During my 23 years covering high school and youth sports in the Capital Region, I’ve watched my fair share of runs, hits, errors, buzzer-beating shots, state and national titles.
That all comes with the job.
I’ve been fortunate, though, to stick around long enough in this profession — and that, in itself, is never guaranteed or predictable — to witness, and cover, something that’ll always stick with me.
There, on the YES Network as I watched last week, was Ian Anderson in an Atlanta Braves uniform, pitching against the New York Yankees in his MLB debut. The former Shenendehowa High School star struck out six in six innings of one-hit baseball, and made more than a few of the Yankees look awfully similar to Section II opponents when they had to match up against Anderson.
On Tuesday night, Anderson is scheduled to make his second career MLB start when the Braves play the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, and watching that game will likely be as surreal for me as watching last week’s debut.
Ian Anderson is now a 22-year-old MLB starter, but, to me, he’s still recognizable as the kid I first saw playing alongside his twin brother Ben Anderson, who now pitches in the minors, and lifelong friend Kevin Huerter, who now starts for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, when they were all 8 years old and playing for the Clifton Park Knights travel baseball team.
For each of those now-professional athletes, I am often credited with conducting their first interviews — and I credit Erin Huerter, Kevin’s mom, with the photo of that event. The boys were all shorter than me, while their manager, Tom Huerter Sr., stood taller than all of us.
Fast-forward, and I covered youth World Series appearances for that group, a state championship in basketball for Kevin Huerter at Shenendehowa, and a state championship as high school seniors in baseball for those former Knights.
A few days before that baseball state championship in 2016, I was at the watch party at Ravenswood Pub in Clifton Park to report as Ian Anderson became the No. 3 overall selection in that year’s MLB amateur draft. After that big moment in a packed restaurant, following Anderson for me has mostly been limited to Internet broadcasts and phone calls to his dad Bob Anderson.
Last Wednesday night, my interaction with Ian Anderson was during a Zoom press conference after his successful one-hit win against the Yankees. Anderson’s back-to-back 1-2-3 innings to start the game was a thrill to watch on my screen, especially as David Cone, the 1994 Cy Young Award winner, marveled at Anderson’s mechanics on the YES Network.
As I watched and listened from my home in Ballston Spa, I couldn’t help but think about how I used to cover this MLB pitcher. During Anderson’s younger days with the Knights, I could sit in the dugout, and I’d stroll out near the mound during warm-ups to take his photo.
At that age, the players really got a thrill out of being interviewed by the “Newspaper Man,” as I was called.
Now, I get the thrill.
I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan. Funny, but true. They played on Ted Turner’s “Superstation TBS,” one of five stations I was able to get on the family TV in the distant past of the early 1980s in Hancock.
Nowadays, I generally root for the Red Sox since my wife Reda is a die-hard Boston fan. I expect, though, that Reda will root for Anderson to have a great outing against her team, just as many Yankees fans in the Capital Region did last week.
As for me?
There is a rule that sports reporters follow: “No cheering in the press box.”
When it comes to Anderson, though, I no longer cover him from there.