A normal day at the synagogue and my phone gets a text from an unknown number. It was John Anderson and he is looking to catch on with Team Israel Baseball Olympics. I have played a small supportive role with the team and I was happy to help John. Good guy who is very dedicated to the game of baseball and maybe more importantly (for TGR readers) he is trying to help Israel qualify for the Olympics.
1) Tell the TGR readers about yourself.
I grew up in a suburb of the San Francisco Bay Area and fell in love with baseball at a young age. I idolized players like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, and would always try to mimic their swings while playing wiffle ball in the yard. I never found much success playing in my youth, but I had a strong passion for the game. Throughout Little League and High School, I had always played at a level below kids my age. It wasn’t until I walked-on at my local Junior College, that I had the drive to better myself as an athlete. I began to excel in college and was selected by the Blue Jays in the MLB Draft in 2008.
2) You got drafted by the Blue Jays. What was that experience like? Are the Big Leagues still the main goal? Where will you be playing this year and what are you aspirations with your new team?
The Blue Jays organization was like a family to me. I spent 9 years with the team and I cherished every moment of it. I had a great relationship with the entire staff, front office, and players. I’m entering my third season in the Independent Atlantic League, and I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had in my professional career. The past 2 years I’ve been with the Lancaster Barnstormers in Central Pennsylvania. Most players are similar to me, they’ve played at a high level and have a strong desire to win. The minor leagues stresses development, and more times than not you are competing against your teammates with hopes of reaching the Major Leagues. At the Independent level, the individual main goal is to try to sign with an MLB team. Those are still my aspirations, but I’m just grateful I’ve still been able to play at a high level at 30 years old.
3) You are hoping to play in the 2020 Olympics with Israel. What led you to want to be a part of the team?
I first learned about the 2020 Olympics through my teammate Blake Gailen. He competed in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and I was awestruck at the stage they competed on. Being able to represent your heritage on a global level piqued my interest. I got in touch with the General Manager of Israel Baseball and began my application for Aliyah.
4) Would you rather face Sandy Koufax as a hitter or pitch to Hank Greenberg from the mound?
While both were well before my era of baseball, I’d rather face neither! My father grew up in Los Angeles in the 50’s and 60’s and was able to see Koufax many times at the Dodger Stadium. I read his biography “A Lefty’s Legacy” in school and really began to understand how dominant he was in his shortened career. Greenberg was such a prolific hitter in the 30’s and 40’s, but I trust my skill as a pitcher rather than my hitting. I’d close my eyes, but I’d rather face Greenberg.
5) What was your Jewish upbringing like?
My grandmother on my father’s side of the family taught me about the Hebrew Bible when I was young. We celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. She passed away in 2004, and it hit me very hard. She was the kindest and most gentle grandmother I could ask for.
6) What does life after baseball look like for you?
I’m undecided on which path I want to take after baseball. I’ve devoted the past 2 decades to my love of the game, and I’d love to stay in it one way or another. I have a passion for teaching youth pitching, so I’d be thrilled to join a coaching staff.
7) Where can fans find you on social media? Anything else we should know?
You can find me on Twitter at @J0hnnyAnderson and I started a podcast with my teammate Scott Shuman titled “The Players League.” It can be found on your favorite podcast app and iTunes.