Paul Sullivan: Tim Anderson is selling the White Sox — and himself — with his new YouTube channel

Tribune Content Agency

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Near the end of his latest YouTube video, White Sox star Tim Anderson reveals the reason he has taken it upon himself to bring more life to Camelback Ranch.

Yolmer Sanchez is gone, Anderson explained, and someone had to fill the void.

“You know the type of guy Yolmer was,” Anderson said Thursday morning at Sox camp. “He was bringing the excitement, keeping everybody in a positive way, always being funny and loud. I’ve just got to pick up the energy for him, I guess — keep everyone positive, keep pushing and motivating everybody to deliver something that can be real dope.”

So can we expect Anderson to dump a bucket of Gatorade on his head after a walk-off home run, as the eccentric Sanchez did during some walk-off celebrations?

“No, I ain’t going to go that far,” Anderson said with a laugh.

After seven straight losing seasons, the Sox need all the help they can to market what’s expected to be a turning-point season in the rebuild. Anderson is doing whatever he can to sell the Sox brand while also selling his own. His newly created YouTube channel already has nearly 5,000 subscribers in its first week and is growing by the day.

The Sox marketing slogan for 2020 is “Change the Game,” something Anderson seemingly has taken to heart. He came up with the idea of creating his own channel because Major League Baseball’s “marketing game was off.” His now infamous bat flip last season against the Royals — which ignited a skirmish and led to his one-game suspension — left some with the wrong impression. He wanted fans to know he was more than just a guy who flips his bat and “pimps” home runs.

“So why not bring it yourself?” he said. “So I started to bring myself in. YouTube was a way to connect with fans, show my personality, show what I stand for, how I go about my business. I feel like a lot of things got put out too soon that really wasn’t me.

“Obviously with the bat flip, people judge what type of person, what type of player that guy is. People thought that was the only thing I did, and they were missing all the dope stuff I did. So I created a lane to be my own voice and show people I am real, I am human, and I’m having fun in life, no matter what it is.”

Entering his fifth season with the Sox, the 26-year-old shortstop is turning some heads after winning the major league batting title in 2019 while helping bring attention to the Sox with a generation of fans who’ve been turned off by the slow, deliberate pace of the game.

At SoxFest in January, he even had his own bat-flipping seminar with kids, and now he’s taking things to another level.

Anderson didn’t have to ask the Sox for permission to start his YouTube channel. They were happy to see him take the initiative.

“Look, he is his own brand,” Sox vice president of marketing Brooks Boyer said. “The nice thing is that the way he plays, he’s an extension of ‘Change the Game.’ He is a game-changer, and doing what he’s doing changes the game, giving people the inside look of what he goes through, how he prepares.

“All the things he’s doing on YouTube is ultimately good for the White Sox because he’s really authentic, and he’s going to be able to connect to younger fans. They’re connecting through Instagram and YouTube, and he has a unique ability to connect to fans that way, and he’s unapologetic for it.”

Anderson hired Chicago-area photographer Chris Tejada, who works for the Sox’s Instagram account, to become his YouTube videographer.

“All the work is all his,” Anderson said.

Tejada meets Anderson at Camelback Ranch in the morning and follows him around, shooting scenes from batting practice and autographs signings and just hanging out with his teammates. It’s shot in black and white this spring for a reason.

“These are the dark moments nobody sees,” he said. “Once the (regular) season starts we’ll give it a little flavor and a little color. Taking it slow. I know people want the color.”

In other words, it’s Anderson’s version of “The Wizard of Oz.”

After the day’s work, Anderson and Tejada go to Anderson’s apartment and edit the video into one package.

“I get to control all my content, what I want to put out, and just give the people authentic and real stuff, showing all this hard work,” Anderson said. “So when fans hear us say how good we’re going to be or how confident we are in our work, you’ll be able to see where we get that from. We’re also motivating and inspiring kids through that channel. … It’s dope content. …

“I don’t know when it’s going to drop, but our life is like a movie, so why not record it and give it to them and let the fans know what’s really going on besides what’s being put out (by the media)?”

Not everyone appreciates Anderson’s devil-may-care attitude. Astros pitcher Justin Verlander criticized him in 2018 for celebrating a stolen base in a game, then gloated after picking him off.

“Very thankful that he gave me an out,” Verlander said afterward. “That’s what I said and (Anderson) didn’t like that comment. But, hey, that’s not my fault. That’s his fault. I’m not going to let the situation dictate what I do out there. I’m going to slow everything down, and that’s what veterans can do — see the game, play the game, play the game the right way.”

Anderson shrugged off Verlander’s comments and vowed not to change. Then came last year’s controversy with the Royals, when he was suspended for calling pitcher Brad Keller a “weak-(expletive) (N-word)” after Keller plunked him for an earlier bat flip, which sparked a benches-clearing incident.

Why does Anderson upset some of his peers?

“They don’t know how to control their feelings,” he said. “I’m a guy that came from nothing. It was tough growing up (in Tuscaloosa, Ala). And you’re telling me I can get to this point of my career and can’t celebrate or be excited about things I’ve accomplished?

“That’s what it is. They don’t like to see me have fun and enjoying the moment. But that’s OK. We don’t care about (Keller). We don’t care about (critics). We’re going to keep doing us and keep being real and authentic. Forget those other guys. They ain’t on our team.”

Anderson’s in-your-face persona is rubbing off on his teammates, creating an us-against-them mentality that’s hard to ignore. How it plays out this season will be interesting to watch now that the Sox are expected to back it up on the field.

Rest assured there will no apologies to those who don’t like their attitude.

It’s who they are.

“We’re changing the game,” Anderson said. “We’re different over here.”


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