Tucson Padres: 'Lunch pail guy' still hungry

2013-05-13T00:00:00Z Tucson Padres: 'Lunch pail guy' still hungryDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Baseball has never frustrated Dean Anna.

Not when he wasn't offered a scholarship by a Division I college out of high school. Not when Ball State was the only school interested in him out of junior college and certainly not when he was stuck as a backup utility player in A-ball at 23 years old.

"You have to wait for your shot and be patient with it," Anna said. "A lot of guys aren't patient and then get released because of their bad attitude. You stay with it and stay positive and eventually things will work out."

The 26-year-old Tucson Padres infielder has backed up his words this season. When the season opened, he figured to be an extra infielder - a backup to veteran Gregorio Petit and prospect Jonathan Galvez.

Instead, Anna has become the main attraction and one of Tucson's best players.

"He's always been a utility guy and hasn't been given the chance to play everyday," Tucson manager Pat Murphy said. "I thought he would be good, but I didn't know he would be this good.

"To be doing as well as he is; it's pretty cool."

Anna went 1 for 3 in Sunday's 7-6 win over Round Rock at Kino Stadium. He's hitting .328 in 35 games with 18 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs and 21 runs scored. His 13 doubles are tied for the most in the Pacific Coast League.

The Mokena, Ill., native was drafted by San Diego in the 26th round of the 2008 draft. Through his first five professional seasons, Anna never batted higher than .280 in any season. He slowly moved through the Padres system and this year reached Triple-A for the first time.

His success isn't tied to the thin air, hitter-friendly parks or any other PCL quarks.

Anna said it's actually pretty simple.

"I'm staying focused on the strike zone and trying to hit good pitches," Anna said. "A lot of these guys are trying to put pitches out of the strike zone and want you to get yourself out. But I've been concentrating on getting one good pitch in my area and that's really been helping me."

The adjustments at the plate and the hot start have moved Anna from organizational afterthought to a player who now may have a big-league future ahead of him if he keeps it up.

Murphy said Anna's best position is "that he can play a lot of positions." He plays both middle infield spots, along with third base and left and right field.

His versatility could be his ticket to the major leagues. Plus, Anna believes the Padres must think enough of him to have kept him around this long.

"I think they would have gotten rid of me a long time ago if they didn't think I could do it," Anna said. "I'm just not a guy who is considered a prospect."

Anna's positive attitude and refusal to get angry or bitter with the game he loves can be traced back to Mokena. The Illinois town is located about 35 miles southwest of Chicago.

Anna said the city is filled with people just like him.

"We're hard workers and we have fun while we're doing it," Anna said. "I'm just a happy guy who speaks my mind. I always have energy. I don't care what people say. I'm always trying to help people out. I don't have any problems with anyone."

Added Murphy: "He's the ultimate lunch pail guy. He doesn't let anything affect him. He just comes to work everyday and gives it his all every game. He cares about his teammates and that's a great quality to have. I hope he gets a shot."

Tucson 7, Round Rock 6

• Highlight: The Padres scored five runs in the ninth inning to come back and beat the Express in the second of a four-game set. Catcher Rocky Gale singled with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth to end the game. Daniel Robertson started the scoring in the ninth with a bases-loaded walk and Brandon Allen followed with a two-run single. Robertson then scored on a balk by former Arizona Wildcats and Padres pitcher Cory Burns to tie the game, setting Gale's game-winner.

• Big number: 19: The win was the 19th on the season for the Padres against 18 losses. It's the first time this year Tucson has been over .500. The Padres have won eight of their last nine.

• Tonight's starters: RHP Thad Weber (4-1, 4.28 ERA) vs. RHP Jake Brigham (0-0, 1.69 ERA)

- Daniel Berk

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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