“The Brain” began three decades ago, when an up-and-coming junior college baseball coach from Southern California encountered a Division I program for the first time.
For George Horton, being an assistant at Cal State Fullerton in 1990 was like “drinking fire.”
So, to keep himself organized, Horton started writing things down on a steno pad.
“It started out as a recruitment drive,” he said.
But for the rest of his coaching career, which included 11 seasons as Fullerton’s head coach and 11 more at the helm of the Oregon Ducks program, it became the way he watched nearly everything the job entailed.
Literally everything from game plans to phone numbers to day to day conversations.
“It was my counterbalance to remembering everything,” Horton said. “I suffer from CDO. It’s OCD, but the letters are alphabetized as they should be.”
Over the years, Horton’s system—nicknamed “the brain”—became legendary with his players.
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, a Fullerton player from 2003-2005, laughed as he recalled Horton’s collection of laptops that were always handy to pull out at a moment’s notice.
Kurt Suzuki, Turner’s teammate at Fullerton, also laughed when he recalled his old coach’s work.
“The brain?” Suzuki asked rhetorically. “He took her everywhere.”
Tyler Anderson, a Dodgers pitcher from 2009 to 2011 when he was on the coach’s first few teams in Oregon, was also reaching for Horton’s meticulous method.
“He would record everything,” Anderson said. “His level is completely different.”
After Anderson reached the pros, he began to develop his own recording process.
It’s not as complicated as Horton’s, but it’s become an important daily routine for the 32-year-old left-hander.
An invaluable baseball journal housed in a black leather notebook with an orange elastic band.
An invaluable resource that helped the seven-year veteran navigate his big league career and become a first-time All-Star this season.
“It helped me keep a little more narrow focus,” Anderson said. “There’s a balance, but I think it’s good to watch everything.”
Saturday was no ordinary day for Anderson.
He awoke in the morning to a call from manager Dave Roberts informing him that he had been added to the All-Star game as a late injury replacement for the National League after starting the season with a 10-1 record and 2.96 ERA.
“Obviously you hope so, but I didn’t expect it in any way,” Anderson said. “It’s a great honor.”
He was soon serenaded with text messages from the Dodgers team’s group chat. The congratulations continued when he took the field for the team’s final game against the Angels.
“We got a smile out of him today,” pitching coach Mark Prior joked of the famously feisty southpaw. “That was nice.”
By Saturday afternoon, Anderson was even wondering how to adjust his family’s All-Star vacation plans, checking to see if their tickets were refundable for a planned trip to Disneyland this week.
“It’s a whole process,” he said with a laugh.
There was one thing that didn’t change.
After completing some afternoon practice, a pregame shooting session and other typical routine maintenance, he opened his leather Rhodia notebook, recorded each activity and added to the catalog of information he had collected over a decade.
“Every day I just write down what I’m doing,” Anderson said.
“I’m going to go in there and put the 12 things I do to warm up, including stretches and shoulder stuff.”
“I’m going to go play catch and write down how long I played catch.”
“Maybe if I was thinking about something while playing catch and it was a good sign, maybe I’ll write down what that sign was.”
“My workout, I’ll write down what it is, the sets, the reps, the weights, all of that. Watch all that, then do conditioning and get treated after the game or something.
He paused to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything.
“I write everything there,” he said.
The idea was inspired by Horton, but Anderson didn’t take off after being drafted 20th overall by the Colorado Rockies in 2011.
In college, Oregon’s program was organized enough to keep the pitcher organized. But once he entered the minors, he realized he needed to find a routine and a way to follow it.
“I think that’s a big part of baseball, having a good routine,” Anderson said. “So I was watching what to do as I was going through it. So when I felt good or when I felt good, I could go back to it.”
Anderson’s notebooks — he estimates he’s filled 30 or 40 so far — have been a help throughout his up-and-down career.
Anderson broke into the big leagues with three solid seasons in Colorado from 2016 to 2018, compensating for his 90 mph fastball with a fast delivery and complementary changeup.
After missing most of 2019 due to major left knee surgery, he has posted below-league average numbers 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 deal with the Dodgers this spring — bypassing longer and more lucrative offers he said he received from other teams — he didn’t even have a spot in the starting rotation to open the season. as bulk relief in bull.
“I got a chance to come to this team and try to be on a winning team this year,” he said.
With his notebook in tow, he led the first half of the house and away from his dressing room to relax, waiting for a few.
Anderson made 15 starts, helping fill in for several injured members of the rotation. He leads the team in innings pitched (97.1), using a new grip on his changeup to unlock newfound efficiency. And his low ERA and sterling record helped him earn his first career All-Star, which he admitted felt like “a little validation.”
“I feel like I made a good decision to come here,” said Anderson, who enters the season with a career record of 29-38 and a 4.62 ERA.
Roberts added: “Looking at his journey as a big league pitcher, making a bet on himself and wanting to sign with the Dodgers, it’s something that has paid off really well.”
Horton has followed Anderson’s career closely since his days as a pitcher with the Rockies, whose general manager is a good friend of Horton’s; To Horton’s admittedly inconsistent final season, “I thought his best shots were already shot”; To his resurgence with the Dodgers, to the recent pregame meeting at Dodger Stadium between the former coach and current All-Star apprentice.
“His journey, how many speed bumps and hiccups he’s had, his perseverance and his ability to stick with it and come out the other side,” Horton said, “he’s very proud of.”
It wasn’t until you saw it latest video Anderson, drafted by the players’ union, but Horton realized that his old pitcher had adopted some form of celebration system.
“They say the purest form of flattery is imitation,” Horton said. “I actually suggested what Tyler was using it for, a journal. I think the brain works differently when you write something down.”
The real brain, that is, not Horton’s notebook nickname.
Anderson gets his notebook out of habit like anything else.
“I guess I don’t need the notebooks anymore,” he said. “I know what’s out there every day.”
Still, he calls himself a visual learner. He said he liked the routine. And yet there is a part of him that, if he begins to struggle, will have a series of thoughts, feelings, and methods to fall back on—always only a few page turns.
“When you write something down, it’s a good mental reminder,” Anderson said.
Prior said Anderson’s recording process isn’t too unusual for a major league pitcher. Earlier, former Dodgers right-hander Ross Stripling noted that he had a habit of celebrating, joking that teammate Clayton Kershaw “crammed his notebook into his head.”
“Everyone has their own ritualistic way of going about it,” Prior said. “And [Anderson] is the one who entered and wrote everything.”
Instead, Prior sees it as part of Anderson’s broader approach to methodical preparation, a trait that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Dodgers staff since the pitcher joined the team this spring.
“Of course he’s tense,” Prior said. “He comes in every day with a plan to improve himself and holds himself accountable. I think that’s the point. This is not accidental. He comes well prepared.”
Roberts even drew a parallel between Anderson and Kershaw, known for his detailed routine and as a pitcher Roberts said he looked up to Anderson a lot in his career.
“They both do their homework,” Roberts said. “They are preparing very well.”
This week, they will also be attending the All-Star festivities together; Kershaw ninth, Anderson first.
“For him to finally be named an All-Star,” Roberts said, “is something he’ll always remember.”
A few days of notebook notes will make sure of that.