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'Awesome' week for Vikings baseball coach Anderson

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LAKE STEVENS -- It has been quite the week for Lake Stevens baseball coach Rodger Anderson.
His ace pitcher Anthony Blackie was named The Herald's All-Area Player of the Year, Ryan Verdugo was called up to the major leagues, the first of Anderson's former players to make it to the bigs, and two players from this year's Vikings team, Dylan LaVelle and Jake Nelson, were selected in the MLB draft.
"It's been crazy," Anderson said. "It's been awesome. Our banquet Tuesday night started at six and we didn't get out of here until 11 o'clock. It was emotional and a lot of fun. I'm getting emails from people saying, 'You must feel like a proud papa.' And I do, I'm really, really proud of these guys. Their accomplishments, it's a credit to how hard they work because there is not that many that get drafted or get moved up."
Anderson's whirlwind week started with Blackie being named Player of the Year. The Vikings were a team loaded with talent this season, so the fact that the Player of the Year came from Lake Stevens might not have come as much of a shock, but the fact that it was Blackie, who rose above the rest was a little more unexpected.
On Tuesday, Verdugo got the call-up from the Royals and reported to Kansas City.
"I was pretty excited," Anderson said. "I was like, 'Finally.' ... I have been coaching a long time and to not have somebody. It's real exciting. Especially with it being an American League team. I mean, I can't wait. The way the bullpen is set up at Safeco Field, I can't wait to go down there and give him a hard time."
Anderson recalls that Verdugo sometimes struggled with control while pitching at Lake Stevens. Something he has obviously solved.
"Out of all the players we have had drafted when he left Lake Stevens high school, he might be the last on my list to think, 'OK, this is the guy that is going to make it,'" Anderson said. "He would have 12 strikeouts, but he also would have 12 walks.
"After he left here maybe he finally got some good coaching," Anderson added with a laugh.
In 25 years as the head coach at Lake Stevens, Anderson said he can recall about 10 of his players or former players being drafted, including LaVelle and Nelson, but Verdugo is the first to be called up to a major league team.
Anderson will have to wait for another chance to razz Verdugo at Safeco Field. He didn't pitch in the two games after his call-up and was optioned back Class AAA Omaha on Friday (see story on Page C3).
A day after Verdugo's call-up, LaVelle and Nelson were both drafted. Leading up to the draft, LaVelle had heard that he might go as high as the fourth round and the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets were the teams that he had heard had the most interest. But LaVelle slipped to the 18th round and the Tigers came out of nowhere to make the selection.
"I was really happy for him," Anderson said. "I was kind of disappointed. I was hoping that he would go higher.
"I don't know if we have seen him at a 100 percent maybe for a couple of years," Anderson added.
With LaVelle there was little question he would be drafted, it was more a question of when. With Nelson there was a bit more mystery -- though not in the eyes of Anderson.
"I told a lot of people 'I told you so,'" Anderson said. "He's an incredible athlete, so when you look at potential ... You know, Dylan has been a really good baseball player for a long time. Jake is, I really think, starting to come into his own. That's why selfishly I would like to see him sign and go play baseball because who knows how good he really can be."
With the events of the past week and Lake Stevens making it to the 4A state quarterfinals, it all adds up to one of the most successful years of Anderson's career.
"This has been the most fun year," Anderson said. "I have some really fun years and I have had some great groups, players and parents. But overall, just the way everything has kind of worked this year, I would say this has probably been my most enjoyable year. I've loved a lot of years of coaching. This has been an incredible ride this year."

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