Aaron Anderson came to the Winter Garden Squeeze this summer with hopes of improving and he did — putting together one of the best statistical seasons in Florida Collegiate Summer League history.
Back in May, when Aaron Anderson was preparing to head to Winter Garden from Flagler College in St. Augustine, there was a sense of excitement that was two fold.
Playing his summer ball for the Winter Garden Squeeze meant that Anderson would play his home games on a field his father — Doug Anderson — once roamed as a West Orange Warrior. In fact, although Aaron Anderson hails from the St. Johns area, both of his parents went to West Orange High, and he still has family in the West Orange area.
Then, of course, there is the underlying reason anyone plays collegiate summer baseball — to get better.
And after a redshirt freshman season at Flagler during which he started slow but picked things up toward the end, Anderson was eager to build upon that momentum.
“I played all but one game this past season (at Flagler), and I knew I needed to step up my game if I was going to help us win,” Anderson said. “That was the biggest point to me — that I came back to St. Augustine as a better player.”
Anderson did more than just improve this summer. The rising sophomore first baseman returned to St.Augustine as the most valuable player of the Florida Collegiate Summer League, an honor bestowed by the league’s board of directors Aug. 17.
“It’s a big honor,” Anderson said. “There are a ton of good players in this league.”
Statistically, Anderson was a runaway with the league’s top honor. He had a record-setting .434 batting average this summer — along with a .525 on-base percentage that is the second-highest in Florida League history — and had a league-leading 49 hits.
“I had a front-row seat to one of the best seasons I have ever seen,” Squeeze coach Jay Welsh said of Anderson’s summer. “It seemed that whatever the at-bat required, Aaron was able to apply the approach to get the job done.”
Anderson thrived in Winter Garden despite it being his first summer baseball experience. The differences between summer ball and the collegiate or high-school regular seasons are myriad — from the wood bats to the daily games.
“It was a grind at first,” Anderson said. “You just kind of have to find your own personal routine. Once you found that, it became a lot easier — and it was a lot more enjoyable.”
On the other hand, Anderson said it was fun to forge some lasting friendships.
“I had a front-row seat to one of the best seasons I have ever seen. It seemed that whatever the at-bat required, Aaron was able to apply the approach to get the job done.”
— Jay Welsh, Winter Garden Squeeze manager
“The coolest part of the summer is you come in and you don’t know nearly anyone,” Anderson said. “Two months later, you’ve developed friendships and relationships that you’re going to carry on. We were a tight-knit group down to the very end.”
Regrettably, the Squeeze missed the playoffs this summer, finishing in last place in the FCSL. The team played strong baseball in the middle of the season but could not overcome a slow start and a slide at season’s end.
Although he would have liked to have participated in the postseason, Anderson did accomplish his main goal — he got better — and he got to do so with family in the stands for most of his games.
“It was definitely cool,” Anderson said. “To have my grandparents in the stands, and my mom and dad there when they could make it down, it was really cool.”