CLINTON, Iowa – For a good portion of Tanner Andrews’ baseball career, he has held a relatively low profile. On his current path, that cover might be tough to maintain.
Andrews is currently pitching for the Clinton LumberKings in the Midwest League, the Class A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. A 10th round selection in last year’s Major League Baseball Draft, Andrews is en route to his ultimate goal, and moving at a decent pace.
The 2014 Tippecanoe Valley grad was a three-sport athlete for the Vikings. As both a football and basketball standout, schools could have and likely did line up to get their chance at Andrews after performing at an All-State level in both sports. On the baseball diamond, however, is where Andrews really made his mark. A .601 batting average his senior season and over 70 career stolen bases led to four All-Three Rivers Conference selections and a host of area and state accolades. Purdue took the chance on him, and the new Boilermaker really made a name for himself in West Lafayette.
Working his way into a reliable starting pitcher for the Boilers, Andrews became only the second pitcher in program history to start opening day three times. Andrews helped Purdue to a runner-up finish in the Big Ten and a 38-21 overall record and an NCAA Regional appearance. Andrews was 7-5 with with a 2.94 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 98 innings as a senior.
After his final season in West Lafayette, there were a lot of rumbles Andrews could get drafted. That rumble became reality last summer.
“I was talking with a couple of my coaches after we got back from the regional in North Carolina, and they said I could get drafted,” Andrews said. “They told me to go home and be with my family in case I got the phone call. So I drove from Purdue back to Rochester. Noon came and we got the phone call that one of the teams wanted to work me out. It was a pretty stressful day.”
That call indeed came in the 10th round of the draft, and it was from the Miami Marlins, which took Andrews with the 297th overall selection. Two of Andrews’ teammates were also chosen that day, with Nick Dalesandro taken later in the 10th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Jacson McGowen taken in the 11th round by the Tampa Bay Rays.
With “professional baseball player” now as his official title, Andrews continued to do what got him there. Making two minor league stops in 2018 at Batavia and the Gulf Coast League, Andrews made 13 appearances, largely as a reliever. This spring, Andrews made the jump to the Clinton LumberKings in the Midwest League, where he has exclusively become a starting pitcher.
Through his last start Tuesday, Andrews had made headway for the LumberKings. In 10 appearances, six of those starts, Andrews is 2-3 with a 4.27 ERA and 47 strikeouts to just 15 walks. His last start Tuesday saw Andrews strike out a career-high nine and give up two runs in a no-decision against the Peoria Chiefs. Andrews will pitch again today against Quad Cities.
“I’m focused on being a starter and making myself better everyday,” Andrews said just before his last start against Peoria. “There’s always room for development and always things I can work on. My goal is to be as good as I can be, and let my talent take me as far as I can go. Obviously, the goal is to get to the big leagues. If I keep with my routine, hopefully that call will eventually come.”
Andrews grew up going to games in Fort Wayne, watching the likes of Torii Hunter and Corey Kluber playing at the old Memorial Stadium with the Wizards and later going to Parkview Field to watch the TinCaps. While Clinton does not play in Fort Wayne or South Bend this year, the opportunity to play in the Midwest League, a place where Mike Trout and Albert Pujols once played, has Andrews waxing nostalgic.
“It was pretty awesome as a kid to go to Fort Wayne and South Bend and watch players that are now big league stars,” Andrews said. “It puts things in perspective a little bit. I’m doing what I wanted to be as a little kid, working my way to the major leagues. Watching players like Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols come through, that’s crazy to think sometimes that I’m playing on some of the same fields.”