Anderson and Nowak Provide Talent and Experience
Story originally published on www.huntsvillestars.com,
reprinted with permission
By Aaron Morse/Huntsville Stars
Published: Monday, Aug. 9, 2010 @ 5:44 p.m.
It's not often Double-A teams can brag about having both talent and experience in the middle of the order. However, the Huntsville Stars have been on fire recently because they have exactly that.
Neither Drew Anderson nor Chris Nowak started the year with the Stars, but they have a good shot at finishing it in the Southern League Play-Offs.
"It helps to have guys who have been around to help some of the younger guys, to show them what it takes to prepare each and every day," Anderson said. "It's nice to have Chris behind you; you're going to get some better pitches to hit. They don't want to pitch around me too much knowing that Chris can swing it really well also."
In his last 10 games with Nowak batting behind him in the order, Anderson is hitting at a .342 clip. The 29-year-old former Nebraska Cornhusker is not considered a prospect like Brett Lawrie and Caleb Gindl, but he's the type of player every team needs if they want to make a run at the Southern League title.
Last year Anderson was a Southern League Mid-Season All-Star. This year he started the season in Triple-A Nashville before being reassigned to Huntsville on May 26. Initially he played first base but he went on the DL June 11. Anderson was activated on June 26 and saw his playing time increase by leaps and bounds when Lorenzo Cain earned a promotion to Nashville on July 2. The Cain promotion opened up a spot in the outfield that Anderson has held down ever since.
He also brings major league experience to the table, having been called up in September of 2006 by the Brewers.
"It was awesome, it was the reason I'm still here now, just trying to get back," Anderson said. "It was the pinnacle of my playing career so the goal is to try to find a way to get there and stay there."
Anderson said the experience in the major leagues was worth every second of playing in the minor leagues.
He's is a left-handed slugger (five homers in 43 games) who can hit lefties (.308 batting average vs. LHP), but it's been the addition of Chris Nowak that has made Anderson's presence in the middle of the order all that more valuable.
It was fortuitous for the Stars that the Rays' organization released Nowak right about the same time first baseman Steffan Wilson went on the disabled list. The Stars picked up the 6'5'' power-hitting corner infielder right away.
"I was actually watching that game (when Wilson got hurt) and I've had that happen, a dislocated shoulder," Nowak said. "I know it stinks but an opportunity came open for me so it's kind of a blessing in disguise, I guess."
Since Nowak arrived in Huntsville on July 14, the Stars are 12-7. He's driven in 15 runs in the 18 games he's played.
The 27-year old slugger had been with the Rays' organization ever since they drafted him in the 19th round in 2004.
"They'd put me on the phantom roster, so I got word that I was probably going to be released in a couple days," Nowak said. "The Brewers picked me up right away so it's nice to stay in organized baseball with an organization as good as the Brewers."
Whether veteran leadership in a game as individualized as baseball really matters is up for debate, but Nowak says it certainly doesn't hurt.
"There's a bunch of young guys on this team, to have some veteran guys in the clubhouse is definitely a plus," Nowak said. "We've been there, done that, so hopefully we can bring a championship back here."
If Nowak does help Anderson and the rest of the Stars bring a championship to Huntsville, it will be the height of irony. He was named the Southern League Championship Series' MVP in 2007 when the Biscuits won the title.
Who was the opponent in that series?
You guessed it, the Huntsville Stars.