As Anderson focuses on his game, fans focus on him long, hot summer


July 06, 1992|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Staff Writer

Here's the story

Of a man named Brady

Who had some so-so seasons with the Os

He was fast on base and in the outfield

But his bat could be oh-so cold.

Till this one year, when things fell right into place

And he grew his sideburns long and dark

He pumped up, he got his head on straight

And that's how he now hits them out the park.

The last time a Brady was this popular, so were bell bottoms.

But, in fact, it's not "The Brady Bunch" but a much more of-the-moment show from which Orioles left fielder Brady Anderson seems to have sprung.

"He looks like '90210,' " raved Kayleigh Waller, 12, who at a recent game with her sister, Jenny, 16, and their friend Aime Bauer, 16, would hold up signs identifying themselves as "The Brady Bunch" and announcing, "We * Brady," whenever he runs back to his outfield position in front of their seats.

You see them all over the park, the "Beverly Hills 90210" generation, who just loooooove Brady -- not just for his Luke Perry-like sideburns, but for his high tops, his smile, his walk, his major 'tude.

"You can always tell which one he is by the way he walks," Aime said.

"He has a little strut," Jenny observed.

The Brady phenomenon circa 1992 extends beyond pubescent hearts, of course. Sports Illustrated, "This Week in Baseball" and any number of other media heat-seekers have discovered the Orioles' leadoff man. Even political columnist and Orioles' groupie George Will has taken note, faxing to congratulate him on his fast start and tell him that when he comes home from work these days, his son greets him not with the usual "What's for dinner" but this credo: "Brady is God."

Anderson's stats to date this season have certainly approached godliness -- he leads the club in runs scored, runs batted in, homers, doubles, triples and stolen bases -- especially considering that they came after 3 1/2 on-again-off-again seasons that made this year perhaps his last shot at remaining in the bigs.

But Anderson's star quality goes beyond the numbers. He is, Evening Sun columnist Ken Rosenthal recently wrote, one of the "two coolest guys in baseball, if not the entire planet." (The other is Anderson's pal, roommate this past winter and former Oriole, Rene "Gonzo" Gonzales.)

Indeed, Anderson is cool in that quintessentially California way, trim and muscular at the same time, funny in an offhand way (ask him who he voted for in '88 and he says, "Let's see, Cal Ripken at short . . .") and terminally boyish.

"That's one of the things about baseball -- it allows you to stay in a sort of college life," says Anderson, 28, who left the University of California-Irvine after being drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1985.

On this particular day, before the team left for the weekend series in Minneapolis, his condominium is abuzz with his visiting family readying to return to Poway, Calif., (a suburb of San Diego where Anderson grew up); another visitor, childhood friend Troy Mills, --ing off to do errands; and the phone ringing every couple of minutes. Yet Anderson is his characteristically laid-back self.

Meticulous to a fault

What passes for laid-back, though, may actually be the calm of a highly meticulous person. Anderson admits to a slight obsessiveness: the kind that compels you to actually hang up your T-shirts and arrange them by colors in a perfect rainbow (mostly white and the blue-green spectrum that favors his eyes). And line up the components to your Oakley sunglasses in perfectly straight rows. And keep your refrigerator stocked not with the expected jock supplies of beer and dead pizza but juice, yogurt and fresh pasta.

"It sounds so corny, but he knows who he is and what he wants to do,"

said Mills, a friend since ninth grade who works in sports marketing. "He is very focused."

He had to be -- Anderson wasn't an eagerly anticipated Ben McDonald sort, instead getting picked up in the 10th round of the draft. He was smallish, by pro athlete standards (5-11, 140 pounds as a high school senior; 6-0, 168 pounds in college), but began lifting weights, working on his speed and benefiting from some late growth to achieve his current 6-1, 185-pound dimensions.

The secret to his success this year, he believes, is a combination of his physical regimen -- he works out after the games, staying late at the park after others have left -- as well as some newfound mental toughness.

"Mentally, I wasn't ready to play every day before," he says. "You can't have a good season unless you're willing to go out there and hurt a little sometimes."

In his very spare time, Anderson doesn't watch much TV (he's never even seen the much alluded to "90210") but prefers movies, especially old classics. He likes to play basketball, work out with decathletes in the winter and play Trivial Pursuit.

Unlike many other players, he lives in the city rather than out in the county -- in an Inner Harbor

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