Tyler Anderson’ notebook routine helped make him an All-Star

“The Brain” began three decades ago when an aspiring junior collegiate baseball coach from Southern California was first introduced to a Division I program.

For George Horton, becoming an assistant at Cal State Fullerton in 1990 was like “drinking water through a fire hose.”

To stay organized, Horton began writing everything down in a shorthand notebook.

“It started out as a recruiting notebook,” he said.

But for the remainder of his coaching career, which spanned 11 seasons as Fullerton’s head coach and 11 more as manager of the Oregon Ducks program, it became his way to keep track of almost everything the job entailed.

Literally, from game schedules to phone numbers to everyday conversations, just about anything.

“It was my counterweight to reminding myself of things,” Horton said. “I suffer from CDO. This is OCD, but the letters are in alphabetical order as they need to be.”

Over the years, Horton’s system has become legendary among its players, nicknamed “the brain”.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, a Fullerton player from 2003-2005, laughed as he recently recalled Horton’s collection of notebooks, which always came in handy on the fly.

Angels catcher Kurt Suzuki, a teammate of Turner’s at Fullerton, also chuckled when reminded of his old coach’s routine.

“The brain?” asked Suzuki rhetorically. “He carried it everywhere.”

Tyler Anderson would also break down about Horton’s meticulous method back when the Dodgers’ pitcher was on the coach’s first teams in Oregon from 2009-2011.

“He wrote everything down,” Anderson said. “Being is a whole other level.”

Coming to the pros, Anderson began developing his own note-taking process.

It’s not as complicated as Horton’s, but it’s become an important part of everyday life for the 32-year-old left-hander.

A must-have baseball journal kept in a black leather notebook with an orange elastic strap.

An invaluable resource that has helped the seven-year veteran navigate a career as a journeyman in the big league — and become an All-Star for the first time this season.

“It helped me keep a little bit of a narrower focus,” Anderson said. “There’s a balance, but I just think it’s good to keep track.”

Saturday wasn’t a normal day for Anderson.

He was woken up in the morning by a call from manager Dave Roberts, who told him that after starting the season with a 10-1 record and a 2.96 ERA, he was a substitute for a late injury for the National League in the All-Star Game had been taped.

“Of course you hope, but I didn’t expect it at all,” Anderson said. “It’s a great honor.”

He was soon serenaded with text messages from the Dodgers team’s group chat. When he showed up at the ballpark for the team’s series finale against the Angels, the congratulations continued.

“We got a smile out of him today,” joked pitching coach Mark Prior of the notoriously stoic southpaw. “That was great.”

On Saturday afternoon, Anderson was even pondering how to rearrange his family’s All-Star break schedules and had to check if their tickets for a planned trip to Disneyland this week are refundable.

“It’s a whole process,” he said with a chuckle.

There was one thing that hasn’t changed.

After completing some afternoon practice, a pre-game pitching session, and other typical daily maintenance chores, he flipped open his Rhodia-brand leather notebook, jotted down every activity, and added it to a catalog of information he’s been collecting for nearly a decade.

Dodgers pitcher Tyler Anderson flags down Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ during a game July 8, 2022 at Dodger Stadium.

When the Chicago Cubs’ Ian Happ tried to run through Dodgers pitcher Tyler Anderson to score, Anderson made sure to pin him to the ground.

(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

“Every day I just write down what I’m doing,” Anderson said.

Some examples:

“I go in there and schedule the 12 things I do to warm up, including stretches and shoulder stuff.”

“I go play tag and write down how many times I play tag.”

“Maybe if I thought of something while I was playing tag and it was a good cue, maybe I’ll write down what that cue was.”

“My workout, I write down what it is, the sets, the reps, the weights, all that stuff. Keep an eye on all of that and condition and get post-game treatments or something.”

He paused to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything.

“I just write everything in there,” he said.

The idea was inspired by Horton, but didn’t start until after Anderson was drafted 20th overall by the Colorado Rockies in 2011.

In college, Oregon’s program was regimented to keep the pitcher organized. But once he got into the minors, he realized he had to figure out his own routine — and a way to keep track of it.

“I feel like a big part of baseball is having a good routine,” Anderson said. “As I was going through it, I kept my eyes on what I was going to do. That way I could come back to it when I was fine or feeling good.”

