It’s usually not until after an illustrious career that a player has a landmark named after him. Just ask Carlton Fisk or Johnny Pesky.
But when Lars Anderson makes his Fenway Park debut, possibly sometime in 2009, his surroundings will include a park, an auto museum, and a bonsai collection bearing his name.
“I am aware of that, but it’s spelled with a ‘z’ I think,” said Anderson, referring to the wealthy businessman and ambassador to Japan Larz Anderson. “But I think that would be a cool way to spell my name.”
Anderson, who turned 21 in September, is ready to make a name for himself. Drafted in 2006 out of Jesuit High School in Carmichael, Calif., in the 18th round (553rd overall), Anderson opted for a professional career rather than college at Berkeley. He’s finding the decision worthwhile. After being named Boston’s No. 5 prospect by Baseball America after his first season in 2007, he is currently ranked as the franchise’s best prospect and No. 8 in the American League. BA also rates him the best hitter for average in the Boston system and its best power hitter. He knows expectations are high.
“I guess the proper response is I don’t pay attention to them,” he said. “I have to thank God I’m healthy is the way to approach it. I’m beginning to see that self-awareness is the way to go. I’m aware of [the expectations], that they’re there, there’s no denying they’re there. … So this is just another thing that I’m aware of, but I try not to put too much stock into it because what is the pressure based on? What is the expectation based on?
“The thing that makes me wonder is that the people who have these expectations, how many of them have ever seen me play? That’s what I want to know, because then it’s like a firsthand thing. … As long as I know what the people who are making the decisions think and [what I expect from] myself, that’s what I should be focusing on. I think I put more pressure on myself than anybody else anyway.”
Anderson was speaking by phone during a family vacation in Maui on a day when Mother Nature was exercising her might in New England. He will soon experience his first New England winter, as one of the select minor leaguers brought to Boston for the Sox’ annual development program next month.
“I’m not looking forward to [the weather],” he said. “It sounds like I should bring some warm clothes.”
Despite an injury to his right wrist last season, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound first baseman, who bats and throws left-handed, earned a promotion from Single-A Lancaster, where he hit .317 with 13 homers and 50 RBI in 77 games, to Double-A Portland (.316, five homers, 30 RBI in 41 games).
Anderson has been mentioned as a possible future Sox first baseman or designated hitter, or possibly even a left fielder — with a lot of ifs. If DH David Ortiz isn’t healthy. Or if third baseman Mike Lowell isn’t healthy and first baseman Kevin Youkilis has to move across the diamond. Or if left fielder Jason Bay doesn’t return after 2009.
“I think it would be foolish to even think about it until something happens,” he said. “I think the important thing is that I’m not in the big leagues. I’m far from the big leagues. For it even to be an issue, I still have to improve immensely, and that remains to be seen how my progression will be.”
His parents are artists — his mother a painter, his father a metal sculptor. Anderson likes drawing, especially in pastels. His favorite player growing up was Rickey Henderson, and he said he considers Gabe Kapler, his manager with Single-A Greenville in 2007, a “true professional.” He enjoys reading. He plays the guitar. Jimi Hendrix is his guitar hero, but lately he’s been listening to a lot of Grateful Dead, and he considers Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page a “monster.”
What would he like Sox fans to know about him?
“I don’t know if I want them knowing anything about myself,” he said. “I think anything about me they should discover on their own. … I guess I’m just like anybody else, that I happen to have some sort of talent in one thing and it doesn’t make me any different than anybody else.
Everybody has something, and I happen to like playing baseball.”
Maureen Mullen covers the Red Sox for OT and can be reached at email@example.com