Meridian Star

Sports

June 6, 2014

West’s Anderson goes on first day

COLLINSVILLE — West Lauderdale High School senior catcher Blake Anderson helped lead the Knights to their 13th state championship in school history last month.

On Thursday, Anderson added to his successful campaign, as the high-profiled catcher was taken No. 36 overall in Competitive Balance Round A of the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft by the Miami Marlins.

“This is defintely a blessing,” Anderson said. “This is a kid’s dream. Growing up playing baseball, it’s what every kid dreams about. It’s just an amazing experience.”

Anderson, a Southern Miss signee, took in the good news in Destin, Fla., while on a senior trip with his fellow high school teammates.

“The whole senior group from our team is here,” he said. “We’ve played years and years together growing up, and to share this moment with them is just really amazing.”

Thursday’s selection came as somewhat of a surprise to the Anderson family, as the Collinsville native was expected to go in rounds two through four.

“We were expecting him to be drafted (today),” said Neal Anderson, Blake’s father. “For him to be drafted in round one is just amazing.”

Yet to West coach Jerry Boatner, Thursday’s selection came as no shock.

“I’m not surprised,” Boatner said of Anderson getting picked so high. “He has everything you’re looking for: great size, a great arm, great strength and speed.”

Anderson was the first player from Mississippi to be taken in the draft, and while that’s bound to bring good publicity to West Lauderdale, Boatner said the day was more about Anderson’s individual accomplishments.

“It’s just a great feeling for the whole coaching staff and community,” Boatner said. “People have always talked about how good he is and what a great kid he is.”

In 2013, Anderson compiled a .420 average with five home runs. In his last season at West Lauderdale, Anderson was even more dominant as the backstop registered a .438 average and recorded team-highs in home runs (eight) and RBI (40).

“Blake’s a special young man,” said Neal Anderson, Blake’s father. “He matured really quickly and worked extremely hard to get here.”

Anderson learned the value of hard work at a young as he traveled around the country in the summer, competing against some of the best high schoolers from around the nation. Anderson was a member of the East Cobb Astros as a 16-year-old, who finished as the No. 1 travel ball team in the country that year under coach Guerry Baldwin.

“Blake’s been blessed to play on some great travel ball teams,” Neal said. “He learned what it would take to improve game.”

Boatner said the greatest thrill he gets from coaching is seeing his players make it to the next level, whether in college or professionally. He pointed to Anderson’s work ethic — Anderson spent the previous two summers in Georgia honing his skills — as the reason he developed into a player good enough to be taken in day one of the MLB Draft.

“I know how hard he’s worked,” the coach said. “It gives me chills just thinking about it. He deserves it; he’s paid his dues. I don’t know many kids that stay gone for two summers playing ball.”

Anderson is also the son of Crissy Anderson.

“I couldn’t do anything without God,” Blake said. “He’s been there for me through all my ups and downs. My parents have been absolutely great to me. They took me all around the country growing up playing baseball. And my high school coaches taught me a lot about the game of baseball.”

Drew Kerekes contributed to this report.

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