Auburn, Ala.--Having to replace first round draft choice Anfernee Grier in the leadoff spot as well as Josh Palacios, Jordan Ebert and Nikoe Buentello, the top four hitters for the Auburn Tigers a season ago, this fall practice is an important one for Butch Thompson as he heads into his second season back on the Plains as head baseball coach.
Enter junior college slugger Josh Anthony.
A 16th round draft choice of the Atlanta Braves who came within an eyelash of signing to play pro ball, Anthony entered fall practice with the Tigers as one of the players the Tigers are counting on to provide punch at the plate.
One of the top juco hitters in the country at Western Oklahoma State, the Columbus, Ga., native hit had an impressive sophomore year in ever offensive category. Batting .444, Anthony mashed 25 home runs with 84 RBI, scored 112 runs and stole 49 bases. He also added 17 doubles and walked 54 times. Those numbers came after a monster freshman year when he hit .425 with 20 home runs, 71 RBI, 79 runs scored and 18 stolen bases.
With Auburn opening practice last week it’s time for Anthony to begin to show what he can bring to the table on offense and as a third baseman defensively. A player who has been dreaming of playing in the SEC since growing up just across the state line, he said it’s time to go.
“I’m ready to roll,” Anthony said. “It’s been a long time coming. With the season finally kicking into gear, it’s a good thing to be out here on the field.
“The SEC is the best baseball conference in America so I feel like if I want to be drafted and play professional baseball, I have to go through this first. If I can handle this, I can handle anything.”
Anthony has already been close to that goal of playing professionally. Originally offered enough of a signing bonus and contract to sign with the Braves, when the club backed off that offer he decided to keep his pledge to play for the Tigers.
“I felt that was just God’s way of showing me his path that he wanted me to go down,” Anthony said. “It’s a blessing that I ended up here at Auburn because I’ve made friends, I’ve made family. Auburn is going to help me progress toward becoming that big-leaguer I want to be.”
Calling it an “honor” to be counted on to be one of the key guys in the lineup for the Tigers, Anthony said having that experience on the junior college level should help him as he prepares for life in the best college baseball conference in the country.
“I want to be the best man I can be, the best baseball player I can be,” he said. “Just help the fall progress me into the spring.”