Kodiak Daily Mirror - Former pro player returns home to coach
  
Former pro player returns home to coach
by Derek Clarkston
Jun 12, 2014 | 136 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Former Kodiak and professional baseball player Cliff Anderson hits a ball at a youth camp on Thursday, June 5 at Baranof Field. (Derek Clarkston photo)
Former Kodiak and professional baseball player Cliff Anderson hits a ball at a youth camp on Thursday, June 5 at Baranof Field. (Derek Clarkston photo)
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Cliff Anderson remembers the exact moment when his childhood dream became a reality.

He had just completed his senior year at Chapman University (California) and was sitting by the phone in his apartment when a scout from the Los Angeles Dodgers called Anderson to tell him he had been selected in the 39th round of the 1992 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.

The news transported Anderson back to playing on Coon Field in Kodiak where, at the age of 8, he told himself he was going to be a professional baseball player.

“There was tremendous amount of emotions — I had tears coming out of my eyes,” said Anderson during a recent clinic in Kodiak. “The first people that I called were my mom and dad.”

A few days later, Anderson was flown to extended spring training where he started his seven-year professional career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Anderson, who has eight siblings, spent all seven years in the minor leagues, making it as high as Triple A for two seasons.

Injuries forced the infielder — he played second, shortstop and third — to retire in 1998 with a career batting average of .263.

Anderson had an ankle reconstructed and shoulder and Tommy John surgery. He said he was just hitting the prime of his career when he decided to retire, but does not dwell on the multiple injuries that derailed his career.

“The biggest thing for me was to be able to compete at the highest level of baseball there is,” Anderson said.

Anderson is one of only four players from Kodiak to be drafted — Max Floyd, Dustin Krug and James Bailie are the others.

Anderson played in Kodiak when there was no high school team, but instead starred on Little League and American Legion squads. He was a member of many state title-winning teams, including the 1982 Major All-Star team that came close to advancing to the Little League World Series.

“They used to call us the Dominican Republic of Alaska … baseball was huge here and we were very good,” Anderson said.

He said he would spend hours at the ball field with his friends just hitting the ball around.

“We hit everyday,” Anderson said. “It didn’t matter if it was winter or not.”

The dedication paid off as Chapman University gave Anderson a full-ride athletic scholarship. During his time there, the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him, but he decided to stay in college.

Anderson is now married and has two daughters — ages 7 and 10. He lived in Fargo, North Dakota for five years while attending real estate appraisal school. He then relocated to Sitka where he has been working at Mt. Edgecumbe High School for the past six years where he coached boxing, basketball, volleyball and Native Youth Olympics.

He came back to Kodiak for the first time in six years this past winter. He got involved with the high school baseball program and stayed longer than he expected to. Anderson coached Kodiak in 2001 to a 4-7 record.

“I had a lot of fun working with these kids,” Anderson said. “Seeing them from where they began to the end of the season where they started understanding the game of baseball — they had skills, but starting to understand how the game is played.”

A few days after the season ended, Anderson conducted a three-day baseball clinic before heading back home to Sitka last week.

He isn’t sure when he will return back to the island, but hopes to come back to conduct a sports camp.

“Coming back to these kids, and knowing what they go through growing up in Kodiak, it gives me a lot of benefit to come out and teach the skills of baseball,” Anderson said.

Contact Derek Clarkston at sports@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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