Aspiring big league pitcher Ben Ancheff makes Major Leagues
Ben Ancheff, shown here pitching for Mechanicsburg Twilight in 2015, is now working as an administrator at Major League Baseball’s Replay Operations Center in New York.
On the bus ride from his New Jersey apartment, no one recognizes the one-time internet sensation.
And on the short subway ride from New York’s Port Authority to the art district of Chelsea, conversations are scarce with a pitcher who has finally reached the pinnacle of his favorite sport.
Ben Ancheff has made the show.
“It’s a little bit ironic,” said Ancheff, perhaps the most recognizable three-sport athlete from Williams Valley High School.
“It kind of comes full circle and it’s kind of cool when you think about it. It’s really cool to work in professional baseball.”
The “work” doesn’t happen on the field these days.
An inside look at MLB’s Replay Operations Center.Associated Press
Ancheff, a gifted athlete wrapped in a Herculean 320-pound frame, is the newest team member at Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media headquarters in the historic Chelsea neighborhood.
Inside is the 900-square foot Replay Operations Center, where all MLB replays and challenges are analyzed and judged.
Ancheff, an administrator, kicks in once those decisions are made, creating alerts, filing all data and even alerting the commissioner’s office.
“It’s 4-5 days a week and days can be long depending on how many replays or umpire challenges come through,” Ancheff said.
“There’s some time-sensitive and crucial information to distribute.”
Last summer, Ancheff remained hopeful that his ability to reach 94 mph on his fastball would afford the opportunity to pitch as a professional. Frankly, he showed his skill set near and far to make his dream a reality.
A dominating all-state football player, and 4-time PIAA qualifier in wrestling, at Williams Valley, Ancheff challenged himself to pitch in Division I at the University of Georgia.
Searching for a more consistent existence, Ancheff turned a season at the State College of Florida (JUCO) into a closer’s role at Central Arkansas.
After a year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Ancheff transferred again, this time to St. Thomas University, an NAIA power in Miami Gardens.
It was here where Ancheff went viral with his performance in the NAIA World Series finale in 2015.
While Ancheff had pitched sporadically for the Bobcats coming off the injury, he earned the championship game start against Lewis-Clark State, striking out five over 4 1/3 innings.
The ESPN3 broadcast had kicked in, and everyone scrambled to know more about the big guy on the mound. Lewis-Clark trailed 7-1 when Ancheff was replaced but eventually claimed a 10-7 victory.
And while the Bobcats did not get a second chance a year later, Ancheff finished his undergraduate studies in sports management and began working on an online master’s degree.
He also kept in touch with Dr. Jan Bell, who has taught sports administration courses at St. Thomas since 1985.
For 20-plus years, Bell has recruited graduate students to serve with her as the operations staff for the Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities Job Fair each December at the Winter Meetings.
“Dr. Bell has a great relationship with Major League Baseball. I’ve been fortunate enough to know her very well,” said Ancheff.
“I was in Washington, D.C. with a group of law students and undergrads in 2016, and again last year in Orlando. I saw the job opening and went for it.”
Ancheff, who pitched multiple season with Mechanicsburg Twilight, is just nine months removed from his last official pro tryout.
Following a two-month stay with Watertown of the independent Empire League in 2016, and a brief stay with the Lancaster Barnstormers, Ancheff was just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis last summer as the Frontier League held tryouts at the home of the Gateway Grizzlies.
After earning a day 2 call back, Ancheff felt a pop in his left knee. Although he continued to pitch, an MRI revealed a torn meniscus and partial tear of his ACL.
Part of his rehab was finishing his accelerated master’s degree and helping Williams Valley’s football team as a volunteer assistant.
“It’s going well now,” joked Ancheff, getting accustomed to his 45-minute commute each way. He’s also getting accustomed to life in NYC.
“I was a tourist here a couple of times but it’s not too bad. My walk to work from the subway is only a couple of blocks.”