TORONTO -- The drive from the Bo Jackson Elite Sports training center in Lockport, Ill., to Rogers Centre can be made with about a half-day and a few tanks of gasoline, as Dean Anna's close friends can now attest.
Making the jump from teaching tee-ballers baseball fundamentals to playing shortstop for the Yankees takes considerably longer, and that's something Anna can tell you plenty about.
Anna, 27, made his Major League debut for New York on Friday, stepping in as Derek Jeter's understudy with the Yankees opening a three-game series in Toronto. He picked up his first big league hit in the ninth inning of a 7-3 win.
Anna said that he never could have anticipated this series of developments.
"I didn't. I really didn't," Anna said. "I'm lucky. I'm happy to be a Yankee. It's amazing, an amazing feeling. The history, it's top-notch."
A part-time player for his first four years in the Padres' system, Anna led the Pacific Coast League in hitting with a .331 average last year for Triple-A Tucson, but San Diego did not promote him to the Majors. Instead, they traded him to New York last November for right-hander Ben Paullus, providing a fresh start that excited Anna.
Around the time of the trade, Anna was reporting for his offseason job underneath a dome in the suburbs of Chicago, where he is an employee of Jackson's facility. Anna said that for the last three years, he has been teaching baseball fundamentals to athletes from age 6 all the way up to high school and college.
"I'm big over there with helping out the kids and stuff, all year round," Anna said. "It's a good time. I enjoy doing that. ... I can give information that I never really got when I was growing up. That's the best part of the youth coming up, you want to give them as much as possible."
Those kids had something to cheer about when Anna made the Yanks' roster in his first big league Spring Training camp. Anna said that two of his fellow instructors from his offseason job made the long trek to Toronto for the game; his parents, meanwhile, will watch on TV back home in Illinois.
"I can't ask for more, that's for sure," Anna said.