Major League Baseball named its individual trophy winners this week,
which makes it an appropriate time to acknowledge the breakout season
put together by Chicago White Sox star Tim Anderson and the pivotal
role that East Central Community College played in his journey to the
No Mississippi college or prep product in the majors had a better 2019
season than Anderson, who won the American League batting title and a
league player of the month award and was on track for an All-Star Game
spot before an injury tripped him up. The 26-year-old shortstop, in
his fourth big league campaign, was also the White Sox’s nominee for
the Roberto Clemente Award, which honors a player for character,
community involvement and positive contributions on and off the field.
Anderson batted .335, becoming the first Mississippi-connected player
to win a batting title since Dave Parker in 1978 and only the fourth
ever to claim one. He also hit 18 home runs, drove in 56 runs, stole
17 bases and scored 81 runs despite missing roughly a month with a
mid-summer ankle injury.
“He is, if not a star now, a star in the making. I think everybody can
recognize that as being real,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria told
nbcsports.com/chicago just after the season ended.
No one is prouder of Anderson than East Central CC coach Neal
Holliman, who recruited him to Decatur back in 2011 and stays in close
touch, attending a few White Sox games each year. Holliman is a
central figure in Anderson’s athletic career, and ECCC is where
Anderson’s path made a dramatic turn. In a relatively short amount of
time, he went from a high school basketball court in Tuscaloosa, Ala.,
to the infield at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.
Holliman said he first heard of Anderson about 10 years ago when he
visited Hillcrest High in Tuscaloosa to scout another player. “The
coach there, Todd Agee, told me his best player wasn’t there that day,
he was in basketball practice,” Holliman recalled. “I got Tim’s
number, called him and started to develop a relationship with him. I
told him, ‘I’ll come see you when you get back to baseball.’”
In the first game Holliman saw him play, Anderson hit two home runs.
An all-state player as a 6-foot-1 guard in basketball, Anderson led
Hillcrest to a state championship as a senior in 2010-11. He had some
basketball scholarship offers, but ECCC was the only school seriously
pursuing him as a baseball player.
“We were recruiting more against basketball than against any other
school,” Holliman said. “His decision was really, ‘Which sport do I
want to play?’ He picked the right one.”
Anderson was not a polished hitter when he arrived at ECCC in the fall
of 2011 – and he wasn’t a shortstop.
“He was a good athlete. He could hit and he could run,” Holliman said.
“But we didn’t know he could play shortstop. He played second base and
center field in high school. We had never seen him turn it loose with
his arm before he got here.”
Anderson was penciled in to play second base as a freshman for the
Warriors in 2012, but a short time before the season opener, the
starting shortstop developed a case of the yips.
“He couldn’t throw the ball across the diamond,” Holliman recalled.
“One day, we called him and Tim in and told them we wanted to make a
switch. Tim didn’t want to go to shortstop. He said he hadn’t played
there since seventh or eighth grade. But we convinced him to try the
switch, and the rest is history.”
Holliman also helped Anderson make some adjustments in his swing. “We
tell all of our players when we start working with them that we want
them to be great,” the coach said. “But we really felt like Tim had
first-round (MLB draft) ability.
“He showed continued growth while he was here, week to week almost.
We’d see him do something, and we’d say, ‘He didn’t do that last
In June 2013 – after two brilliant seasons at ECCC that included a
state championship and a strong showing in the summer Jayhawk League
in between – Anderson became a first-round pick, going 17th overall to
the White Sox. Anderson attended the draft ceremony at MLB Network’s
studio in New Jersey and donned a White Sox jersey on national TV.
He quickly moved through Chicago’s minor league system. He made his
Double-A debut for Birmingham at Trustmark Park in Pearl in 2014 and
banged out three hits in his first game and 10 hits, including a home
run, in the five-game series against the Mississippi Braves. Two years
after that, on June 10, 2016, he made his big league debut. He batted
.283 with nine home runs and 10 steals in 99 games that season. In
2017, banking on Anderson’s potential as their regular shortstop, the
White Sox signed him to a six-year, $25 million contract.
This past season, Anderson may finally have blossomed, though he still
has work to do on his defense. He makes spectacular plays but too many
errors, leading the league with 26. His outspokenness and
demonstrative bat flips also garnered attention this season.
Holliman said Anderson was very quiet and reserved during his time at
ECCC and isn’t as cocky as some might perceive. After a close friend
died tragically in 2017, Anderson started a youth-focused charity in
Chicago and vowed to have more fun on the field, even if that meant
breaking some of the game’s unwritten rules.
“Everything I said, I went out and did it. Everything I said, I went
out and showed you guys,” he told nbcsports.com/chicago after last
The batting title is especially significant, even in this stat-heavy
era in which so much attention is paid to WAR, OPS+, hard-hit rate and
the like. Myriad Hall of Famers own batting titles: Honus Wagner, Ty
Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Willie
Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Rod Carew and Wade Boggs, to name a
“It’s an unbelievable accomplishment,” Holliman said. “He was
disappointed about not making the All-Star Game, but like I told him,
a batting title is a bigger deal. Lots of guys make an All-Star team.
But a batting title, that’s hard to get.”