|Dean Anna, image courtesy of Cheryl Pursell|
In 2008, Anna was a 26th round draft selection of San Diego. He went on to reach the big leagues with both the Yankees and the Cardinals.
Recently, I spoke with Anna about the 'Pigs' spot atop the International League division standings, being a veteran that can lead by example, which Yankee he viewed as a leader and plenty more. Read ahead for the full interview.
-The team's been great. Great record, first place. What are your thoughts on the group and the vibe?
You know, the group here is amazing. We've got really great team chemistry. Everybody's pulling for each other. It's nice to just be in the dugout and feel the vibes that everyone's just pulling for each other. That's always a fun atmosphere when you're playing every single day.
-Excellent. How would you describe your role on the team?
My role is, right now since Roman Quinn's out, I'm the lead off hitter as we speak and, you know, just have good at bats and get on base for the big guys. And hopefully, they can drive me in when I get on base and just play good defense. And whatever (manager) Gary Jones wants me to do, then I'll do it.
-At certain levels there tends to be a veteran guy around that the younger players can learn from. Whether that's Jake Fox or Will Venable or whoever. I feel like this year, the guy that can be that veteran leader is you and you can shine in that role. Do you feel that way? Do you take pride in that sort of thing?
Yeah, as you get older you start learning a lot more from experience and you know what works for you and you know what didn't work for you and you take a little bit of the good stuff as you keep playing, you kind of have a good idea of how to maybe help some younger guys. You know, just kind of be a leader on the field by my actions and that's kind of what I try to do. And if the guys want to watch me play and I'm playing hard, hopefully the younger guys see that and I know they're working hard too, but I can always be a lending hand to those guys if they need a little help or advice on stuff.
-That sounds great. Was there anyone like that for you, eight to ten years ago, when you were first starting to break into these full-season leagues?
Yeah, I would say one can that I was around when I was with the Cardinals, Dan Johnson. Dan Johnson's been around for a while and he'd always tell me some stuff. He'd always say, "Trick your mind." And I always think of that. You've always got to stay positive in this game. There's a lot of failure and tricking your mind just to stay positive and stay in the game, rooting for your teammates is the best medicine for baseball.
-I talked to one of the full season A level players with the Phillies last week and he was telling me that he got warned, before turning pro, that the minors can be very selfish, but he hadn't seen that in the Phillies system yet. Have you played places where maybe selfishness was more prevalent?
Well, you know, everyone's trying to get to the big leagues. That's everyone's goal, but you know, this is a team sport. We play a sport for a living. We play baseball for a living. It's a team game and it's very important to learn the team game and then when you get up to the big leagues you can contribute to that team. You know, I think that's a big part of winning and learning.
-Going back a few questions, you talked about leading by example. Was there anyone you were around during your big league time that you saw that sort of thing from?
Yeah, I would say the guy that I've seen do it the best is Derek Jeter. I was privileged to watch him go to work every day and I would just kind of watch how he went about it and just kind of learned from that and just try to follow that example.
-Do you hold on to mementos of your firsts from the big leagues?
Oh, yeah. I've got my first home run ball and my first hit and things like that. It was real special to me. You work hard all your life to get up there, and when you finally get up there the hardest part was staying there. So, that's the goal is to get back up there and stay.
-IronPigs and Phillies fans, how do those fans compare to other team's fans that you've encountered?
The Phillie fans are awesome here. We get a near-sold out crowd every single night and it's fun to play for them. Great atmosphere. It's really fun.
-Do you have any game day superstitions?
No, not really. I just try to stick to my workout routine, but no crazy superstitions.
-Do you have a favorite minor league park or city that you've played in?
Honestly, Lehigh Valley is up there. Charlotte was beautiful. That was my first time playing there a week or two ago. That was a really nice city. So, those are probably up there.
-Was there anybody you looked up to, as a youngster prior to turning pro, that you may have wanted to emulate?
I would say Ryne Sandberg, I looked up to. I watched him play, 'cause I'm from Chicago. I got to watch him play, and stuff like that, so that was always fun to watch.
-Did you play any other sports as a kid?
Golf and basketball.
-Which were you more skilled at?
Definitely a lot better at golf.
-Do you get to play a lot with your teammates now?
Yeah, when we've got time. Definitely!
-Who is your toughest IronPigs challenge on the golf course?
Sal (Rende), our hitting coach. He's the best player on the team.