(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- It's only fitting that Tyler Anderson and Drew Harper share this moment like they have countless others.
(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
Anderson will head to The University of Tennessee at Martin, while Harper signed with Southern Illinois University.
"Drew's like my brother," Anderson said. "We've been best friends growing up, teammates, it's just been great."
"We've played together since we were kids," added Harper. "It's always been our dream to play college baseball and now that we get to do it together, it's pretty cool."
Throughout their young baseball careers, the names Anderson and Harper have always been synonymous with being 'the next big thing' to come through Sikeston baseball following Blake Dewitt's departure for the majors.
And rightfully so.
From playing on the same team at 6-years old, to 13-year olds winning the Midwest Plains Regional Championship and then contesting for district titles as Sikeston Bulldogs, the duo of Anderson and Harper have had it's share of success.
"I'm proud of both of them and what they've been able to accomplish," Sikeston head baseball coach Alan Scheeter said. "They've both put in a lot of time, effort and money into their baseball careers. It's really pleasing to see it finally pay off for them."
Chosen as a Class 4, District 1 first team and a SEMO Conference honorable mention selection last year, Anderson has been one of Sikeston's most consistent threats with either a bat or glove for the past three years.
"He's a good clutch hitter, has a good arm and plays good defense," Scheeter said about Anderson. "He's done a lot for our program and has proven to be a pretty good leader by action."
Anderson, who is looking into the physical therapy field, will be playing and bunking alongside fellow southeast Missouri baseball player, senior Chase Young from Dexter, who also signed with UT-Martin earlier this month.
"That will make me feel better because we're going to go through the same things," Anderson said about having Young there as well. "We've played together for probably the last four or five years, so it's going to be fun."
Playing with Young as well as UT-Martin's coach was a few of the deciding factors Anderson wanted to go play for the Skyhawks, who finished with a 13-41 record a season ago.
"I love coach Cates. He's a nice guy," Anderson said. "Also, having another kid I play baseball with in the summer is going to be great to get to go to school with him."
Harper, who was a SEMO Conference honorable mention selection last season and was also ranked as the 18th best player in Missouri by Missouri Prep Baseball Report, has grown into one of the areas most stable infielders as well as one of the top pitcher's.
"He's been a really good infielder for us the past few years," Scheeter said. "He was probably one of our best, if not the best, pitcher for us last year. He's made tremendous strides and you can see he's a lot more comfortable at the plate. He's gotten bigger and stronger and he's more of a vocal leader who brings a lot to the table."
The corner infielder joins the Salukis, who finished last season 31-28, coached by Ken Henderson.
"Drew is another of the highly rated position players out of Missouri," Henderson said in one of the university's recent press releases. "He is going to be a very good college hitter, but the thing we like most is the way he approaches the game. He loves to play and has tremendous instincts and baseball knowledge."
Harper bounced back from a broken leg suffered his freshman season after a play at the plate against Poplar Bluff. He credits that play as a turning point in his high school career.
"It gave me more drive," Harper said about his injury. "Losing that whole season made me realize I'm not going to have all the time in the world. I needed to get it together."
Harper was impressed with the Salukis' coaching staff, it's players and it's facility -- Charlotte West Stadium.
"I like the coaches and it felt like a family atmosphere," said Harper. "They have a nice park, a nice campus and I really liked all the players over there."
They both agreed signing to their colleges early was a burden they're glad to rid. Now they can solely focus on baseball and their senior campaigns.
"You always try and play better when your in front of scouts," Harper, who is planning to major in business, said. "It's good to get it done."
And although they've played together since kindergarten and the upcoming baseball season will be their last in a Sikeston uniform, it won't be long until they're together on the field again.
SIU will visit UT-Martin Feb. 19 for the first time during the next college season.
"It's fun going through all this with him too," Anderson said. "It's going to be even better getting ready for the season and looking forward to playing him. It's going to be fun."