PCHS grad hopes to top freshman season with Utes | ParkRecord.com

PCHS grad hopes to top freshman season with Utes

Anderson is slated to start in left field as a sophomore

Park City High School graduate and University of Utah baseball player Chandler Anderson slides into third base in a game against Arizona last season. Anderson will look to have a bigger impact in his second year with the Utes.

Former Park City High School and current University of Utah baseball player Chandler Anderson saw one of his collegiate dreams come true on May 29 of last year. He was a seldom-used freshman for the Utes and didn't even see the field that day last spring when his team played host to Washington for the Pac-12 Championship.

In the end, the Utes put together 21 runs en route to a win, earning the program's first Pac-12 title since joining back in 2011-12. The championship was that much sweeter for Anderson and company, considering Utah was picked to finish in last place prior to the season's start, like it had the previous four seasons.

"We believed earlier than everyone else did," Anderson said. "No one saw us doing what we did until we dog piled against Washington, but I believe as a team, we saw it earlier in the season when something clicked. As a team, we just acquired a new sense of confidence."

Anderson's role in the Pac-12 Championship season was almost never meant to be. The Park City native was one of the state's top prospects, batting .527 as a senior with three home runs, 13 doubles, 11 triples and 35 RBI while recording 24 stolen bases. From his sophomore year on as a Miner, he never finished a season with a batting average below .450.

Anderson had a number of collegiate offers when he was nearing graduation in 2015. Pretty much every in-state program was interested, but that interest expanded to places such as Stetson University in Florida. The opportunities were there for Anderson to put himself in the best situation possible moving forward.

Of those opportunities, an offer from the University of Utah didn't seem like the greatest fit. Before last season, the Utes were cellar dwellers, compiling 94 losses in the first four seasons spent in the Pac-12. Salt Lake City wasn't exactly the most attractive place for talented prospects though playing in the Conference of Champions is enticing.

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"Those were things that we talked through with [Anderson] quite a bit," former PCHS Head Coach Lou Green said.

Despite his initial concerns, Anderson still committed to the school that is a half-hour down the canyon from his hometown. And it's worked out for him so far.

In his freshman season, he made appearances in 34 games, while starting in five of them. He only gathered 32 at-bats, with a modest .188 batting average. He wasn't the focal point of this Utah team that surprised everyone by winning a Pac-12 title, but the fact that he had any role as a freshman is impressive, Green said.

Moving into his second year in the program, Anderson is expected to have more of a role. Utah Head Coach Bill Kinneberg has him slated as the starting left fielder heading into the season, which starts on Friday with a three-game series on the road against CSU Bakersfield.

"There are very few freshmen who even get a chance to play in the Pac-12, much less play for the Pac-12 champion," Green said. "To be able to start for the defending Pac-12 champion as a sophomore out of small 3A Park City High School, again it's just a testament to what kind of athlete he is.

"You don't get guys like him very often."

Heading into his sophomore campaign with an expanded role, Anderson is up to the task. He knows he has things to work on, including not taking any pitches for granted at the plate and being a member of the self-proclaimed best outfield in the Pac-12, but his rise to a starting position at Utah was not by mistake.

"You knew he was the type of kid that when we were doing his recruiting, that wherever he went, he was going to fit in well just because the type of teammate and young man and worker and student that he was," Green said.

Time will tell if Utah will be able to defend its title, but it'll be hard for Anderson to top what he experienced his freshman season in terms of team success.

From finishing the season as a Pac-12 champion to getting the chance to extend the season by participating in a NCAA Tournament Regional game at Ole Miss, a traditional SEC powerhouse, Anderson had the experiences that many ballplayers covet throughout their careers.

However, the Parkite hopes his work as a Ute isn't done just yet.

"Oh, it does get much better than a Pac-12 Championship," Anderson said. "We got a taste of what it's like to play in front of 12,000 fans. That's what we're going back for. The conference [title] was great, but this year, our eyes are set above that.

"[We've] got to get better now. Don't settle for a Pac-12 Championship and just go for that next step. [We want to] win the [College] World Series."