BY MICHAEL KELLY
All summer, Ian Anderson has traveled around the United States, daring the country’s best prep baseball players to take their hacks against his 94 mph fastball. Some swung, others looked — but the end result was usually the same: an umpire signaling Anderson’s latest punchout.
Now, the 17-year-old from Rexford is about to get the chance to show off his stuff on the international level. Anderson, a rising senior at Shenendehowa who is committed to Vanderbilt University, was selected Wednesday to the USA Baseball 18U national team after the conclusion of several rounds of tryouts.
“I can’t even speak right now,” said Anderson, fresh off autographing more than 1,000 USA Baseball cards with his likeness that will be sold to raise money for the team’s upcoming travel. “This is just crazy.”
Anderson’s final tryout finished up Wednesday in Fullerton, Calif., with a game in which the right-handed pitcher recorded five strikeouts in two scoreless innings. Anderson, who has established himself this summer as a Top-Five prospect in the Class of 2016, is one of 20 players to make up this year’s USA Baseball 18U national team.
“We’re very proud, very excited,” said his father Bob Anderson, who won a state championship coaching the Schalmont baseball team. “This is unbelievable.”
The 18U national team will play in the 2015 WBSC 18U Baseball World Cup in Japan, which starts Aug. 27. Before that tournament, Ian Anderson will head with Team USA to Taiwan for a series of exhibition games that start Aug. 24. He said the team will leave the United States this weekend, and he will remain out in California until then to take part in workouts with the team.
Through the tryout process, Anderson said he has grown close with his now-Team USA teammates. He listed that aspect of his incredible summer as the most special part.
“All the new people I’ve met, the new friends I’ve made,” said Anderson, whose twin brother Ben Anderson recently committed to pitch in college for Binghamton University. “I’ve met some of the best players from all over the country, and it’s been really great to interact with them and become close with some of those guys.”
The Team USA selection capped a wild five-day stretch for Ian Anderson, which started Saturday when he was named the Baseball America Pitcher of the Year at the Perfect Game All-American Classic Awards Banquet at the San Diego Hall of Champions. A day later, Anderson competed in Perfect Game’s all-star showcase game, striking out two while tossing a scoreless inning in a contest featuring the country’s top prep players that was shown on the MLB Network.
Despite all that, Anderson said he was still worried he might get cut Wednesday.
“I was nervous,” he said. “It’s always nerve-wracking going into a situation like that. You always hope for the best, but you don’t know what other people are thinking.”
During his 2015 high school season, Anderson went 6-1 with a 0.66 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 531⁄3 innings across 11 appearances. Nationally, he was an American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings High School All-America third-team selection; locally, he was recognized as the Suburban Council Pitcher of the Year.
Plainsmen head coach Greg Christodulu said he was thrilled, but not surprised, to see Anderson — whom the coach called the “face of Shenendehowa baseball” back in June — earn his spot on the Team USA roster.
“Honestly, I thought he had a chance,” Christodulu said. “He’s thrown so well this summer. He’s been having good bullpens when he’s been home, and he’s stayed right with his throwing program.”
To make Team USA, Anderson had to go through tryouts in California and North Carolina. When not competing for an 18U roster spot, Anderson kept busy this summer playing with the Clifton Park Knights, which played a showcase schedule featuring tournaments in Georgia and Virginia.
All that travel has created a whirlwind of a summer for Anderson, and he said he has loved every minute of it.
“I’ve been able to enjoy it all,” Anderson said. “I’ve been able to spend quality time with my family and friends, too, and I’ve reflected on the experiences I’ve had so far — and I’m looking forward to the future.”