GoTigersGo.com continues an introduction to the American Athletic Conference with Baseball
Dave Anderson enters his third season at the helm of the Tiger baseball program with a youthful, but talented squad. The Tigers have 15 newcomers to go with 16 returnees and it is a squad that has Anderson cautiously optimistic. "We have a chance to be a pretty good team," Anderson said. "We are young and have a lot of new faces, but it will be exciting to watch this team develop."
The talented core of sophomores and freshmen he has brought in over the past two years will make it easier to put a disappointing 2002 season behind him. Junior Josh Payne returns as one of the top upperclassmen while the underclassmen are led by C-USA All-Freshman team member Brent Dlugach. Payne and Dlugach are just a pair of the talented players Anderson has on his squad that he admits will make mistakes, but will also do some good things on the field. "We have brought in some great athletes the last two years and that is what it takes to get better," Anderson said.
The 2002 season was a stark contrast from Anderson's first one on the job. His team was riddled with injuries and a lack of depth was too much to overcome as the conference was full of talented teams in 2002. The result was a 20-31 campaign, but valuable lessons were learned on the road to rebuilding the Tiger Baseball program.
Anderson took over the program in 2000 after the Tigers had posted four losing seasons in the last five years and also a school-worst 15-37 showing one year prior to his arrival. Stocked with a team that resembled a near mirror image of the 2000 squad, the first-year skipper managed to squeeze out an amazing 34-24 finish and, following a one-year absence, notched the program's first-ever semi-final appearance at the C-USA postseason tournament.
Memphis' 26-game turnaround was the best in NCAA Division I during 2001. A major component for the Tigers' success was due to a high-powered offense which, under Anderson's guidance, finished the season ranked among the league's top four in home runs (70), RBI (361), slugging percentage (.457) and runs scored (387).
Anderson's first squad also produced three MLB Amateur Draft picks and an All-American and transformed the friendly confines of Nat Buring Stadium into a visitor's nightmare with Memphis posting an astounding 21-9 home record, compared with an 11-16 mark in 2000.
Following the 2000 season when Memphis opened the year with a 10-game losing skid, the Tigers' roared out of the gates in 2001 opening the campaign with six consecutive victories. Anderson chose to continue his legacy at the U of M after a six-year stint within the professional coaching ranks in the Detroit Tigers organization.
Originally signed as a quarterback for Memphis in 1978, Anderson made the switch to baseball in the spring of 1980 and under the guidance of former coach Bob Kilpatrick, he immediately took over as Memphis' shortstop and began his assault on the U of M record book. In just his first year, Anderson batted .397 and led his squad to the Metro Conference Tournament finals and 31-15 mark at season's end.
Despite an exciting freshman campaign, it was Anderson's final season in 1981 that earned him a spot among Memphis' all-time greats. During a dominant sophomore season, Anderson paced his Tiger club in hits (87), home runs (14), RBI (61) and runs scored (76) while his 39 stolen bases remain the highest single-season total ever for a Memphis player.
That same year, Anderson and his Tiger teammates posted a 48-11-1 mark and received a bid to the NCAA Tournament in Columbia, S.C. Memphis' 48 wins marked just the second time in the program's 33-year history that a Tiger team had totaled over 40 wins in a season.
Over a two-year span donning the blue and gray, Anderson's play helped lead the Tigers to an incredible 52-5 home mark, which included a near-perfect stretch of 32-1 during the 1981 season. That same season, Memphis posted victories over such perennial powers as Tennessee, Notre Dame, South Alabama and Tulane.
Following a stellar career with the Tigers, Anderson was rewarded for his tremendous play at the U of M when he was selected in the first round of the 1981 major league draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. In a career spanning 10 years at the major league level, the St. Petersburg, Fla., native again made a name for himself in the minor leagues and never skipped a beat. Two all-star seasons later, he was called up to the parent club and continued his brilliance, helping the Dodgers to two Western Division pennants, one in '83 and another in `85. In 1988, the Dodgers reached the pinnacle of baseball when they defeated the Oakaland A's in the World Series.
His final three years in the majors also included a brief stint with the San Francisco Giants from 1990-91, before returning to the Dodgers in '92 . One year later, Anderson retired from the game as a player, but left with a lifetime .240 batting average, 16 home runs, 135 RBI and had participated in three National League Championship series' and a World Series. Although done as a player, Anderson still had visions of hardball running through his mind and embarked on a new mission the following year.
He began his new post in 1994 as a member of the Detroit Tigers organization and served nearly six years before venturing back to the mid-south as the U of M's skipper. His first assignment landed him in the New York-Penn League at the helm of the Jamestown Jammers. He promptly guided the rookie league squad to the playoffs and was voted the league's Manager of the Year. Anderson then moved on to Single-A with the Lakeland Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., and remained there for two more seasons before being promoted to AA Jacksonville (Fla.) in 1997.
In 1998, his Jacksonville Suns club cruised to the Southern League Division title and advanced to the championship round before falling to Mobile. For his team's success, Anderson was selected to manage the Southern League All-Stars and was also picked to lead the AA American League All-Star team in New Haven, Conn.
Before arriving in Memphis, his final stop took him to Toledo, Ohio, where he took over as manager for the AAA Toledo Mud Hens during the spring of 2000. Through just six years, Anderson had reached the top of the minor league system and may have made the jump to the big show, had the Memphis job not opened up at the perfect time. "I'm so happy he is here, Anderson's one-time Major League manager Tommy Lasorda said. "And (Memphis fans) are fortunate to have him because if he hadn't come he would have been in the major leagues as a manager in two years."
After two full seasons at the U of M, Anderson's impact can be seen not only in the win-loss column but more importantly in the community. The Tigers have already staged two enormously successful season ticket fundraisers, the first of which included a special guest of honor, former Los Angeles Dodgers head man and recent Olympic gold medal baseball team coach Lasorda. The dinner raised over $90,000 for the program and was used to make improvements to Nat Buring Stadium following the conclusion of the 2001 season.
Since then, the Tigers have also had their locker room completely remodeled. For the second straight season, the Tigers announced they will play six of their home games in 2003 at AutoZone Park, the brand-new downtown home of the AAA Memphis Redbirds. The ballpark is widely considered to be the finest facility in all of the minor leagues and gives the Tigers reason to brag with the best field in all of C-USA.
Anderson and his wife Gina have two children, Christa and Ryan. Christa (19) is a freshman at the University of Memphis and serves as a Diamond Girl for the baseball team. Ryan (16) is a sophomore at Houston High School.