By John Frierson
Three times this season, Georgia center fielder ben anderson has led off a Bulldogs baseball game with a home run. He was the first player in program history to do it on opening day, he did it once during the three-game sweep of Florida, and Anderson did it again last Tuesday night in the No. 16-ranked Bulldogs’ 16-1 throttling of Georgia State at Foley Field.
After hitting four homers all of last season as the everyday center fielder, and none in 54 at-bats during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Anderson has seven so far this spring. Anderson’s increased power output — he also has four doubles, four triples and a .491 slugging percentage — hasn’t come at the expense of his primary role: getting on base. He’s drawn a team-high 31 walks and is batting .288.
A graduate student from LaGrange, Ga., Anderson already has a degree in biochemistry and plans to go to medical school when he’s done with baseball. During a recent Quick Chat, he talked about homers, walkup music, baseball movies, superstitions, his interest in medicine, and much more. Here’s some of what he had to say:
Frierson: What does it feel like to lead off a game with a home run?
Anderson: As a leadoff, I feel like my role is to get on base. I think a leadoff home run is kind of the best thing as a leadoff hitter that you can do because you set the tone for your team, and you get a run in the first inning. That’s the goal, to score runs, so if you can just by yourself score a run when you lead off the game, it just gives your team that momentum and that much more positive energy to start the game. It’s awesome.
Frierson: When you’re a leadoff batter, do you think more about your walkup music? Do you think much about your walk-up music at all?
Anderson: I think about it — I think just listening to it gets me relaxed and focused on the at-bat. It lets me focus, relax and get ready to start the game.
This season I’m doing “Father Stretch My Hands” by Kanye West. I just like the beat of it, the flow of it, and it’s the music I like to listen to.
Frierson: What is your favorite baseball movie?
Anderson: I like “The Rookie” — that’s a good one. It’s the one with Dennis Quaid and he returns to pitching after a long time. That’s a good one.
Frierson: Out of all the sports, why does baseball seem to generate the most really good movies?
Anderson: I think it’s because it’s such a team sport and there’s that team camaraderie and everything. I think you get at the sense of that watching those movies. Not everyone growing up gets to feel that, but once you see it and feel it then you see how special it is.
Frierson: How are you in the kitchen — can you cook?
Anderson: I can cook. I wouldn’t say I can cook a ton of stuff, but I’m good at cooking breakfast foods like eggs, bacon, pancakes. I’m a big pasta and grilled chicken guy, I like to grill chicken and have some pastry with it. That’s the main stuff I know how to cook.
Frierson: It seems like baseball players tend to be more superstitious than other athletes — or at least we hear more about them being superstitious. Are you superstitious? Is this a superstitious team?
Anderson: I would say there are definitely some superstitious guys on the team. I definitely have my superstitions: I tuck my shoelaces the same way, me and Connor Tate pretty much at a certain time before every game, we go and do our sprints together at the same time. We do two of them every time and that’s just our superstition before every game.
I think you find one or two things that every time you do them you play well or the team does well, and then you keep doing it. I think it kind of gets your mind away from the repetition of so many games, and it’s fun.
Frierson: I know you’ve graduated with a degree in biochemistry and plan to go to med school after you’re finished playing baseball. When did you know you wanted to study medicine?
Anderson: I started thinking about it when I was growing. My sister is older than me and she just graduated from medical school, and I kind of want to follow her in her footsteps. My parents also had a few friends that were in the medicine world and I’ve heard them talk about their work. It just interested me as a kid and I thought it was something that I wanted to do.
Frierson: Who was the first player you really looked up to and tried to emulate?
Anderson: When I was a kid, one of my best friends, we were both left-handed hitters and we really liked Ichiro Suzuki. He was the one that I’ve tried to emulate; also, growing up and being a Braves fan, Freddie Freeman was someone that I really liked the way he hit and his approach to everything. Those were probably the two biggest influences on me.
(This Q&A was lightly edited for length and clarity.)
Assistant Sports Communications Director John Frierson is the staff writer for the UGA Athletic Association and curator of the ITA Men’s Tennis Hall of Fame. You can find his work by him at: Frierson Files. He’s also on Twitter: @FriersonFiles and @ITAHallofFame.