By STEVE KRAH
Tanner Andrews was on a pigskin path when the horsehide took over.
A three-sport standout (football, basketball and baseball) at Tippecanoe Valley High School near Akron, Ind., Andrews had made more than a half dozen unofficial campus football visits to Purdue University and thought he was on his way to playing receiver for the Boilermakers.
When his gridiron days at Tippecanoe Valley were over, he held just about every record — single-game, season and career — belonged to to Andrews.
He landed in West Lafayette alright. But as a baseball player.
“It’s God putting me right where I need to be,” says Andrews, who is now on the pitching staff of the Batavia (N.Y.) Muckdogs in the Miami Marlins organization.
While attending a clinic in Fort Wayne, Purdue pitcher Nick Wittgren (who is now also in the Marlins system and has spent time in the majors) saw Andrews pitch and arranged for him to throw a bullpen for Boilers pitching coach Tristan McIntyre. Purdue coaches liked what they saw and wound up signing Andrews.
Mostly a shortstop and center fielder in high school, where he played one year each for head coaches Scott Backus and Ryan Moore and two for Brandon Cody, Andrews came to concentrate on pitching at Purdue. He played four seasons (2015-18) — two for head coach Doug Schreiber and two for head coach Mark Wasikowski.
In 60 mound appearances (38 starts), Andrews went 17-15 with one save, a 3.69 earned run average, 184 strikeouts and 120 walks over 257 2/3 innings. He was used mostly out of the bullpen as a freshman and sophomore and a starter as a junior and senior.
Andrews says he appreciates Schreiber’s old-school approach.
“We did a lot of team bounding through hard work,” says Andrews. “We did a lot of early-morning running and were in very good shape. He pushed you beyond what you thought you could do.
“Coach Schreib gave me the opportunity to play baseball at the school I wanted to go to and that’s something I’ll always be grateful for.”
Wasikowski came in with an attention to details.
“All details matter to him,” says Andrews. “He puts his players in the best position to win.”
In his first two seasons, Waz led the Boilers to 29 and 38 victories. The 2018 team played in the Big Ten Conference championship game and participated in the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional.
Andrews played summer wood-bat baseball in college with the Kokomo Jackrabbits of the Prospect League and Kalamazoo Growlers of the Northwoods League.
His name was called in the 10th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Marlins. After one game with the Gulf Coast League Marlins, Andrews was assigned to Batavia in the Short Season Class-A New York-Penn League.
The next stops on the Marlins minor league road are Greensboro (Low-A), Jupiter (High-A), Jacksonville (Double-A) and New Orleans (Triple-A).
In his first 10 games with the Muckdogs (eight in relief), he is 1-0 with a 3.91 ERA. In 23 innings, he has 19 strikeouts and four walks.
Former big leaguer Mike Jacobs is the Batavia manager. Jason Erickson is the pitching coach.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Andrews delivers the baseball from a high three-quarter arm slot.
Andrews considers his athleticism to be his best trait on the mound.
“I move pretty well and can field my position,” says Andrews. “I have good body control and fluid movement.”
Born in Rochester, Ind., Andrews played travel baseball for the Fort Wayne Indians from age 10 to 15 for coach Ray Moon, who played in the Cincinnati Reds organization and independent professional baseball.
After a travel season with the South Bend-based Michiana Clippers, Andrews used his summers to concentrate on football and basketball.
His head football coach at Tippecanoe Valley was Jeff Shriver while Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Patrick guided Andrews and the Vikings on the hardwood.
With friend and classmate Ben Shriver (the coach’s son) at quarterback, Valley footballers were a close-knit group.
“It was a family atmosphere,” says Andrews. “You were focused on the guy next to you. That’s the way it is in all sports, really. When you do that you get more out of yourself.”
Andrews credits Patrick for getting the most out of him and his teammates.
“Coach Patrick pushed us mentally and physically in practice,” says Andrews, who played all over the court and scored over 1,000 career points. “He prepared me for what I’m going through now.”
Andrews says what he enjoyed most about his high school baseball days was the two years he got to be teammates with older brother Brody Andrews (Class of 2012).
“It was fun to go tot he park everyday with my brother and best friend,” says Tanner.
Todd and Marget Andrews are parents to Brody and Andrew and their cousin Nico (9) is also part of the household.
Tanner graduated from Purdue in May with a degree in organizational leadership.
“I want to go into coaching and that goes hand-in-hand,” says Andrews, who learned about reading with change, making adjustments, solving problems and dealing with people.
Tanner Andrews, a Tippecanoe Valley High School and Purdue University graduate, is in his first season of professional baseball with the Batavia (N.Y.) Muckdogs in the Miami Marlins system. (Purdue Photo)