Anderson’s notebooks – he estimates he’s filled 30 or 40 by now – have been a help throughout his career, rising and falling.

Breaking into the big leagues with three solid seasons in Colorado from 2016-2018, Anderson compensated for his low 90s mph fastball speed with a jerky delivery and complementing switch.

However, after missing most of 2019 with major left knee surgery, he has posted numbers below league average for the past two years, spending 2020 with the San Francisco Giants and 2021 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Seattle Mariners.

When he signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Dodgers this spring — sidestepping longer and more lucrative offers he’d allegedly received from other teams — he didn’t even have a spot on the starting rotation, instead opening the season as a bulk helper in the bullpen.

“I took the chance to come to this team and try to be on a winning team this year,” he said.

With his notebook in tow, resting in the compartment of his locker at home and on the road, it’s led to a first half few expected.

Anderson has made 15 starts and helped replace several injured members of the rotation. He leads the team in pitched innings (97.1) and uses a new grip on his transition to unleash newfound efficiency. And his low ERA and Sterling records helped him earn a first career All-Star nod, which he acknowledges felt like “a little validation.”

“It really feels like I made a good decision coming here,” said Anderson, who went into the season with a career record of 29-38 and a 4.62 ERA.

Roberts added, “It’s something that if you look at his journey as a big league pitcher, bet on yourself and want to sign up with the Dodgers, it just worked out really well.”

Horton has kept a close eye on Anderson’s career since the pitcher’s days with the Rockies, whose general manager was a good friend of Horton’s; his conflicting final seasons, of which Horton admitted, “I thought maybe his best bullets were out”; on his resurgence with the Dodgers, which recently included a pre-game reunion at Dodger Stadium between the old coach and his now All-Star student.

“His journey, with how many speed bumps and hiccups he had, and his persistence and ability to stick with it and come out the other side,” Horton said, “so proud of it.”

Only when he saw it a recent video However, with Anderson being produced by the Players Union, Horton realized his old pitcher had adopted a form of his note-taking system.

“They say the purest form of flattery is imitation,” Horton said. “I actually suggested what Tyler would use it for, a journal. I think the brain works differently when you’re writing something.”

A real brain, that is, not Horton’s notebook nickname.

Anderson keeps his notebook running more out of habit.

“I probably don’t need the booklets anymore,” he said. “I know what’s in there every day.”

Nevertheless, he describes himself as a visual learner. He said he likes the routine. And there’s still a part of him that finds solace in knowing that when he starts fighting, he’ll have a log of thoughts, feelings, and techniques to fall back on — always just a few pages away.

“It’s a good mental reminder when you write things down,” Anderson said.

Prior said Anderson’s note-taking process wasn’t all that unusual for a big-league pitcher. Noting that former Dodgers right-hander Ross Stripling had his own habit of taking notes, Prior joked that teammate Clayton Kershaw “has his notebook in his brain.”

Dodgers starting pitcher Tyler Anderson sits in the dugout after playing June 9 against the Chicago White Sox.

Dodgers starting pitcher Tyler Anderson sits in the dugout after playing June 9 against the Chicago White Sox.

(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

“Everyone has their own ritual approach,” Prior said. “And [Anderson] is one who comes in and writes everything down.”

Instead, Prior sees it as part of Anderson’s broader approach to his methodical preparation, a trait that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Dodgers staff since the pitcher joined the team this spring.

“Definitely, he’s intense,” Prior said. “He comes in every day with a plan to get better and he takes responsibility. I think that’s the main thing. This is no coincidence. He comes well prepared.”

Roberts even drew a parallel between Anderson and Kershaw, who is known for his own detailed daily schedule and is a pitcher Roberts has looked up to in his career.

“Both are doing their homework,” Roberts said. “You are very well prepared.”

This week they will also attend All-Star celebrations together; Kershaw for the ninth time, Anderson for the first time.

“Finally being named an All-Star,” said Roberts, “is something he will always remember.”

A few days of notebook entries take care of that.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-07-17/dodgers-tyler-anderson-mlb-all-star-pitcher Tyler Anderson’ notebook routine helped make him an All-Star

Emma Bowman

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