Auburn's Josh Anthony (Aaron Fitt)


Perseverance Pays For AU’s Anthony


AUBURN, Ala. — Last June, Josh Anthony was prepared to sign with the Braves as a 16th-round pick for a deal well above the $100,000 bonus allotted for players drafted outside the top 10 rounds. Then the Braves rescinded their offer when they ran out of bonus pool money, so Anthony announced on Twitter that he would honor his commitment to Auburn. The Tigers were elated — they figured they were getting one of the best incoming power hitters in college baseball.

And why wouldn’t they think that? Anthony had hit 45 home runs in two seasons at Western Oklahoma State JC — 25 as a sophomore, when he hit .444, and 20 as a freshman, when he hit .425. The bigger question was where Anthony would fit defensively, because he had spent time as a catcher, a third baseman and an outfielder in juco ball.

“It was kind of like, ‘He’s played all over the field, never really had a definite position. Boy, we hope he can play third base,’” said Auburn assistant coach Doug Sisson, who oversees the position players. “And he’s been tremendous at third base, I think as good as you’ll find at this level.”

It turned out, for the entire first half, Anthony’s game was the inverse of what the Tigers expected: he was a standout defender at third, but his bat simply did not provide impact. Heading into last week, Anthony was hitting just .252 with no home runs in 135 at-bats.

And then, all the hard work he’d been doing with Sisson started to bear fruit, very suddenly. He went 2-for-4 in a midweek game against Kennesaw State, and he just kept on rolling into a huge three-game series against Arkansas, going 9-for-12 in the series with three doubles, his first homer (at long last) and seven RBIs. He captured SEC co-Player of the Week honors, and his batting average spiked all the way to .298.

This was a huge development for the Tigers, because Anthony has more raw talent than any other player in their lineup, and he has a chance to be the first Auburn position player drafted despite his lousy first half at the plate. If he can keep this hot streak going, he could give Auburn a much-needed boost in the heart of the lineup heading into the postseason.

So what’s the key to Anthony’s outburst? There’s a simple answer, and a more intricate answer.

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