal you must continue to work because there is always somebody around who wants to take your spot.”
How long Anderson will be able to play baseball remains to be seen but he hopes to extend his career as long as he can.
“I’m taking things day-by-day,” he said. “I know I have to have other options such as school and getting a job. But I don’t think it hurts to dream.”