It takes some big-league pitchers their entire careers to learn how to overcome adversity. California's Brian Anderson got that lesson in less than 12 hours.
Anderson, a rookie left-hander who will start for the California Angels in tonight's series finale against the Orioles, got a call-up notice from the Angels' Triple-A affiliate in Vancouver, British Columbia, on April 9, and was told to show up in Milwaukee for the next day's game.
Anderson's route was to take him to Milwaukee through connections in Seattle and Denver, a nice plan, except the flight from Seattle to Denver was late and he missed the flight to Milwaukee.
"I had nowhere to go. I didn't know what to do," said Anderson.
So, the 21-year-old from Geneva, Ohio, did the next best thing: He flew into Minneapolis, arranging an early flight into Milwaukee. Anderson got into the hotel in Minnesota at 2:30 a.m. and left a 5:45 a.m. wake-up call, but not with the hotel's front desk, but with his mother in Ohio.
Anderson caught the 7:30 a.m. flight, arrived in Milwaukee at 9:15 a.m. and bypassed the Angels' hotel for County Stadium, where he pitched at 1 p.m.
The kicker is that Anderson got his first professional win, blanking the Brewers for 8 1/3 innings. "You can't beat that," said Anderson, who has a 1-0 record and a 1.88 ERA.
The Milwaukee tale is one of several that is making the rounds about Anderson, who is five days short of his 22nd birthday, and had a grand total of 30 innings of professional pitching experience before he was called to replace the injured Mark Langston on the Angels' roster.
One of the more popular stories is about his second start last Friday, vs. the two-time defending champion Toronto Blue Jays in Anaheim.
Anderson, who left in the sixth, leading 6-3, hit Toronto's Roberto Alomar on the arm with a pitch. Alomar began to stare at the rookie as he headed to first.
Anderson did not cower, but actually began to move toward first himself, and the two had to be separated.
The confrontation was overshadowed by the Angels' miraculous comeback from a 13-6 ninth-inning deficit to tie and eventually win the game 14-13, but the story is illustrative of Anderson's self confidence, a rare quality for someone so young.
"I don't know why that is and I know that [high confidence] shouldn't be, but I've always been a real confident person," said Anderson. "What really helped me was coming up last year. I took some time after the season to think about it and when you look at it, they're hitters and you can get them."
Anderson, who was 0-0 with a 3.97 ERA in four appearances with the Angels last September, will admit that his path to the majors has been a short one.
Last April, Anderson was finishing his third year at Wright State University in Ohio, where he was 28-8 with four saves and a 2.23 ERA in 46 games.
Now, he's in the big leagues.
"I mean, this time last year I was pitching against college guys," said Anderson. "The game's the same. You get three strikes, but it's different how we get those strikes. The hardest part is behind me, just getting into this without hurting anybody."
Anderson's manager, Buck Rodgers, is clearly impressed with what he's seen from the brash youngster, but would like to see more before he pronounces him a star.
"I would say he's pitched very nicely, but I won't say he's gotten over his college habits," said Rodgers. "Eddie Bane [a left-hander who made his first appearance with Minnesota in 1973, at the age of 21, but was out of the majors three years later] is the closest to Anderson I've seen at this stage, but he didn't have the stuff that he [Anderson] has."
And certainly not the chutzpah.