Tuesday, December 27, 2011
#699) MARLON ANDERSON
Marlon Anderson first joined the New York Mets when he signed as a free agent on January 7, 2005. The versatile veteran came to the club on a minor league deal and unseated Joe McEwing to win the utility player spot on the roster.
The Shea Stadium fans witnessed the brand of hard-nosed baseball Anderson was known for on June 11, 2005. Marlon came to the plate as a pinch-hitter facing the American League West-leading Angels' closer Francisco Rodriguez. He stroked a drive that eluded Steve Finley and bounced along the warning track in right field. Anderson circled the bases and collided with Anaheim's catcher, Jose Molina upon reaching home plate. The collision resulted in three stitches to Marlon's cheek, and the first inside-the-park home run at Shea since 1989. "It was well worth it," Anderson said.
By the middle of his first year in New York, the left-handed hitter gained a more permanent place in the lineup. Manager, Willie Randolph installed the 5'11" Anderson as the team's starting first baseman. Former Gold Glover, Doug Mientkiewicz was fighting an injury that necessitated a replacement. "Nothing surprises me anymore," said Marlon. "You get to a point where doing things comes naturally. You just keep adding to your résumé. If you can hit they'll always find a place for you. I'm a guy that hits, and this is a team that needs hitting."
In total he played in 123 games for the season with seven home runs, 19 RBIs, and a .264 batting average. Anderson left the team when he signed a contract with the Washington Nationals on November 18, 2005.
His departure was relatively short-lived. Marlon returned to the Mets as a free agent on July 12, 2007. He had been released by the Los Angeles Dodgers the previous day. Back in New York he was a very productive pinch-hitter for the Mets. "This is the start of my season," was how Anderson described his return. He finished the year with a fine .319 batting average. Establishing himself as an invaluable bench option. "The biggest thing is that you can't look at it as being a pinch-hitter—you have to look at it as your chance to help the team that day," Marlon once offered about his craft. "The one thing you know is that you're usually coming up in a big situation, and that gets your attention."
The Mets signed Anderson to a two-year contract extension that winter. Injuries hampered his performance during the final season of Shea Stadium. He spent weeks on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring in both May and August. In June of 2008 he penned an inspirational note that was given to the team at a player's only meeting. It was a document designed to show players that they could reach 92 wins and the playoffs. "I was just encouraging the guys, saying- 'Don't believe what you read in the papers, what you see on TV.'" Marlon explained at the time. "The bottom line is it's not over, and we're going to be okay."
Anderson was a pinch-hitter during the final game at Shea. He recorded the second out of the eighth inning on the 4-2 loss to the Florida Marlins. His time with the Mets would conclude during the 2009 season.
When once asked what he might have pursued if he had not been a baseball player, Marlon responded, "Some sort of teacher or mentor or church leader. Trying to help people better themselves, believe in themselves, to get them to dream outside the box." So it was no surprise that at the conclusion of his playing career he began working with young players as a minor-league coach. First as the hitting coach for the Hagerstown Suns in 2011, and then the Potomac Nationals in 2012.
"I love to read uplifting books about people's lives," said Anderson. "I do a lot of things in my life, but I try to spend time wisely, to enrich myself and learn."
Marlon Anderson signed his card in the set for me before the Mets and Reds game at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati on July 19, 2008.