Cowboys and Indians: Anderson spending time at ranch

Young right-hander getting away to ride horses regularly during Spring Training

Cowboys and Indians: Anderson spending time at ranch

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The drive to the ranch is only seven miles, but it feels like a world away for Cody Anderson. When his work day is done with the Indians, the 25-year-old right-hander gets in his white pickup and heads south toward the Estrella Mountains, which serve as the backdrop for Cleveland's Spring Training complex.

The Bartols know that Anderson will be coming.

Anderson has been spending his evenings at their ranch for the past two springs now, riding horses, roping and tending to the 12 acres. They even gave him a key to their house, so he can come and go as he pleases. Tom and Margaret Bartol have taken Anderson in as the son they never had, and they have enjoyed watching his career blossom away from his Spring Training retreat.

Anderson's seven shutout innings

"We told him the other night," Margaret says in a soft, kind voice, "we said, 'We're so proud of you, and we've only known you for two years.'"

Boredom is essentially what brought Anderson -- a country kid from Quincy, Calif. -- and the Bartols together. Remaining idle is not in the pitcher's nature, making nights spent in a team hotel irritating and tedious. So rather than stay in his room staring at the ceiling and counting down the hours until he had to be at the ballfield, Anderson ventured out to a local sporting goods and ranching store in Goodyear.

Tom Bartol works at the C-A-L Ranch store just up the road from the Indians' Spring Training facility, and he noticed Anderson examining some chaps. Tom, whose family has lived in the region for generations, struck up a conversation with Anderson in one of the aisles.

"Cody came in and was just kind of killing time," Tom said. "We got to visiting and I said, 'What do you do?' He says, 'Well, I'm a pitcher for the Indians.' He said he was from Northern California, a little ranching place up there. So I said, 'Well, if you get tired of just hanging out at the hotel, come on out.'"

Cody Anderson and Tom Bartol have formed a strong bond over ranching.

One day later, Anderson called Tom and asked if he could check out the ranch.

The pitcher has been going there regularly ever since.

"This feels like a home away from home," Anderson said.

Quincy is a small country town consisting of fewer than 2,000 people located about 65 miles west of Reno, Nev. When Anderson returned home after his rookie season with the Indians last fall, he came back as a celebrity after posting a 7-3 record and a 3.05 ERA in 15 starts. He was even honored as the grand marshal of the homecoming parade. Anderson's family has had ties to the ranching community dating back to his great-grandfather, who purchased a large plot of land there and tended to cattle and horses.

Anderson spent plenty of time on a ranch as a kid, so the Bartol's land feels familiar. Tom has helped Anderson hone his roping skills with a steer head roping dummy on the property. The pitcher also enjoys saddling up a former race horse named "Panchito Bonita," a white mare that he often rides for miles along the Gila River behind the ranch.

Cody Anderson hones his roping skills.

"I don't think there's anything like getting on a horse, going out in the desert by yourself," Anderson said, "and kind of getting lost out there for a little bit. You kind of really just forget to think about anything. It's really nice."

Tom and Margaret love that Anderson can use their ranch as a kind of escape.

Across town at the Indians' complex, Anderson is fighting for a spot in the Tribe's starting rotation. He had a taste of the big leagues last summer as a rookie, but he knows that even though he has done everything in his power to put himself in a position to make the team, the Tribe's stacked rotation could lead to a trip back to Triple-A Columbus to start this season.

Margaret, who has been married to Tom for 28 years, and has been at the ranch for the past 16 years, said they can relate to Anderson's situation. Of the 25 horses on the land, many of them are current or former racing horses. What the Bartols do is provide a place for the animals to rest or rehab before returning to the track.

"There is stress there every day," said Margaret, referring to the baseball complex. "Tom has trained race horses for 20 years. Race horses are four-legged athletes. These are two-legged athletes. Horses get tired of doing their conditioning, their training, the running every day, the standing in the stall. They have a routine they have to go through, too, and they get soured on it.

Cody Anderson called the Bartol's ranch "a home away from home."

"Cody can come here and be a little bit icognito."

"He can just be Cody," Tom added.

Anderson has also introduced outfielder Tyler Naquin, his teammate and close friend, to the Bartol's ranch.

Mention the Bartols and Naquin smiles.

"We can just show up anytime and just knock on the back door," said Naquin, a native of Spring, Texas. "They'll look through the window and we can walk right in. They're really good people. It's nice to have those kind of people around. You're here every day for multiple hours of the day. Just being able to get into your casual clothing and roll out there, you're away from the ballpark.

60 seconds with Anderson

"You're still a ballplayer, but it just gives you a little different peace of mind when you're out there."

Tom chuckles, as Margaret admits that she has never been a big baseball fan.

"I'm working on it," she says. "I'm becoming an expert."

Anderson's scoreless outing

What the Bartols have become are big Cody Anderson fans.

On the days he pitched last season for Cleveland, they would get together with friends in the area, putting on some Indians gear and watching the games on a big screen. His outings became mini events in the community around the ranch. In August last year, the Bartols even made a trip to Cleveland, where they took in batting practice on the field and stayed for one of Anderson's starts.

Mark Shapiro, the Indians' former team president, introduced himself to the Bartols.

"Mark came down," Tom recalled, "and just told me, 'Thank you for taking care of my boys out there.'"

"We like to say we bring cowboys and Indians together," Margaret says with a smile.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.